Taking a Bold Step Into Design

Ricky Pascual was determined to make a career using his artistic talents and interests, and that resolve led him to UC Berkeley Extension

Ivan Trujillo, the director of the Graphic Design and UX Design programs at UC Berkeley Extension, recommended that we talk with Ricky Pascual, one of his recent graduates. Ivan was impressed by the arc of Ricky’s development in the program, particularly his steep learning curve in the capstone Graphic and Web Design Portfolio class. From there, Ricky has continued his ascent into a new career and business. We recently had the opportunity to speak with him about his experiences, and his new career!

Can you tell me a bit about your career arc before you started the Professional Program in Graphic Design?

I was a project coordinator for a high-tech manufacturing company in the East Bay for three years. I always felt I wanted to do something more creative, so I enrolled in the Professional Program in Graphic Design at UC Berkeley Extension. I took classes in the evening while I worked full time during the day as security for Google in San Francisco, which is just down the street from the UC Berkeley Extension campus. My daughter was a year old at the time, and I had to juggle work and going to school so that I was still able to provide for my family. I had always promised my wife that I was going to finish school by the time I was 30 and start a new career.

What led you to study graphic design?

I was always into art. I loved to paint, draw and create illustrations. Then, I got into fashion and I started creating graphics for t-shirts and would play around using Microsoft Paint. I started a clothing line and I wanted to further my knowledge and learn technical skills using the proper programs, so I decided to go to school.

How did you hear about the UC Berkeley Extension program?

My brother was helping me find a good graphic design program and he recommended Extension. The school had different options in the day for the class schedule and I was able to find the best times that fit into my work schedule.

The program was very effective and taught me everything I needed to transition into a new career path.

Did you have any favorite instructors or courses in the program? What made them special?

Michael Starkman was really great at teaching Adobe Illustrator, he taught us step by step on how to use all the main key tools for Illustrator and he had fun projects.

Jesse Gottesman taught me the fundamentals of design. His Visual Design Principles class was helpful and made the transition to the next step very smooth. He was always engaged and supportive.

Ivan Trujillo prepared me for a career in graphic design. He helped me strengthen my portfolio and always pushed me to do better. He would always have the best feedback and constructive criticism on all of my projects. He taught me how to be really clean and organized with my projects. He gave me a real sense of what to expect once I was out on the field.

Describe the impact (if any) the program had on your career?

The program was very effective and taught me everything I needed to transition into a new career path. About a year after I completed and received my certificate in the program, I was able to start my freelance graphic design career. I started networking and searching for different design gigs and took on multiple projects and was able to expand my portfolio within just a short amount of time. I then started my graphic design service company, PSCL Visuals. I worked with different clients and companies of all sizes. In the process, I encountered many clients who inquired about printing. Those questions eventually led me to starting my own design and print company, Dynamic Design & Print Solutions.

Did you have a favorite moment in the program?

My favorite part of the program was when we had professionals in the graphic design field come in and critic all of our projects. It was awesome to interact with professionals and learn from them.

I really appreciated how a lot of the curriculum was EXACTLY what you will need and come across when you jump into the graphic design field.

How were your interactions with your fellow students?

The students were great. It was really cool to be surrounded by people who shared the same passion. It was very motivating.

What advice would you give someone who is contemplating the program?

I would say to really take advantage of each class and really try to get as much knowledge and skills as you can from it. I really appreciated how a lot of the curriculum was EXACTLY what you will need and come across when you jump into the graphic design field.

You are the principal and owner of two businesses, a design firm and a printing business. How do you get customers and clients? Do you have a promotional budget? Is it mainly word of mouth?

I do my own marketing. I do everything from creating physical marketing materials, brochures, flyers, etc. and attend events to promote my brand. I create digital marketing ads and content to use on all my social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).  I use freelance platforms such as freelance.com and Upwork.com. I work with creative agencies such as Creative Circle to find different design gigs.

Do you have a set roster of fees, or do you negotiate from client to client?

I negotiate from client to client, depending on the type of projects. I typically base my rates hourly.

Also, do you run the businesses yourself or do you have employees?

I run most of my business myself; however, I partner with a team of creatives on specific jobs. I have a photographer I work closely with on certain projects. I’m partners with a local print shop and swap graphic-design services for printing jobs.


Ricky Pascual took a big leap into his design career, and now he’s busy with a variety of creative tasks. Take that first step into your own design career with the Professional Program in Graphic Design.