As graphic design major Jennie Pajerowski prepares to graduate in December, they reflect on how the interplay of technical design skills and theoretical critiques has prepared them for a career in the field.
When I came to VCU, I was looking at communication arts. After I got into AFO, I took the graphic design project course and pretty quickly was like, this is what I was looking for. VCU’s design program is more conceptual than other programs I’ve seen. I definitely have developed the harder skills along the way, but I feel like our program focuses a lot more on conceptual thinking.
I love Nicole Killian’s classes. They’re always multidisciplinary. The one that I’m taking right now, “A Pause, A Call,” is maybe half graphic design, but also some Sculpture + Extended Media and Painting + Printmaking majors. We’ve mostly been doing writing assignments and it’s all about the language of critique and the language we use to talk about design, and the ways that we communicate about ideas and art. It’s very good to have that as a counterpoint to the pressure you feel in graphic design to just be producing.
Sculpture students, I’ve noticed, tend to approach critique by thinking about concepts and themes. In design, there’s a lot of focus on usefulness and intention. It’s very common for someone to say, “Did you intend for this to happen?” The critiques in [Killian’s] class are a lot more about the ideas that the work is bringing up and the ideas that it’s pointing to. It’s very easy to get used to the way that you approach something or the way that your brain works. Shaking things up and being with people from other majors, it’s a little nudge that gets you moving in a slightly different path.
I also loved my typeface design class. It was basically one project for the whole semester—to make a typeface. It felt very similar to the time I took a ceramics class and would get into a rhythm of spinning the wheel and figuring out the muscle memory of where my hands went. With the typeface design, I set up a system of how I was going to do something, and then applied it across so many different characters. It made me value typefaces that are a lot of fun—that are stylish and look good, but have some flair to them. I’ve been moving away from using straightforward typefaces.
I’ve been working for a marketing and design firm in D.C. called brllnt. As an intern, I get some of the nitty-gritty work—Google ads and social media ads. But I’ve also gotten to do some web design, and some branding and logo work. They’ve worked with financial groups, for the city of D.C. and the city of Nashville, so it’s a good mix—some government, some financial, some cultural. For an internship or a first job, it’s been a lot of good experience.
Honestly, I feel like I’m pretty prepared to go out and start working. I feel very confident in my design skills. But there are so many more things that I want to learn. I’m taking web design classes, but there’s so much to coding. I’m super interested in learning more about web design, motion graphics and animations. I’m interested in the ways that the web functions, and how we communicate and what we use those forms of communications for. I feel like I have all of these skills as a basis and I can move forward and learn new things.
See more of Jennie Pajerowski’s work on their website, jenniepajerowski.com.