We see it, read it, wear it. Graphic designers’ work is ubiquitous from billboards to T-shirts. Students in College of the Mainland’s graphic arts program have discovered that having high-tech skills creates opportunities in many industries, from the corporate world to the medical field.
Student Melissa Harman entered the COM associate degree program with a desire to use her artistic talent in the business world but without computer design experience. Two years later, she’s landed a job as web production and design associate at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
“I’ve always been a creative person,” she said. “Once I started classes, I knew this is what I wanted to do.”
At COM, she threw herself into learning all avenues of graphic arts from Web design to business cards. Her break came when she presented her portfolio to UTMB staff, who, impressed, hired her for an internship. She set to work designing Web pages and creating flyers, postcards and ads. Skilled in many types of graphic work, she most enjoys Web design and the myriad opportunities it provides for creative expression.
“Everything is on the Internet, even something as simple as a product manual,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to do the job if I hadn’t taken classes. I definitely have a good foundation.”

Harman’s classmate Michael Orlando agreed.

“(The instructors) give me the tools to put what’s in my head on paper or on the computer,” he said.

A job waiting tables led Orlando to COM.
“Misery was the driving force,” he said. “I wanted to find something that makes me happy. I knew I needed to get an education.”
With guidance from instructors Coleena Jackson and Freda O’Connor, he learned from and with his classmates through hands-on projects.

“The best ideas come when you brainstorm with other people,” he said.

As his portfolio grew, he learned of an opening at Inline Graphix in Texas City, applied and was hired as a designer. Now he’s using the skills he gained at COM to create trendy images on apparel – hats, T-shirts and polos.
“The type and quality of work in the classroom prepared me to understand what’s needed in the business atmosphere,” he said.
COM graduate Del Adams sees his work displayed in the business world on a 30-foot scale. From billboards to wall displays, the graphic designer for Del Papa Distributors creates advertisements and customizes national corporate templates to the local area.
“The big challenge is to create something worth looking at,” he said.
After Adams completed his degree and was working in the field, instructor Coleena Jackson discovered a Del Papa print shop position and mentioned to him. After being hired for the job, he worked his way up to his current position.
“I owe that woman a whole lot,” he said.

Jackson, who has taught for more than 15 years at COM, says the program prepares students for a variety of positions in the corporate and nonprofit world if students are willing to step up to the challenge.

“At COM we develop professional graphic designers who know image quality, color systems, branding, print workflow, how to develop lines of code, site navigation and so much more,” she said. “Our two-year program is hard work and requires a tremendous amount of outside work, but all three met the challenge head on. I am so tremendously proud of them. They make me a better teacher and for that I am thankful.”

For more visit www.com.edu/graphic-arts.