Spotlight Interview: Max Gordon

Max Gordon: Associate Graphic Designer, RapidRatings

New York City

WFU Class of 2018

Major: Studio Art

Minor: Chemistry

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Max Gordon came to Wake with sights set on a pre-med track. However, he encountered the Art Department and fell in love! Max works at RapidRatings in NYC as a graphic designer. We recently got the full scoop on Max’s path since Winston.

DeacLink: What did you study at Wake? How much did your studies at Wake inform or drive your career path?

Max Gordon: I majored in Studio Art with a minor in Chemistry when I was at Wake. My experience at Wake had a large impact on my current career path. When I was a freshman, I intended on being pre-med, but I knew I wanted to continue with art as well. After taking my first studio at Wake, I fell in love with the art program because it was small. The size of the department allowed me to develop relationships and receive detailed feedback from the professors. Although I never took a graphic design class at Wake, I began creating my own path by experimenting and teaching myself through Wake’s free Adobe program. I also took a graphic design class when I was abroad in Copenhagen with a DIS program. Taking drawing classes taught by Leigh Ann Hallberg also granted me creative freedom as she allowed me to go in a design-based direction.

DeacLink: So how did you end up becoming a graphic designer in the city?

Max Gordon: It started when I interned at RapidRatings the summer before my senior year. I was then offered the job the following January. I began doing some online work for them and made one in-person visit to NYC for an OPCD Wake Career Trek later that semester. Now I work at RapidRatings full time!

DeacLink: How did you find and apply to RapidRatings and other design internships? Did you receive any helpful tips along the way or have any advice for students applying to internships now?

Max Gordon: I was originally planning on going out to LA for a different internship that I found out about through a Wake alum, but I applied to others including RapidRatings just by searching on my own. In terms of advice I learned that your first choice isn’t going to work out most of the time and that’s fine. Whatever you end up getting will be helpful in some way for what you want to do; it will help you get there. It also helps, especially in the art world, to take initiative and put yourself out there in the first place because people aren’t always going to come to you.

DeacLink: In your experience, do you think there is anything that Wake could have done better to prepare students for life after graduation?

Max Gordon: Wake does a great job with a certain type of student, but in my opinion more could be done for art students in particular. For instance, it would be cool to see the Art Department and the OPCD team up to provide better templates for art students to work from when beginning to search for jobs. In the end, it’s best to trust yourself and what you think is best when you are working with Wake to prepare for your future.

DeacLink: What is your favorite part of living and working in NYC? Is there anything you find interesting going on in the art scene there right now?

Max Gordon: Living in the city gives you tons of opportunities to see public art, especially in the summer. There are installations all over the city; you can’t escape it! The pace here is very different from Winston-Salem. Sometimes the size of Winston was limiting, but you can still make an impact because it’s so small. In NYC it’s harder to make your impact, but the city definitely makes an impact on you.

DeacLink: Could you tell me more about working for RapidRatings? What is your favorite part?

Max Gordon: I really like that it is a small company. I have a unique position since I am the only graphic designer here, so I can make a big impact which is a great feeling. I work on designs for their public-facing content, so I have a lot of responsibility. I also manage the website, infographics, and videos. I can get involved in multiple projects which is cool. I am also getting involved with the UI/UX program for user experience and user interface.

DeacLink: What and where is next for you?

Max Gordon: I was applying to Parsons and NYU for grad school before graduation, but I was offered the job at RapidRatings and accepted before I found out if I got in to either school. Turns out, I got in to both, so I’m in the process of reapplying right now. I’m going for design and technology going into web development or UI/UX.

DeacLink: Is there any advice you have for the readers?

Max Gordon: A great piece of advice I received when I was looking for jobs was “Just land. Figure it out from there.”

Spotlight Interview: Tayllor Battle

Tayllor Battle: Designer, Mighty 8th Media

Atlanta

WFU Class of 2010

Major: Studio Art

Double Minor: Art History & Communications

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Tayllor Battle arrived at Wake Forest hoping to work in museums one day. Now based in Atlanta, Tayllor discusses her career in graphic design and what’s led her to this point since leaving Winston.

DeacLink: What did you study while you were at Wake?

Tayllor Battle: I majored in Studio Art with a concentration in oil painting. I also minored in Art History and Communications because I thought I might want to work in a museum some day.

DL: Since you’ve graduated, how has your career unfolded? Can you walk me through your path from graduation day to your current job?

TB: After graduation I got an account management internship at an Zimmerman Advertising agency in south Florida. Out of the program I was offered a job, but decided to move to Atlanta because that’s where I really wanted to live. I took another internship at BBDO Atlanta, which lead me to my first real job in media planning and buying at Ames Scullin O’Haire Advertising. I worked there for two and a half years and loved it most of the time, but eventually needed a change. So I took a job at Zenith Media to work on the Sonic fast food account. After about 6 months or so, I realized the job change wasn’t what I was looking for. What I really needed was a career change. I missed my creative roots. I got swept up in some fun jobs, but my heart wasn’t in it. I knew if I was going to work for 40 more years, it needed to be doing something fulfilling. So I quit my job and joined the circus. Okay not the literal circus, but a little portfolio school called the Creative Circus. I had never heard of portfolio school before, but I just so happened to live in the city on one of the top programs in the country. I like to think of it as a Masters in Design without the thesis-writing and test-taking. I spent two years there working harder than I’d ever worked in my life, to put together a portfolio that helped me land a design job. Which is where I am now. Working as a Brand and Marketing Designer at a small agency called Mighty 8th Media.

DL: How much did your studies and general experience at Wake inform or drive your career path?

TB: They helped me realize I definitely wanted to stay in the arts. Also, the Wake Forest name carries a lot of weight. I definitely think it helped me get interviews and be seen as a serious candidate.

DL: How did you find and apply to the various positions you’ve held (online, inside reference/rec, networking in person, WFU resources, other)? Do you have any tips or suggestions for the student audience on networking, interviewing and applying for jobs.

TB: Some online, some by inside references, some by networking. When you’re looking for a job, I think it’s really important to just put yourself out there in every way you can. When I was looking for the role I’m currently in, I really inserted myself into the Atlanta design community. I went to straight networking events, but I also went to designer talks, museum exhibitions, Creative Mornings, and anything else that might put me in a situation to meet the right people. I also worked my network. I reached out to alumni from both of my schools to gain perspective on the industry and what employers were looking for. It can be really difficult to put yourself in uncomfortable situations, but it will help you find the right job in the end.

DL: The design route seems to be a popular career option for art alums despite the fact we don’t have a formal design program. What advice do you have for readers interested in breaking into the field?

TB: Definitely take advantage of the resources and classes that Wake has. When I was there, I focused way more on the Fine Arts than Design. Unfortunately there just isn’t much of a market for a full time artist. I wish I would have taken more of the Graphic Design classes at Wake and engaged with that community more. But I am endlessly grateful that I got an authentic art experience at Wake and it informed my Graphic Design eye moving forward. Coming from the Wake art program though, I definitely recommend a Portfolio school or other Graduate program if you want to be a Designer. It will help you take what you learned in the Wake Arts and really focus it on the practical aspects of Design.

DL: What could Wake have done better to prepare students for life after graduation?

TB: In the arts specifically, I think there could have been more of an effort to push fine artists into the Graphic Design field since it’s a more practical skill in today’s job market. More practical projects to work on would have helped too. Designing for yourself and designing for a client are so very different and it’s important to learn that skill.

DL: What is your favorite part of living and working in Atlanta? What is the most interesting thing going on in the art scene there at the moment, in your opinion?

TB: Atlanta has so much to offer. It’s a big city with a small town feel. It’s got skyscrapers and trees. It has culture, community and great music. It has great design that comes from some big name brands, local brands, big agencies and small agencies. For me, the best part of the art scene are the programs being organized by the local AIGA (American Institute of the Graphic Arts) and Creative Mornings chapters. They’re really working to bring a global and local perspective to the art community here with speakers, workshops, networking and more.

DL: What is your favorite part about working for Mighty 8th Media? (Can include perks, specific experiences or anecdotes from the job)

TB: I love the wide variety of projects I get to work on at Mighty 8th. I love that every day is different. I love helping real businesses solve real business problems. I’ve worked at a couple of massive agencies and brands over the years and I really love that Mighty 8th is the opposite of that. I have autonomy, but also a great team to collaborate with. I have creative freedom and clients that value our creative expertise.

DL: What's the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on to current students and recent alums?

TB: Be engaged. If there’s one thing I regret from my time at Wake Forest is that I wasn’t as engaged in the educational process as I should’ve been. Being truly engaged goes a long way with your peers, teachers, coworkers, and employers. You really can’t fake genuine engagement and people know it when they see it.