For many established graphic designers, the path to becoming one was more “accidental.” Often times they added design skills to their job description based on need. Such is the case with Molly Mueller, who patiently built her knowledge and skills in a variety of positions that necessitated an eye and talent for design.
Mueller realized, however, that a thorough grounding in historical and current design trends would set her up for future as well as alleviate present challenges. Now, a graduate of the Professional Program in Graphic Design, she feels fully prepared for whatever lies in store. We sat down with the 2015 American Graphic Design Awards Winner and discussed her career and educational path.
Tell me about your professional experience before coming to UC Berkeley Extension?
I've worked at nonprofit organizations most of my career. While working in marketing and advertising sales at Mother Jones, a nonprofit magazine, I got to design small ads and email blasts, as well as see the art and production side of a national bimonthly magazine up close. Although I was pursuing a master’s in nonprofit administration at the time, I had this "a ha" moment that the art, design and production route was my true calling. My next job at The Asia Foundation allowed me to follow that path as I worked my way up from a Web and print production coordinator to the design and production manager.
Why did you choose the Professional Program in Graphic Design?
Aside from the mentoring and knowledge I gained from the lead graphic designer at my current job, I was mostly a self-taught designer and I felt that held me back. I was also preparing for the fact that I'd most likely be relocating for my partner's career a couple years down the road, and I wanted to be a more attractive, confident and well-rounded candidate for design jobs.
The final portfolio class does a great job of preparing you to get a job.
Congrats on completing the program! Looking back, what courses interested you the most?
Illustrator I seemed very useful and fun—and it was both. I also felt that taking Typography Fundamentals and Web Design With Dreamweaver would be essential for any designer, so I chose those electives.
What was your favorite moment during the program?
Probably the last day of the program in the Graphic and Web Design Portfolio class. As each of us presented our final portfolio, the instructor asked us all how we felt upon completing a very rigorous and challenging class. Needless to say, everyone felt a huge sense of accomplishment and that was neat to see and hear from everyone.
Because I chose a subject I'm passionate and excited about, I had fun throughout the program.
What does the program mean for your future?
I hope great things! I already feel miles ahead of where I was at the beginning of the program; it has made me a stronger and more confident designer. The final portfolio class does a great job of preparing you to get a job. In that sense, what I've gotten out of the program so far is very practical and tangible: Not only do I have a polished portfolio and website, I have honed my personal brand with a logo, business cards and matching resume—all of that will be essential in landing my next job.
Did you have a favorite instructor?
Probably Ivan Trujillo, the program director. He teaches the final portfolio class, which is a lot of work and the most useful in preparing us to get a job. He was also very responsive and available for help and mentoring outside of class. You can tell he cares a lot about the students and the program.
How was your interaction with your fellow students?
Being able to see other students' work through critiques in each class helped inspire and challenge me. By the final class, you knew many of the people in it because you'd taken classes with them before, and that was when I made stronger networking connections and friendships.
Visit her website to see more of Molly Mueller's designs.
How was your overall experience in the program?
Overall it was great—I got something out of every single class I took. Most importantly, because I chose a subject I'm passionate and excited about, I had fun throughout the program. It wasn't so much a chore to work on homework after my day job or on the weekends because I was tapping into my creativity and doing something I was excited about.