Though he has a keen eye for both design and illustration, FIDM Graphic Design Student Alex Jimenez’s passion for design extends beyond the visual to the theoretical and historical as well. Citing advertising as “the most interesting part of graphic design” for him at the moment, Alex describes the reason behind this as one sure to melt any design instructor’s heart: “[advertising] gets to the heart of what designers need to do: convey a message,” he says.
Aside from advertising, Alex’s interest in design is rooted in “overcoming the challenge in any scenario that shows up”—a feeling every good designer knows well, and finds infinitely fulfilling. He may even find it more fulfilling than most, describing how when he “gets it right,” he feels “like [his] alter-ego just pulled a straight flush in a high-stakes poker tournament at the playboy mansion.”
Interested in illustration for far longer than his attendance at FIDM, Alex got his start as an illustrator for the Daily Bruin campus newsletter at UCLA while attending for his undergraduate degree in Geography. Describing his exposure to graphic design as “gradual,” he “moved from trying out digital painting to trying tee shirt design,” and “received a lot of opportunities through Greek Life at UCLA to do fraternity shirts, recruitment brochures, and information packets.” Eventually, Alex was hired at the UCLA Trademarks office, through which he designed branding collateral as well, he says.
Though he can’t remember the specific person who enlightened him to FIDM, Alex was sold on the school’s design program as soon as he heard about the one-year Professional Designation program and lifetime career network access. He describes how “the following weeks constituting the admissions process were really just icing on the cake, and everyone I met compounded my interest in the school.”
His experience at FIDM has only continued that positive impression he had upon applying. “Comparing the atmosphere at FIDM to my friends who studied design at the university, I think the focus on production is a pivotal dynamic. Everyone here is hustling at all times to maintain their peak performance, whereas previously it was common for students to do their entire quarter’s assignments in finals week,” he says. “This explains the gap in professionalism that distinguishes FIDM work from others.”
To get some insight of what it’s like to be a student in the graphic design program at FIDM, Alex will be sharing some of his thoughts and student projects with us on a regular basis so be sure to stay tuned for that.
In the meantime, get to know Alex a better from our interview with him below:
(FIDM Digital Arts) Tell us a little bit about your background before attending FIDM.
(Alex) “Without going into too much detail, in my freshmen year of college I broke my skull playing club baseball and after going through recovery I suddenly could draw pretty well. Just kidding, but it is true that the incident was a crucial point where I decided that it was time to get serious about my long-term ambitions. And, I tell that story far too often, so it comes off as some kind of bragging. However, I’m proud of the moment for the chance to branch out, develop a more social demeanor, and discover myself. I graduated in 2014 from UCLA with a BA in Geography, after a three-year affair with Physics and Economics. They found out what was going on and both dumped me. I’m fine now, but my GPA never really got over the breakup.”
How did you hear about FIDM?
“Honestly, I don’t remember. There’s got to be someone out there who I owe credit for giving me the advice but regretfully their contribution must be lost to history.”
What made you decide to attend FIDM?
“Back when I was an undergrad (just two years ago but let’s pretend that I’m old and wise), I realized that if I had one quality everyone around me appreciated it was my artwork. Maybe I ought to focus on turning it into a career. Despite that, I knew my limits and the need for professional training. The sad fact is that nobody respects drawing or design as a technical vocation, so showing up with anything less than professionally-trained skills is a sure ticket to no money. I decided that I was going to find an art school after graduation. I looked at several in California, including LCAD, OTIS, SFAI, and CalArt. Overall the quality of schools here is superb, but the thought of 2-3 years and the cost of tuition was a steep bargain. I really want to get out and work in design as soon as possible.
That’s around the time I was contacted by Margaret Berger at FIDM Orange County, replying to a general interest email I had sent. As soon as I heard about the one-year Professional Designation program and lifetime career network access I was sold. The following weeks constituting the admissions process were really just icing on the cake, and everyone I met compounded my interest in the school. It’s just ridiculous that no other institutions have this kind of program. Particularly when you look at FIDM’s market position, which I think gives it huge bargaining power and maybe the least incentive to do anybody the favor.”
As soon as I heard about the one-year Professional Designation program and lifetime career network access I was sold. The following weeks constituting the admissions process were really just icing on the cake, and everyone I met compounded my interest in the school.
Can you tell me a little about your FIDM experience so far?
“The biggest discovery has been that you can actually be exhausted from drawing. Otherwise, I think it’s very refreshing compared to my university experience. For the most part, I have a lot of prior experience with the subjects of my current classes. With drawing classes, that lets me do some one-on-one with Bill Fogg and really spend as much time as I can learning expert techniques. But every teacher has their tricks and years of practice, which everyday contributes some nuanced bit of insight that I previously lacked.”
What areas of graphic design currently interest you the most?
“Advertising would be the most interesting part of graphic design for me at the moment. It doesn’t take a Columbo to figure out that ‘Mad Men’ is really behind the whole fascination. It’s superficial, but I like how the show juxtaposed the designer’s working life with the decade’s social turmoil. Advertising is also very cool because it gets to the heart of what designers need to do: convey a message. That’s a beautiful aspect, in light of how much vilification there is toward advertising. As much as independent graphic designers might want to deny it, they’re really just small-time ad men.”
What graphic designers or companies are currently inspiring you?
“I’m a pretty big fan of the New Bauhaus, for adding a lot of structural foundation to modern design. It’s an intriguing school of thought because it arrived just before the proliferation of design techniques, which liberated us from the constraints of metal type, material restrictions, and such. Through some kind of serendipity they just managed to put a leash on that time period’s potential for design madness and since then, even odd abstract movements that break the mold are still understood within its contexts. So Rand Paul, Joseph Albers, and my limited exposure to their cohort are pretty interesting to me. Once I feel fully engaged with how they understood design, it might be easier to identify with contemporary designers. But for now I see everyone in light of how they relate to the big-hitters and whether I like their specific ‘look’.
A few illustrators that really get me going are Ian McQue, Kim Jung Ji, Hayao Miyazaki, and Gabriel Picolo, who goes by @_PICOLO on Instagram. McQue and Kim are really heavy on the dark pen values and super detailed trademark looks, whereas Miyazaki and Picolo are proficient with gesture. No doubt, I’ve figured out some clever drawing tricks, and occasionally I get the dust off my shoulder. But these guys are frickin’ wizards; I’ll just look at their work and try to understand how they could even put the thought together and get it on a page. I’ve been seeing Picolo’s work on social media for a while, and I swear one day I honestly thought I was starting to get on his level. Then his next post was full color and suddenly I found myself wearing a diaper again.”
Are there any websites or blogs that you recommend to our readers?
“The absolute best resource I know for contemporary graphic design input and inspiration is Smashing Magazine. They do tutorials, editorial pieces, spotlights, etc. Plus, for my millennial cohorts, there’s an app. Another would be Communication Arts, which is like the Junior Varsity to Smashing. ImagineFX is a great magazine for digital artists, and I think it’s worth saying that if drawing is an essential skill to a graphic designer, then digital painting ought to be as well. If that’s what you’re into then it’s a good monthly publication.
I suppose you’d have to be living under the rock of Gibraltar to be a FIDM student and not know what Lynda.com is. However, less prolific is Skillshare.com, which is a bit more casual in nature. Nevertheless there are really good lessons there on crafty skills like hand-lettering, outdoor-model photography, web design, and really a good deal more. AIGA.org is a powerful resource for contemporary practices, philosophy, job resources and the social environment of a professional designer. Creativebloq.com is also pretty comprehensive. The best website for digital painting is ctrlpaint.com. Of course, all the magazines have their own websites.”
“Websites, social media, and magazines are all nice due to convenience but I’d really take a solid design book any day. Especially with FIDM’s library; I check out a new book each day I’m there and I try to get through it within a couple days. Ultimately, you find conceptual knowledge there that does more to improve your design than any technical mimicry. One book I recommend is ‘Above the Fold’ by Brian Miller, which covers common practice and background on web design regardless of html or css knowledge. Another is ‘How to Create a Portfolio & Get Hired’ by Fig Taylor. Both are nice in quality, but the insights into the practices are what make them good references. I’d also say any work by Steven Heller or Richard Buchanan are worth looking into. They are great for historical input, as well as the essays they collect from other designers. You can get a fine-tuned understanding of ways that design crosses over to other fields. If you need good, one-sentence justifications for design decisions, just grab anything by Paul Rand.
Hands-down, the most beneficial book I’ve encountered is ‘Interaction of Color’ by Joseph Albers. It’s just amazing how he takes Gestalt principles, grafts a bit of perceptual psychology over it and voila! A theory of color based simply on looking and seeing. Which is perfect for designers, when really a job well done is a theory well simplified. I tell pretty much everyone to read it, and I think mostly they don’t. Fortunately, if you’ve got an iPhone, there is an app for the book and it’s supposed to be quite true to form.”
Thank you Alex! We look forward to seeing more of your work.
Be sure to visit Alex’s blog The Boom Baux to learn more.
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