You’ll likely be surprised to learn that my passion for graphic design and communications began with horses. Though I never rode horses, I took interest in them because two of my childhood friends did. Together we discovered an online community and virtual game called Horseland (very popular in the mid-2000s, I like to think), where players bred and showed virtual horses. Anyone who appreciates the evolution of web design, by the way, can enjoy its old-school look here.
Having joined circa 2005, I first enjoyed Horseland for its online gaming aspect (just like I enjoyed Neopets, Club Penguin and others that I have trouble remembering… come on, you played them too). When I discovered that players were able to add their own photos to accompany their virtual horses, my interests began evolving into something much more meaningful and long lasting. Many players posted what I later learned were photomanipulations, where horses were placed into surreal landscapes, and Photoshop filters painted fantastical pictures.
My mom, a former freelance web designer, taught me the basics of Adobe Photoshop, and I slowly moved away from virtual gaming toward a young graphic design community. By 2009, I had established what I thought to be a respectable gallery of photomanipuations, which can still be viewed on deviantart today here. I reflect on this work occasionally and reminisce about my juvenile interests, which consisted of horses and Twilight. But I like to think that the not-so-juvenile work ethic, drive and creativity that I continue developing today originated from this crazy community of horse-obsessed preteens.
Several months into high school, I decided to leave the online world behind in favor of getting more involved in extracurricular activities. I began writing for my school’s newspaper, which introduced me to journalism and allowed me to explore the art of storytelling and effective written communication. I collaborated with a team of other driven communicators to provide our school with monthly publications, which included hard news, opinions, features, arts and culture pieces and sports articles. I also learned how to navigate Adobe InDesign and became invested in establishing visual appeal. It dawned on me then that graphic design coincided with and even enriched my newfound interest in communications.
I entered college knowing I wanted to pursue a degree that related to communicating, and by the end of my first year, I was set on public relations (though I managed to sneak in three design classes). I learned in an introductory course about the nuances of public relations and advertising, and the idea of earned versus paid media. In high school, I gained a lot of respect for reporters and the media’s agenda setting ability. In my early years of college, I decided I wanted to leverage that power and get into the business of earning positive media coverage for clients.
Now I realize that there is so much more to this field of strategic communication. I have learned that advertising, marketing and PR will often blend together, and I hope to bring graphic design into the mix. Although I recognize that my career path will likely favor one passion over the other, I will always have a spot in my heart for both PR and graphic design.
In this blog, I hope to satisfy both interests by using my past experiences and my (hopefully well-informed) opinions to comment on the visual branding of local businesses in Chapel Hill and examine consistency with overall branding, communication and social media strategies.
But more on that later. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter and check back in a few days for my next post. And if you have a weird story like mine that helped you discover your professional interests, share below in the comments.