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

Laura Lee Olson graduated Summa Kum Laude in 2011 from the University of Wisconsin-Stout receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in Graphic Design.

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

As a child, you could either find me exploring the woods or drawing at the kitchen table. Almost every scrap piece of paper I had ended up with some sort of design or doodle on it. Even though I could’ve pursued any profession I wanted, I knew that it was important to choose a career that I wouldn’t dread getting up for every day. Design was an easy choice since I had been doing it my whole life. I specifically chose graphic design because it allowed me the ability to not only work for a large company but also have the freedom to work independently as well. After I made the decision to pursue graphic design, I started pursuing art classes at the local college while I attended high school and then enrolled in the Graphic Design program at UW-Stout.

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

Unfortunately, my high school did not offer a lot of design/print/graphic courses other than the staple art classes. I was however, able to take a few courses at the local college which allowed me to get a generic idea of the print and design world as well as get a head start on some college credits.

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

My education has taught me one very valuable lesson: that education alone is not enough. All of my classes allowed me to have a great base understanding of design, balance, composition, layout and printing. However, there is nothing like hands-on experience.

The truth is, my classes prepared me for the ‘ideal scenario’ where I had no limitations on my designs or ideas. But, in doing so, it did not prepare me for the real-world limitations that people in our industry face every day. Is that design pretty? Yes. Is it printable? No.

I truly understood how design and printing go hand-in-hand when I had a graphic design internship at Bemis, a prepress and printing company. It was during this internship that I learned firsthand what realistic limitations were, and how to create print-friendly and print-ready designs.

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 work for Marks Design which is part of SGSco. Marks Design is a global company and I work in the Minneapolis branch.

Marks uses design to shape business. New markets, new products, new interiors, new ways to communicate—whatever we touch is guided by a rigorous strategic methodology and the principles of good design. We provide logo design, strategic package design or design adaptation that are print ready and we cater to all markets.

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?

When I first started, the company was called SGS. Basically, the company didn’t have an open position, but after communicating with the in-house design director they decided to create an internship for me. A few months after my internship started, I was hired full-time. My initial role was to be the link between design and prepress. I created package adaptation that matched the client’s brand standards but also was printable per the printer specs.

Since then, our company has expanded and purchased several internationally known, high-end design, interactive and motion-graphic companies. Our in-house design group merged with one of these affiliates and we are now known as Marks Design. Our primary focus is package design and I do a vast variety of
work all the way from package adaptation to designing logos and branding.

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

We live in a fast-paced world. It’s a fact, unfortunately. Thus, we need people that can quickly adapt to fast-moving projects and have the ability to not only problem solve, but handle multiple assignments at once.

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?

Work isn’t always glamourous. But, you always have the opportunity to better yourself. Never stop learning, and never stop pushing yourself.

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 wouldn’t say that my plans have changed per se, but rather, have been realistically adjusted. While in college, I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do but really didn’t know or fully understand what it would be like to work in the industry. Ideally, I wanted to be established enough to be able to work for myself. That is still my future goal but until I get to that point I need/want to continue developing my skills and knowledge within the industry.

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

I believe that within the next couple years I will be able to work for myself. There are a few possibilities that are slowly coming to fruition and I’m excited to see where it leads.

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?

Yes! It was such a huge blessing to know that I had financial support while in college. School is challenging enough and I’m thankful that PGSF took that extra pressure off me so that I could focus on school. This support, along with hard work and dedication, allowed me to excel and graduate Summa Cum Laude and get a job within a month of graduating from college.

Anything else that you would like to add?

Link to company:

Behance portfolio: