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10 Questions for our alumni
NICK CILIAK, BFA, GRAPHIC DESIGN, 2016
1. Why did you choose to attend Grand Valley?
I chose Grand Valley over other schools because I could tell from the start that it was going to be a good value. I was also impressed by how welcoming and supportive the professors were. As I toured the campus, I noticed that every building contained artwork—the entire campus is a gallery. This showed me that Grand Valley really supports and appreciates artwork, inside and outside of the department.
2. How or why did you choose your major or main emphasis area?
My interest in digital art and software led me to pursue Graphic Design.
3. What advise do you have for future students thinking about colleges?
Whether or not you know what you're going to study, try to have an idea of what you're generally looking for in a college. Are you looking for a well-rounded program or one that is more specialized? A big campus with lots going on, or a smaller community feel? Get a good understanding of what the college values and what resources it makes available to its students—this will help in your decision-making process.
4. What advise do you have for current students thinking about careers?
Don't box yourself in. You're allowed to make whatever type of work you want. And better yet, you can call yourself whatever you want! Fortunately, GVSU encourages students to take a range of classes within the department so that they may explore a variety of skills. I know Illustration majors who have gone on to become excellent graphic designers, jewelry and metals majors who became great 3d modelers, etc... the skills you learn in your emphasis will prepare you for wherever you want to go.
5. What did you do after graduating?
After graduating, I worked as an Interactive Designer for a digital design agency. Most of the work was designing websites—translating a business's brand identity to their digital presence and ensuring the user experience was aligned with their values. Though I came from a design background, I took on more and more front-end development work in my position, gaining confidence in my ability to not only design but build websites as well.
6. What are you doing now?
Now I'm a front-end engineer at a company that makes marketing and sales automation software. We sell our software to small and medium-sized businesses to help them save time and optimize their customers' experiences. As a member of the Site team, I'm working with other engineers, designers, and marketers to build our company's design system and implement it across the site.
7. How have you used the skills you developed in your field of study in your life and/or career after GVSU?
I'd say that I've directly applied the design principles I learned in the Graphic Design program to all of the design work that I've done in my career.
8. What is the best advise you got from an instructor at Grand Valley?What is your favorite memory of being a student at Grand Valley?
Act like a sponge: surround yourself with as much information as possible and absorb it. From there you can process it and create something new.
9. What is your favorite memory of being a student at Grand Valley?
My favorite memory of being a student was the collaborative feeling of the Calder Art Center. I feel like you could walk into that building at any time of the day and find other students to hang out with and work on projects with. It was a supportive, open environment that I think students should make sure they take advantage of.
Image Credits: Nick Ciliak. You can see Nick's portfolio at www.nickciliak.com