Kelsey (Van Horn) Novcak is an accomplished Marywood alum with an independent spirit. In addition to working as a successful freelance graphic designer, she’s an avid hiker and rock climber who has walked the Appalachian Trail, she co-runs a podcast about women outdoor adventurers, and she firmly believes in the value of risk-taking and failure as a component of success. Meet Kelsey Novack!
Graduation Year & Degree: 2017 BFA
Major: Graphic Design
Minor(s): Art History
Marywood Clubs/Activities: The Wood Word, CMYKlub, The Bayleaf, Outdoors Club, Rock Climbing Club
Current Occupation: Freelance Graphic and Web Designer
How long at current job: I’ve been dabbling in freelance since my college years but transferred to full time remote work seven months ago.
Here’s what Kelsey had to say about Marywood and her design career
What was your favorite part about studying art at Marywood?
The community! Marywood features small class sizes, which allows for students to form relationships with their peers and professors. It generates an environment for legitimate critiques, feedback, and conversation.
How did your art education at Marywood help your career?
I love that Marywood has an art foundations program. While it seemed useless to me at the time, I now appreciate having a fine art background. I think it is crucial to my understanding of the principles of design, the realism and depth to my work, and my ability to push myself further than I thought possible. I look at design as an artistic endeavor, not just a technical one. Moreover, the art department professors at Marywood have provided me with ample opportunities to work in the “real world” and gain experiences I wouldn’t have had without them.
What attracted you to this career path?
I took a photography class in high school, which was part of a larger communication design program. It was in those classes where I learned about the need for and possibilities with graphic design. I fell in love with it. Looking back now, I wasn’t very good then, but the passion was there, and I had people supporting me – which made all the difference.
Did your career path match your vision of a career path? What’s different?
I think I realized in my junior year that freelance was my ideal way of life. I was taking on small projects and forging my path forward. Now I am living my dream. I think what is different is that I didn’t realize it was possible so soon. I figured I’d have to work for agencies for several years before having the confidence and trust in myself to make it work. Once I realized that drive, hard work, and believing in yourself are the major aspects of it, I took the leap (with the encouragement of some very important people, of course!)
What is your favorite thing about your current job?
I love that I can make my own schedule. I live my life adventurously, so having flexibility to match the plans for my day or take extended time off is worth it to me. I love being able to go for a trail run in the middle of my day or leave work early to go rock climbing!
Are you currently working on any interesting side projects?
Yes! I started a podcast this past year with a friend called Where Wild Women Wander. I not only act as the co-host, but it’s additionally been a terrific experience creating the brand from scratch and working on promotion through social media and SEO. On the podcast, we interview everyday women about their relationships with the outdoors. We want the outdoors to feel accessible to every woman and not like it has to be some big adventure. Something as simple as going for a walk is all you need to do to gain the physical and mental benefits of being outside. The women we speak with inspire me every day to prioritize happiness. (Find us at www.wherewildwomenwander.com and on insta @wherewildwomenwander.)
What are some of the biggest rewards in your career?
I love seeing the work I create for businesses put into use. When I see a banner, social post, or logo in action, I can’t help but think, “I did that!” If it creates results for the business, even better! It’s an incredible feeling knowing that I can help make an impact in the small business community or awareness in a growing global concern.
Furthermore, I find that working on projects related to my interest in the outdoors or humanitarian-issues are super dear to my heart. Sometimes I get paid to do it, and sometimes I seek out volunteer opportunities, like with the Felidae Conservation Fund and Pocono Forests and Waters. Either way, working my way into a niche market that ties together my passions is extremely gratifying.
What’s something that would surprise people about your day-to-day?
My cup gets filled up by being outside (even on the days I don’t want to be). I’ve been pursuing the goal of “a mile a day” in 2020, so every day I go for a walk or run and complete at least one mile. This helps my work by providing clarity, stress-relief, a break from sitting at a desk, and good ol’ Vitamin D!
What inspires you?
Nature. I love watching the seasons change and the endless colors, patterns, and shapes that the world can provide. In my opinion, Mother Earth is the greatest artist.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I am a daydreamer and a risk-taker. Adventuring, traveling, and challenging myself is important to me as a person and an artist. It allows me to find growth and experiences I otherwise wouldn’t have. It allows me to gain perspective from other people and from my physically or mentally grueling efforts. It shapes the way I see the world and opens up space for new ideas and creativity to flow through.
I’ve found myself taking breaks from my career to refresh myself, whether it be via thru-hikes and bike tours, rock climbing and trail running, or visiting the backcountry wilderness. I always come back stronger and ready to take on my career with a new unstoppable force. While some may question my choices, I believe that these journeys have made me more confident in myself, more open-minded, and more capable of taking on any challenge within my career. Therefore, it is all worth it to me.
Any advice for current art students at Marywood?
It is totally okay to fail, because that’s when you learn the most. Look at your art as a space to play and experiment. Be a risk-taker. Fail often. Take every opportunity presented. You never know what you can do until you push yourself to your limits. Last but not least, if it scares you (in a good way) that usually means it’s something you should pursue.
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN STUDYING Graphic Design?
UNDERGRADUATE: Our graphic design program at Marywood will introduce you to a variety of design disciplines. Conceptual development, technical skills and professionalism are emphasized. Students have the opportunity to work independently, with partners, in small groups, with professionals in the field and real clients. Regular class critiques and portfolio reviews are stressed throughout the program. LEARN MORE
GRADUATE: The Master of Fine Arts is a 60-credit program designed to provide professional emphasis for persons with an intense commitment to their art who intend to become serious professional artists and/or would like to teach at the college level. There are four areas of concentration: 2-D, 3-D, Graphic Design, and Illustration. In the 2-D area, students may work in the following media: painting, photography, or printmaking. In the 3-D area, students may concentrate in ceramics or sculpture, working with a variety of media. LEARN MORE
Our “Get Your Master’s with the Masters” MFA Program in Design and Illustration offers a rare opportunity to receive personal, hands-on training from leaders in the design and illustration fields. Working with designers, illustrators, and other art professionals is the easiest and most effective way to learn how to produce career-advancing work and obtain your MFA degree. LEARN MORE