August 6, 2018

Alumni Update: Interview With Ross Dantonio

Posted in Alumni, Interview.

Ross Dantonio  graduated in 2010 with a BFA in Graphic Design. He is a self employed marketing consultant / designer / photographer for the watersports industry. You can view his work at


What advice would you give for students currently in the program?

Have as much fun as possible, figure out how to turn your passion into your profession WITHOUT getting burnt out, learn the rules of design then learn to break and bend them to your needs, Don’t wait for an internship, start freelancing NOW!  and with all due respect, your teachers are mentors, listen diligently but ultimately trust your gut.

Why did you choose BGSU to study design?

I didn’t figure out what I wanted to major in until my sophomore year, I really didn’t even know what graphic design was, I just knew it might allow me to make a living creating, and that was intriguing.

Upon reviewing your site I see you have marketing experience and I am minoring in marketing, do you believe having this marketing background gives you an extra step in your profession or provides more opportunity?

Hands down, IMO for the majority of folks strictly designing can only be achieved by becoming a very successful self employed designer, or moving to a major city and working for a company who’s pockets are large enough to hire a large marketing / creative team.  Mid to small businesses don’t have those funds so they seek someone who can fit multiple roles, graphic designer and copywriter, or web developer… Jobs today are about so much more than qualifications, it’s forging real relationships and standing above and apart from your competition.  Throughout college I raced Motocross semi professionally, my relationships with sponsors helped forge my marketing knowledge, being able to see a promotion from the eyes of the company, athlete, and end user is what helped me stand out from the crowd.

Did you intern through BGSU’s Graphic Design Program? If yes, where? Can you recall your feelings (i.e. anxious, scared) at the beginning of and end of your internship?

When I was in school the BFA did not require an internship and I was so stoked bout that! I did however start my own custom motocross graphics company Clutch Industries while still in college.  I created a logo, business cards, a website, and etc… all from scratch.  From my point of view I didn’t need a BFA to start designing in the real world. Was some of my early work junk?  Yes.  But working for myself instilled confidence, built relationships, built a real world portfolio, taught me valuable people skills, and put some money in my pocket.  I recommend everyone experience it.

How long after graduation did it take to acquire a job? Was that first job fulfilling to your aspirations as a designer?

After graduation I spent a year working for myself, I knew I didn’t want to design for a company full time so I got my first “real” job as a social media manager for an apartment company.  It was soul sucking and full of corporate BS, my plan was to quit after I earned XX amount in savings but looking back I never would have amassed that goal.  Thankfully, after basically doing more for the marketing department than the marketing director I was fired after 6 months and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I instantly started working for myself again and have never been happier.

Did you ever feel as if your education wasn’t essential? 

I have mixed feelings. In my opinion, a degree in graphic design doesn’t mean squat when applying for graphic design jobs, it’s a degree or “equivalent portfolio” basically, all they care about is quality work, which is what it should always come down to.  That being said, my college experience taught me life lessons and landed me lifelong friends that no other equivalent portfolio ever could.  I wouldn’t change a thing about my educational path,  However I would have studied  more so I didn’t have to take art history 6 times lol.

Do you remember your feelings as you progressed through the GD program?

Looking back all of the lessons were relevant even if I didn’t necessarily agree with them at the time.  Critiques were my favorite. I love giving and receiving honest constructive criticism, they shine light on the little details that will take good work to great work.  I hated our program director, he wanted every student to follow an elitist let’s go work for Pentagram mindset and we didn’t jive because that’s not the career path I wanted nor I wanted my work to follow.  Amy rocked it, she was probably the best teacher / mentor that understood my direction, and forced me to work out of my comfort zone to grow.  Although she still should have let me use my Clutch Industries brand for my senior branding exercise ;-)

I am also a sport enthusiast going back to my roots of sports growing up…Do you think you have blended your love of sports and design into a career ?

Absolutely, I knew while in school that I loved design but couldn’t sit at a desk behind a computer 9-5.  I can’t sit still, I need to work with my hands and be active just as much as I’m creating.  Working for myself as a marketing consultant allows me the freedom to work from home, travel to client meetings, photo, and video shoots, assist with product development and etc…Because I have amazing clients and I love the industry I work in, it’s impossible for me to consider what I do as “work”.  I feel as if I’m compensated to have fun and provide valuable input, for this I’m truly thankful and never take for granted.

How much did you make your first year out, and has this number increased over the years?

My first corporate job as a social media manger (That only lasted 6 months) provided me a salary of 40K.  Being self employed allows me to steadily raise my rates as my education and experience increase.  When I struck out on my own I was scared I would not make close to 40K my first year, but hard work pays off and thankfully I was able to clear well over that benchmark.


Interviewed by Zachary Turk