10 Questions for our alumni

Zac Freeland, BFA, Graphic Design, 2016

Zac Freeland, BFA, Graphic Design, 2016

1 - Why did you choose to attend Grand Valley?

I always knew I wanted to go to a university rather than an art college. I have many interests outside of the world of art and design, so I wanted a chance to explore those things in a more traditional university environment. I fell in love with the Calder Art Center while touring the building my senior year of high school. It was winter, and there was fresh snow. The whole campus was beautiful, and it just felt right.


2 - How or why did you choose your major or main emphasis area?

I've always been interested in design, even before I knew what it was. As a kid in school, I always found myself sketching my favorite letterforms and logos. I've since learned how much design can impact the world. It's my way of trying to make the world a little bit better.


3 - What advice do you have for future students thinking about colleges?

Look at the work that the students have made that are in the hallways and in the classroom. Those are the projects you'll most likely be doing in a few years. Is the work effective, interesting, beautiful? Whatever you see will give you a clue about what the program and professors will try to teach you in the future.


4 - What advice do you have for current students thinking about careers?


Think more about skills and experiences than careers. What things are you interested in? There are so many things that you can try while you're in college, and whether you find out that you love those things or hate those things, it's all valuable knowledge. Once you know what you love, then think about what career will allow you to utilize your skills and go after it. But always stay open to learning and experiencing more. You never know what little corner of art and design you'll fall in love with next.


5 - What did you do after graduating?

I started working in my last semester at a local studio called Concept A Creative. I found that job through a coworker/friend I made at one of my internships during my years at GVSU. Never underestimate the value of having solid friends in the design world.


6 - What are you doing now?

I work remotely for Vox Media designing social media graphics. I still live in Grand Rapids and design typefaces in my free time.


7 - How have you used the skills you developed in your field of study in your life and/or career after GVSU?

It's hard to have a successful career in design without knowing the fundamentals. Things like hierarchy, composition, and contrast were stressed early on in my time at GVSU, and I still rely on that knowledge daily. I also got my first taste of motion design at GVSU which has been great for implementing motion graphic in my work at Vox. I also designed and released my first typeface while at GVSU, which was the beginning of a path that I'm still exploring.


8 - What is the best advice you got from an instructor at Grand Valley?

Don't rely too much on what you know works. When I was in school, I definitely had a style. I still do, actually. I think it's good to have a style, but it's important not to let it get in the way of what a certain project really needs. I started to use my style as a crutch because I knew it was safe and effective. A lot of my work started looking the same and it took me a while to elevate to the next level because I was afraid to try something new and interesting.


9 - What is your favorite memory of being a student at Grand Valley?

Late nights at Calder with a couple friends with music on in the lab or printmaking studio. 100% in the zone. I look back fondly on those nights.


10 - Anything else you would like to share with our Visual and Media Arts Community?

Always let your desires for success and knowledge outweigh your fear of failure. Whenever I try something new, there's that little voice in the back of my head trying to get me to stop because it won't be good enough. It's normal for the first few things you make to be bad, but eventually, it clicks and then you're on your way.


Image credits: Zac Freeland. You can visit Zac's website at zacfreeland.com and follow Zac on Instagram at @zacfreeland and on Twitter at @zacfreeland too.

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Page last modified January 8, 2019