December 10, 2019

Alumni Update: Interview with Zach Zollars

Posted in Alumni, Interview.

A BGSUGD graduate of 2009, Zach Zollars has been very successful in his time outside of the program. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts with a minor in marketing, and now he currently works for Hart Digital Marketing in Toledo, OH as a Senior Art Director.

Why did you choose BGSU to study design?

Growing up fairly close to BGSU, I knew a lot about the university and I always heard great things about the School of Art. After touring campus, as well as seeing a few other universities I knew BG was the right choice.

What advice would you give students currently in the graphic design program?

Embrace community. Design and advertising are very much a team sport, and it’s really important to be able to work alongside others. I was fortunate to go through the design program with a great group of people that became close friends to this day. Not only did we push each other in class with projects and assignments, after graduation I immediately knew I had a great network of designers across the country I could rely on. 

Did you have a masterplan for where you wanted to work before you graduated?

Before graduation my professor Matt Davis, encouraged us to make a list and apply to at least 10 agencies we wanted to work at. For me some of those agencies were Ohio-based, others were scattered across the country. Although at the time, it was important to stay open-minded about potential opportunities. 2009 was the height of the Great Recession, bringing some of the highest unemployment rates in US history. Entry-level design jobs were pretty scares, and it was tough to break in. I knew I wanted to move to Chicago, and ultimately I did… it just took about 6 months to get a job at a place that I wanted to work. Coincidently, after I moved back from Chicago, I landed a job at one of the agencies that was on that initial list.

Did you know what type of design you wanted to pursue after college, and what is your strong suit in terms of design?

Yes and no. I loved the corporate identity design class while I was in school and always wanted to work at a branding agency. However I’ll be honest, I get bored fairly easily, so focusing strictly on just one avenue wouldn’t work for me. I currently appreciate having the flexibility of working on various projects across branding, identity, ad campaigns, video, motion graphics, digital, environmental design, etc. 

How has your experience been working at Hart?

Hart has been great for me in terms of career growth and continued learning. I started my career in some really great design-focused studios, concentrating primarily on branding projects, and print design. Hart has given me the opportunity to think beyond just design, and provide ideas and solutions that extend across multiple platforms and media. I still approach every project from a designer’s perspective–however my role might not be about kerning letters–it might be directing a photo shoot or working with a team of 3D artists to bring an idea to life.

What advice would you give to graphic design students that are about to graduate?

As cliche as it may sound, graduating from design school is really just the beginning of your training in and about design. Your career will be long and it’s important to find a job that you can continue to grow and advance in. Also, it may be challenging to find, but I can’t stress enough the importance a great mentor can have on your career. 

In regards to getting a job: it pains me to write this because it appears so lame, but … network. Attend AIGA or other design events, keep in touch with recent grads that work in the industry, connect with agencies, message designers you admire, etc. Never forget, we were all in your shoes at one time so don’t be afraid to reach out.

Interviewed by Vanessa Oz