Hello! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi! My name is Elena Barbosa, and I am a senior at CUNY New York City College of Technology. I study what is known as Communication Design. I don’t exactly have a focus as I like to be well-versed in all things design. I work at the non-profit PEN America as a design consultant, where I am tasked with print collateral for events as well as social media graphics and general branding.
What brought you to the world of design? What kept you here?
I grew up watching cartoons and getting obsessed with illustration! I dreamed of making my own cartoon one day but life had other plans! The truth was that I felt too ashamed and pressured by family to pursue a different career choice. After failing out of another major miserably, I switched to illustration as I had originally wanted! But I was still unhappy. Why? Because clients can be very demanding and when something is so intimate for you, it’s difficult not to take it personally.
I finally found City Tech, and tried the design major. I thought it was a happy marriage between technical skill and art, and I ended up loving it right from the start! I had fun in all of my intro courses and continued improving. Simply put: I was unhappy before finding design and I don’t plan on letting go of this passion any time soon.
What’s a special project that you’ve worked on that excites you?
One of my favorite projects I worked on was actually during my freshman college year. I was in my first typography class, titled Type and Media in our school, and we had to make “zines.” I had never heard of zines before but we were allowed to choose whatever theme we wanted, whatever content and any fonts, as long as it followed the basic principles of typography. It was the first time in a long while at school that I felt I had complete creative freedom to complete a project. I chose to write about aliens, and some of the evidence for or against them. I had a lot of fun making it, and to this day I look at the printed version and still feel happy when I see it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, in regards to your career?
I have a lot of advice I’ve been given over the years but something that has impacted me has actually been recently. A professor at my school was advising me for the semester while I was trying to pick a focus for my senior project class. I did not know what to pick as I had taken quite a bit of all types of classes so I told her I wasn’t sure. She told me “Elena, sometimes someone will need a Neurosurgeon… but sometimes you just want to go to the family doctor.” I felt relief hearing this advice from a professor who I and many others regard so highly. I ended up picking Illustration, to reconnect with my roots! I feel much better about myself and my decision now, I’ll remember it and try to keep my “jack of all trades!” Mentality.
What is a question that you are currently exploring?
A question I am currently exploring and have thought of for a while is “How does a design translate into other cultures?” for example the controversy that came with the Gucci line of clothing where they had a white model with a black mask on with a red outline to the lips. In America this was seen as justifiably offensive while in other cultures it was not understood as malicious. Whether the original intent was malicious or not, a better understanding of the world might have prevented that mistake from happening.
Is there anything else that’s important that you’d like to say?
I think that if you really enjoy doing something your passion will shine through your work, even if you don’t feel like you’re really doing anything out of the ordinary!
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