Fall Graduates Portfolio Review Shows Off Digital Media’s Best

Where cutting edge technology meets the elegance of art, digital media design flourishes. Santa Fe College’s graduating Digital Media Technology class wants to introduce you to this vibrant field through the award-winning work they have produced over the course of their two-year AS degree program. This event, the Graduates Portfolio Review, is open to employers and art-lovers alike on Friday, Dec. 10, from 1 to 4 p.m. in N Building, room 325.

“It becomes part-business and part-celebration,” said Jorge Ibanez, the Graphic Design program coordinator. “It’s a good way to introduce the graduating students to prospective employers, while celebrating their graduation. It becomes almost like a party. They invite their friends and family and come in dressed for success and very aware of their accomplishment.”

The 15 students graduating from the Digital Media Technology program this week will each present a portfolio of 16 pieces of their best work, which ranges from bold, abstract designs for posters to pastel-colored cartoon characters on model candy wrappers. These portfolios, which draw from four semesters of coursework, were compiled and perfected this past semester in the students’ internship class.

“We see the students progress through the years, and we know how good they are,” said Ibanez. “But when all their work is in a single spot, and it’s not just a class project anymore, you feel really proud of them, and you feel that you did what they were expecting you to do as a teacher. That is rewarding.”

Also on display will be the Digital Media Technology facilities themselves. The doors of the computer labs will be thrown open for visitors to tour, and one lab will feature students’ website designs on the computer screens. Large black portfolio books will be spread on tables to flip through, and tri-fold displays will feature some of the graduating students’ crowning achievements from their time at Santa Fe.

“We tell students still in the program to go to this event as an inspiration ,” said Ibanez.  “Caring students will look at these projects and think, ‘This is what I should be aiming for.’ It gives them a goal to work toward. When they have a chance to talk to graduating students, designer to designer, the graduating students love explaining their projects to beginning students.”

These projects do not exist in an academic vacuum, however. What the students create often is commissioned by local companies. Representatives from nonprofit organizations such as the March of Dimes and Stop! Children’s Cancer Inc., as well as special events like the Bradford County Boots & BBQ event, come to the Digital Media Technology department to save money on promotional materials. These companies’ needs become class projects for the students, who compete to produce the design that will ultimately be chosen as the official advertisement for the client.

“It’s a project-based curriculum, and that’s been the teaching philosophy since the inception of the program,” said Ibanez. “It involves hours in front of a computer. If they make it to the end, they must really be stubborn and have the motivation. We are not training students to use Photoshop or Illustrator programs. We are teaching them to be graphic designers. There is a work ethic that has to be taught, so we don’t sweeten the pill for them. These students are tough cookies.”

Employers respond to the high-quality work shaped by this demanding curriculum. Ibanez invites members of the graphic design and advertising industry to view students’ work and potentially recruit for open jobs at their companies.

“The current employment situation has not been as good, but I have seen several times that when we send out invitations, people come because they are looking to hire designers,” said Ibanez. “One semester, one representative saw somebody’s work and liked it so much that he interviewed her right there in the hall. He told her to see him Monday, and she got the job.”

Though the students may be graduating, the event still doubles as a last educational opportunity for them. Two special guests will be graduates of Santa Fe’s Digital Media program: Elecia Crumpton, lead designer of the Florida Museum of Natural History, and April Schroeder, owner of the local firm Marketing Mud. These special guests will be assessing students’ work and providing constructive criticism to help enhance their pieces and better prepare students for the job market.

With improvements recently made to the Digital Media curriculum, Santa Fe College is doing better than ever at priming students for a competitive industry. Advanced Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator classes were instated two semesters ago, and designing for magazine advertisements, a subject in which Santa Fe students had traditionally been weaker, has been a focus in the curriculum over the last several semesters. These changes have yielded designs that Ibanez feels will amaze even media design professionals.

“And these are not just my impressions,” insisted Ibanez. “We encourage students to enter competitions to check our progress. In the last two years, we entered the National Yellow Pages Association Advertising Challenge, a contest where you design a Yellow Pages advertisement for a particular client. Last year, we placed in the top 2 percent, and the previous year, we placed in the top 1 percent of all schools. We were the only two-year program to place at that level. We can place up there with four-year programs like SCAD and the Art Institute.”

In spite of the dramatic digital artwork produced by this graduating class and many other digital media specialists, Ibanez says that graphic design and similar fields are often excluded from the category of fine art. However, with the bright colors and evocative themes of this Graduates Portfolio Review, Ibanez hopes that the public can see digital media for the intense creative process that it really is.

“There is a great prejudice against graphic design. When I was growing up, it was called commercial art, and ‘commercial’ said with great contempt,” said Ibanez. “But when I show people these great designs, I ask them, ‘If you don’t consider this art, what is?'”

For more information about the Diigital Media Program at Santa Fe College, please contact Jorge Ibanez at 352-395-5979 or email to jorge.ibanez@sfcollege.edu.

~ This press release was written by Allison Griner, Communication Specialist, College Relations

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