Alumni Update: Interview with Michelle Brown
What year did you graduate and what is your official job title/and or employer?
I graduated from BGSU in May of 2014. My current official title is Senior Bailiff/Court Security Officer at the Licking County Juvenile Court in Newark, Ohio.
What website(s), if any, should we list?
Unfortunately, I just removed my website in September so I could revamp my brand as I grow older, so I only have Instagram right now. My Instagrams are @skippybrown and @bluebanditscalligraphy.
What year did you graduate from BGSU? Is your degree a BFA in Graphic Design?
I earned my BFA in Graphic Design in 2014 from BGSU.
What advice would you give for students currently in the program?
Look at every project as a challenge and take them seriously. Be sure to take advantage of the people that the professors introduce you to. That will always be my biggest regret. I loved the program, and occasionally see that I did not take my training as seriously as I should have. If you have the opportunity to stay in the area between semesters and a little after graduation, do it. Keep close with your classmates and professors. I am embarrassed to say, but due to a relationship that took me out of the area every weekend and break, I never allowed myself to get internships during school. Take advantage of those. Give your all. Your heart and soul. Everyone will flock towards a project when they can tell you put your all into it, even if it isn’t a perfect design. Enjoy every moment at BGSU.
Why did you choose BGSU to study design?
I chose BGSU partly because my older brother was already there so I was able to explore the campus more before it was time to choose schools. It was partially due to just loving everything about it. I also fell in love with the art building instantly. When I toured, there were pieces of ceramic airplanes everywhere in the building. It was awesome. I knew I wanted a state school because I played soccer in High School and thought I could at least play at BGSU in clubs or intramurals. I chose graphic design, instantly. I knew that no matter what school I went to, I wanted to study Graphic Design. I knew this since I was in middle school. I was always designing shirts, logos, and drawing letters. BGSU just fits perfectly for me.
How did your career transition towards becoming a police officer?
Gosh, the transition was hard on my psyche. I feel like I have failed to be quite honest. I have always wanted to be a designer and still do. I went to the police academy as a hobby (I know that sounds ridiculous) to be a mounted police officer (horse police) with my dad. Transition to being in this career held has been hard.
I signed up for the academy right after I was rejected from a dream job at a design firm in Columbus. 2 weeks into the academy, they called me back about another position (about 2 months post 1st rejection). That was the worst part because I had already invested $6k into this new hobby so I had to stick with that commitment until May of 2015.
Out of the academy, I set my sites at working at a Columbus based clothing company. I applied for a simple retail position at Homage at Easton. I loved it and I hoped to work my way up by showing my potential in the story, and hopefully transition to becoming a designer with them. I worked my way up to assistant manager. When I got rejected a couple of times for design positions (no explanations from up top) I felt that I was no longer going to be able to grow my career at Homage, and a position at my current employer was presented to me by the Chief of police department I worked at part-time. Transitioning into this career was easy for my mental health because I felt like a failure to be quite honest. A lot of the time, I still reflect on that feeling. I gave up on a dream of mine. (I am only 27…I still have a lot of time in front of me). And a lot of people are thrown off when they and out I am both a police officer and a graphic designer; 2 mindsets that typically are not together. All in all, it was all about timing as to how I ended up where I am now.
How does your design education influence your skillset and day to day perspective?
I think my design education still impacts my daily life, even while not working in the field. I still make time to make art and design thins as often as I can. I use my skills to create art and mostly invitations for friends, family, and co-workers. I think about design pretty much on the daily. whether it be looking at advertisements or just the graphics on Instagram. I follow numerous designers on social media and I am so thankful for the ability to constantly be inspired even while I am not fully emerged in the field at the moment.
Do you still utilize your design education with any work involving the traditional or modern mediums of design?
I would say yes. Not particularly on a regular basis, but I do use it. I use my Adobe Illustrator skills that I learned at BGSU at least regularly. I create wedding invitation suites on the side as an opportunity to release my creativity. I have started to get into hand calligraphy (like pointed pen dipped in ink.) I am working on a book for my grandfather for Christmas, so occasionally I use the bookmaking skills. Calligraphy has really been my biggest outlet since school because I can incorporate it in so many different ways; envelopes, gifts, and signage for people. When it comes to designing wedding invitations, I utilize all of my layout training from BGSU as well.
Do you consider design an important factor to the person you are today?
Heavily, even though I am not working in the field of design, it is ingrained in my personality and it will always be a part of who I am.
If so, as a non-traditional alumni that has transitioned to a different career, would you say design could be an important educational experience for any person in any field?
As a non-traditional alumni, the things I learned as a design student has definitely helped me in my career. I have found that the experiences I had in design school, interviews, portfolio reviews, senior thesis reviews, etc. have been very helpful in my current situation. I also have found the skills that the professors provided me with skills in writing cover letters and resumes that I have come to learn that not a lot of people have been provided. Design is a great educational experience for the creative mind. I think being a design student is a great educational experience because it incorporates a good mix of business and creativity. The design field teaches you all the highs and lows of life. Form the thrills of hearing Rick Valicenti tell you that you have excelled in a design that you put your heart into, to the lows trial and error on a project that you just can’t seem to get to work out the way you are envisioning. It is amazing. I would always recommend any person who is creative minded, but not as minded as a fine artist, to pursue design as a career field. Design really has to stem from passion, and only if that passion is there, should a person pursue design an educational experience. But I would say that my experience in design school has definitely helped me with my non-traditional career path. How specifically, I have no idea. But as long as someone has the passion for design as well as something non-traditional, I would recommend design school.
Interview by Victoria Cutway