This month’s Finlandia University alumni success story is focusing on Jessica Ingold – a graduate of Finlandia University’s International School of Art & Design. Ingold earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and is now working as a MVP Communications Specialist at Kohl’s Corporate headquarters in the Milwaukee metro area. In this question-and-answer session, Ingold talks about life as an art student, what it was like to be a NCAA Division III athlete at Finlandia, and provides some tips at what it takes to make it as a graphic artist.
Meet Jessica Ingold
- Major: BFA in Graphic Design
- Graduation Year: 2013
- Hometown: Redford, Michigan
- Current Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Job: MVP Communications Specialist at Kohl’s Corporate
Finlandia University is located 550 miles from your hometown in metro Detroit. What made you interested in calling it home?
When I found out about Finlandia I was immediately interested. Not only was the program right, but I was able to become a major contributor in the soccer program. Ultimately, my financial aid package was what put it over the top though. Prior to visiting campus, I had only been to a couple touristy spots in the Eastern U.P., so I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but the first year I was in such awe of the fall colors, they were so beautiful, so peaceful.
What aspects of Finlandia stood out to you?
I loved the structure of the art school, because we were able to explore all of the different disciplines as incoming students. I knew what I wanted to do, but it was eye opening to see all of the opportunities, especially for such a small school. Once I progressed in my specialty I was able to work very closely with my graphic design professor Robert Grame. Professors don’t always see the potential that students have, when they aren’t applying themselves fully, and take the extra time that they really need to push them outside of their comfort zones. At Finlandia I was able to get that. I had so much one-on-one time with the professors. As we grew in our skills it helped to work in a collaborative environment; having our peers critique our work and offer suggestions. I go through a similar process with the work we do right now at Kohl’s. I build my books on a specific timeline, and then we review and discuss the edits needed. What we did at Finlandia helped me to understand constructive criticism, and how to use it in my design process.
Another thing that stands out is the close relationships you make. I made some extremely close friends within the design program, and I’ve kept up with them still. We don’t live close to each other, but we stay in contact, we stay in each other’s lives. Finding people with the same skill sets and dedication to your craft makes you want to work harder and better. I’m a competitive person, and so are my friends, which drove all of us harder and to push further.
You’re now a little more than four years into your career, where has your path led you?
I expectantly worked in sales immediately following graduation, but it helped me get my foot in the door and understand business and professionalism. It wasn’t until March 2014 that I landed my first design position. It was very much so a marketing job as well, but when I started I made it clear to them that I wanted to be on the design team. I spent a lot of time continuing to develop my skills on my own time as well to help figure out exactly what my niche was. What made me a unique designer? Eventually I found this job at Kohl’s where I started as a contracter and worked hard enough to move into a full-time role that I love.
As you can see, my path was a little different. But the disciple and variety of skills I was introduced to at Finlandia helped prepare me for this to make my ideas more solidified and well rounded. It made me think through things I might not have thought through before. It translates today because I’m a communications specialist, not a pure graphic designer, which drives my formatting and alignment skills.
It sounds like you had a little bit of sisu on your side as you worked to find your place. What advice would you give a current student?
Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t placed immediately after graduation or even within a year. It takes time! Every postion at your level wants candidates right out of college with experience, which isn’t easy to get while in school. I would always recommend keeping at it, keep improving your skills, even if it’s not at a day-to-day job. I did work for friends and family pro-bono, which allowed me to continue to have a diverse portfolio. I was discouraged early because I didn’t land a great job right away. Everywhere I wanted to work at wanted someone with 3-5 minimum years of experience, and I just needed someone to give me a shot. As a designer, you just need to be patient and prove that you are worth that shot.
Make sure to let people know you career goals. It would have been easy for me to justaccept the first role given to me and be happy, but I knew that wouldn’t lead me to being the best I could be. I kept my ultimate goal of being a graphic designer in mind, and made sure the people I surrounded myself with could help me attain that.
Now you’re in a fairly large corporate office, what is that experience like?
It is hectic, but it is very community based. When I first started I was a consultant, and it was a little overwhelming walking into a building with so many people. It was intimidating knowing there were many others with the same skillset as me. But it made me work harder. The Communication team that I am on is just one part of the Merchandize & Visual Presentation Department (MVP). The community is great here, they push hard for us to feel like a family; part of one team, no matter your department. Anyone can go to a small company and be a big fish, but to try and be a big fish at a big company will take a lot of dedication, leadership and hard work.
I can get a lot of exposure to upper management based on the projects I get to work on. They value people who ask a lot of questions and strive for innovation. I’ve improved on that quite a bit this last 2 years to make sure that my work is the best communication for our stores.
This article on 2013 alumna Jessica Ingold is part of a regularly produced series titled Finlandia Success. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to suggest alumni who might make a great feature in the next Finlandia Success story. See a full archive of Finlandia Success stories at finlandia.edu/success.Tags: Finlandia Success, Jessica Ingold, Robert Grame