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WNM Students Showcase Skill Sets at Ideate

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Above and below) Students met with industry guests to present their portfolios and receive feedback at the School of Web Design & New Media’s Ideate Conference. Photos by Bob Toy.

On Friday, May 25, Academy of Art University’s School of Web Design & New Media (WNM) hosted their semesterly Ideate Conference at 180 New Montgomery. Industry representatives from over 20 companies came to review student portfolios, give feedback and scout potential new hires. 

The Spring 2018 edition of Ideate included a wide range of companies in respect to size, industry and company age, from large legacy enterprises like Kohl’s and JPMorgan Chase to big name startups like Airbnb to smaller agencies like Creative Circle and ROI DNA.

WNM Director Ryan Medeiros coordinates many of the industry guests with a special eye for variety. “I think the wide range actually shows that all types of companies need the type of work that our students can create, and that our students are generalists and they have a wide scope of skills,” Medeiros said. “[The students] have multiple areas that they’re focusing on. That reflects what our industry is looking for. A person has to be versatile. I would say having multiple disciplines makes them better problem solvers overall.”

Almost every semester, students get hired directly out of Ideate. Just as often, WNM alumni return as industry guests to review portfolios and connect with students about future career opportunities. Joe Golike was one such alumnus. Golike, who represented Noodle.ai, an artificial intelligence business platform, echoed the importance of design thinking. 

“The [students’] overall aesthetics are great. I would say try not to focus too much on the latest and greatest technology. Try to focus on doing good design. The medium is always changing,” said Golike. “It changed from when they started to when they graduated. [For instance, one might ask,] ‘How do you take complex information and simplify it in an intuitive way for a person to use?’ Trying to figure out what you want to do is really a problem that I’ve seen a lot of students struggle with. Just saying ‘I want to be a UX/UI designer’—that’s not specific enough. The more specific your answer, the better when somebody like me sits across the table from you.”

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Besides employment, these valuable pearls of wisdom from industry professionals are the reasons students attend Ideate. This was the second Ideate Conference for 2018 valedictorian and recent B.F.A. graduate Ray Chang. Chang remarked that in the previous semester a professional complimented his visuals but offered him advice on his choice in typeface to modernize his assets, advice which he took to his own benefit. 

“I think here you really get what the industry wants to see. Either they like your work or they don’t see what they’re looking for and they let you know about it,” Chang said. “Ideate definitely updates you on what’s going on in the industry. Sometimes in school, you make something that looks nice and you can pass a class. Industry really just sees if it works for their company or not. It’s really straightforward.”

While Chang focuses primarily on motion graphics, his friend and fellow classmate Wei Wang concentrates on visual design and coding. Despite the difference between their skill sets, Wang offered similar praise of the Ideate experience. “I think this is a great opportunity that we, as other majors, don’t get often. Even if we don’t get a job it’s good connections for your career. There’s a variety of different companies here and you receive different perspectives of industry,” Wang said. “They can give us a fresh perspective about what’s going on right now and that’s really great. I feel like they do appreciate the originality of our works.”