Summer studio introduces high school students to career paths in art and design

A group of creative and artistic high school students participated in hands-on opportunities to explore graphic design and animation while building their design portfolio and earning college credits.

August 10, 2022

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

From left to right: DJ Haddad, Melanie Uribe and Guy-Serge Emmanuel, MFA

When Ruby Millet shows the images she has designed on her computer screen, her enthusiasm for what she has learned about art and design is contagious. She spent more than a month this summer exploring her creativity and developing her passion for drawing by taking an interest in graphic design.

A recent graduate of West Haven High School, Millet was part of the University’s Summer Studio: Discovering Graphic Design. Her work reflects much of what she learned in the program, including the importance of balancing bold colors and designs with simpler elements, such as fonts.

“I wanted to learn how to do graphic design for business, and I thought it was a great opportunity,” she explains. “I think it’s cool and I’m happy to be here. I learned to combine something simple with something dramatic to create an image.

“Art and design thrive in our institution”

Offered free to creative students in New Haven and West Haven, Summer Studio was created by Haddad & Partners, a digital design agency based in Fairfield, Conn., in collaboration with AIGA-Connecticut, a Creative Community Champion of the Connecticut. One of the University’s summer youth academy programs for high school students, Summer Studio, allowed students to explore subjects such as composition, typography, and animation.

“The goal of Summer Studio was not only to introduce local minority and underrepresented students to graphic design, but also to show them and their parents that you can make a good living and have a good career as a graphic designer,” said Guy-Serge. Emmanuel, MFA, director of the Art and Design department of the University. “For the University, this is a chance to give back to the community and also a chance to show that art and design thrives in our institution.”

The program aims to prepare students for college, as well as careers in the field. For the first time this year, Summer Studio offered students the opportunity to earn three college credits.

“It was something that interested me because I love art,” said Victor Adeniji, a rising senior at Achievement First Amistad High School in New Haven. “Graphic design is a very broad environment, and every lesson we’ve had has been exciting. We learn the basics of everything, and it taught me that getting into graphic design is complex, but not as scary as it seems.

Ruby Millet talks about one of her Summer Studio projects.
Ruby Millet talks about one of her Summer Studio projects.
“It’s something different all the time”

As part of the program, students gain hands-on experience using Adobe Creative Suite while building their design portfolio. They learned from University faculty members, such as Professor Ken Lalli, who helped them develop their skills.

“It’s about inspiration and generating the spark that leads to passion,” said Professor Lalli, an adjunct professor in the university’s art and design department. “Without a taste of it, you don’t know if you like it. For these students, that’s the taste.

The students also interacted with other Chargers during the program, including Bayley Fair ’22, a recent graphic design grad who served as a teaching assistant. Now an intern at Haddad & Partners, Fair is excited to show students that they can pursue a career in art and design.

“As a designer, you put designs out into the world, and people don’t always realize there’s a person behind their creation,” Fair said. “In this field, it’s always something different, and there are different paths. It is versatile. I love that we are making an impact in the lives of these students, and it’s nice to see them getting excited about their future.

Victor Adeniji is working on a project at Summer Studio.
Victor Adeniji is working on a project at Summer Studio.
“There’s a whole world out there”

The desire to introduce students to the many career paths in art and design is what inspired DJ Haddad, Owner and Executive Creative Director of Haddad & Partners, to develop the program.

While growing up in Waterbury, Connecticut, Haddad, whose mother was an art teacher, enjoyed drawing and painting. Despite his passion and talent, the messages he received about an artistic career were not always positive or encouraging. He was told he would be a “starving artist”. But, he says, he found an “indirect route” to an artistic career through the field of graphic design.

“If it was hard for me, then it’s definitely hard for kids who don’t have access to facilities, or for first-generation students,” Haddad says. “I hope to open their eyes to the possibilities of graphic design.

“If you walk into a grocery store, you don’t realize how much work it takes to design a cereal box,” he continues. “I want the students to see that there is a whole world there. They don’t need to be a “starving artist”.

Bayley Fair '22 served as a teaching assistant at Summer Studio.
Bayley Fair ’22 served as a teaching assistant at Summer Studio.
“Working with digital tools is good”

Created to break down barriers, Summer Studio aimed to help diversify the field and combat underrepresentation by providing students with access to tools and education. They also interact with mentors in industries such as advertising, entertainment and media, exploring a myriad of possible careers in art and design.

“I am impressed and impressed with the growth of this program over the past year,” said Melanie Uribe, director of education for AIGA-Connecticut. “It prepares students for what to expect in their future. I hope it will expose them to a world of creativity and innovation and give them a sense of Connecticut’s creative community.

The program ends with an exhibition and a graduation ceremony at the University, during which the participants present their design and animation projects.

Millet, the student from West Haven, is eager to share what she has learned, as well as the appreciation she has gained for working with digital media.

“It’s nice that a lot of this is digital,” she said. “I like to use my hands and be creative, and digital is cool. Working with digital tools is cool. You see it on a screen and you can delete it if you make a mistake.

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