Alumni in Print—Where Are They Now?

The Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation is publishing profiles featuring some of their more than 6000 former scholarship recipients. This series gives you an up close and personal insight into the thoughts and motivations of the former students who are a part of our industry today. As our current employees reach retirement and leave, replacing them becomes an increasingly important factor for many companies. Here is one story…

A Profile

Alexander Mahan received a BA in Communications from Trinity Western University in 2001, followed by an MA in Media Studies, from Goldsmiths College, London in 2007.

How did you first get interested in the graphic arts, or decide to focus on graphic communications in school?

My dad taught me QuarkXPress, Photoshop, and other software programs when I was really young, so I got into graphic design and desktop publishing pretty early. Probably when I was 11 in the early 90’s.

Did you take any courses in high school that were related to graphic communications, or that prepared you for your planned career?

I took a photography course, took some basic desktop publishing stuff, was photo editor for my high school newspaper and also did layout for my high school newspaper.

How do you think going through your education process prepared you for the workforce?

I didn’t really do a whole lot of technical education, but my liberal arts education prepared me for critical analysis of problems and issues, the ability to communicate well, the ability to deal with clients and customers, and a better understanding of the complexity of the world.

In the Workforce Today

What company are you working for now and what types of products and services do they provide to their customers?

I am working at a company called Instrument (, which is located in Portland, Oregon. We build digital experiences, products and content for every screen.

What job did you first have with the company when you started, what position do you have now, and/or what else have you done since joining the company?

I started out as a web developer, and now I’m a Senior web developer. I created the first set of accessibility standards for our web development projects.

What do you think employers are looking for in today’s workforce and the current industry environment?

Web skills. Digital skills. The ability to at least understand some code, if not write it. But the basics, like good typography, will never go out of style. People are looking for more diversity, not less. Empathy. Team-building skills.

Is there anything that you have found to be particularly different from what you initially expected, now that you’ve progressed through your work career for a period of time?

Developing for the web has only gotten more complex and messy over the years, especially with the introduction of so many JavaScript frameworks. I think I initially thought that the web would get simpler over time, but that’s definitely not the case.

Have you changed your plans or ideas about what area or type of job you might like to have since you first considered the graphic communications field and began studying for a career in it?

I wasn’t really expecting to become a web developer, as I started off in print design and production. But I got really interested in making websites in the early 00’s and taught myself most of what it took to develop good web experiences.

What do you see yourself doing a few years from now?

Probably still doing web development. Perhaps being a consultant for people looking to develop independent web experiences.

Was being a recipient of a PGSF scholarship important, or did it have an impact on your future or ability to succeed in the industry?

Well, it helped me graduate from my undergrad program in 2001 without debt, which was pretty amazing, and freed me up to do more independent work. I have much gratitude to the PGSF for that. But since I’ve moved from print to the web, I haven’t stayed in touch as much with the print graphics side of the industry.