I didn’t go to college right after high school
It took me a few years of waiting tables and making bad decisions to decide that a higher education might, in fact, be a good idea. It sounded a lot better than being a 70-year-old Denny’s waitress who rode the bus to work. (At the time I was working the graveyard shift slinging Grand Slams and futilely hoping a book and earphones would discourage the more aggressive weirdos from striking up conversations on my daily commute. It didn’t.)
When I decided to start my higher education I chose a San Diego City College because I could afford it and I could get there. Fortunately this community college had a graphic design program, and the course of my life changed. I met Candice Lopez, and she ignited a passion for graphic design in me that lives on today. She talks about the design program in the video below, and you can see how much love and passion she has for educating more than two decades of San Diego designers.
Every class you take is leading up to Portfolio
Students review all the projects they’ve completed over the course of their education, refine them, hire a photographer and art direct a photo shoot of any three-dimensional projects, and put everything together in a book that’s judged by top industry professionals at the annual AIGA Student Portfolio Review.
Local schools including SDSU, the Art Institute and Point Loma Nazarene College compete. The winners take home scholarships sponsored by local design firms that range from $1000 for first place to $250 for category winners. Last year over $5,000 in scholarships were given out. I’m proud to say that my little community college still kicks a lot of ass. (check out this list—we swept the top three spots last year!)
It’s deserved, too—the department has been filled with talent for years. A lot of graduates get scholarships and continue their educations at Art Center and other top design schools. Alumni have held positions from the Creative Director at top local agency Digitaria to manager of the Communication Design team at Facebook—even as the Design Director of the 2012 Obama re-election campaign.
Our portfolios were our ten best projects
They were photographed or output at a service bureau (home color printers sucked), then mounted and flapped on black board. Most students spent a lot of time having intricate portfolio cases designed and fabricated. It could get pretty pricey, at least on my limited budget. Plus you had to ship the whole shebang to any potential employers or schools. That meant only one person at a time could see your portfolio. So I went a different route.
I had fallen in love with Director and the REM interactive floppy disk-based press kit for Monster. I decided to put out a 100% “interactive” portfolio. My only costs were printing the labels and cases, and having the executable file burned to a CD-ROM (There were no home CD burners yet, and I knew it wasn’t going to fit on a floppy). That portfolio led to the job that taught me HTML, and my career path was set.
On April 11 I’m heading back to my old stomping grounds
I’ve volunteered to teach a WordPress workshop to the entire graduating class of 35 kids. I’m excited that I have the opportunity to enable a new generation of graphic designers to use WordPress to get a job, get into art school, or start their own freelancing journey.
But like I said, most of these kids are broke. $160 is a month of groceries to some of them. That’s why I’ve set up a CrowdTilt campaign; to raise the funds I need to give the 2014 graduating class the tools they need to impress the judges at portfolio review with a slew of kick-ass WordPress sites.
That’s all it will take to hook every student up with the basic WordPress toolkit I’m using in my workshop:
Six months of the “Tiny” hosting plan from Flywheel
I’d love to get the students’ WordPress careers off to a good start with managed hosting. I’ve chosen Flywheel because they’re all about designers. The user interface will make it way easier to explain how to set up a site, SFTP, and DNS. Plus, they won’t have to stress about hacked sites or backups.
A one-year “Personal” subscription to Elegant Themes
These kids are designers, not coders. Most have a semester or two of web design under their belts, if that. So I’ll be using the Divi theme by Elegant Themes in the workshop. It’s going to allow them to focus on content and layout instead of CSS. I want this workshop to make them fall in love with web design and WordPress; to make them curious enough to want to try coding a little CSS, to tweak the design a little more, and to embrace the platform. I considered other options, but I think this will be the easiest way to get designers stoked on building WordPress sites in the 8 hours we’ll have.
More Donations==More Stuff for the Students
If you all really go nuts with the generosity, anything left over will go to a scholarship for the kid who wins the “Top WordPress Portfolio” at the AIGA portfolio review. I know how generous our community is, and I know that any donation will make a huge difference in a broke-ass college student’s career!