Graduation Year & Degree: 2015 BFA
Major: Graphic Design
Minor(s): CLOSE to photography, but no cigar
Marywood Clubs & Activities: CMYKlub, Zeta Phi Delta, Delta Epsilon Sigma
Current Occupation: Creative Strategist + Art Director
How long at current job: 2+ years
Personal Website: jenkadragich.com
What was your favorite part about studying art at Marywood? I loved the holistic approach Marywood took in teaching the arts. Having a fine art based foundational year helped me really understand the importance of design principles and thinking before I ever even set foot into an actual design course. I also appreciated the small class size, which created an enriching environment for someone as self-conscious as college-aged-Jen. Being able to develop relationships with both my professors and classmates over the years was tremendously valuable.
How did your art education at Marywood help your career? Taking classes that touched on a variety of design verticals really encouraged me to figure out where my strengths and passions lied. This dabbling not only helped me navigate the early days of my career, but also prepared me for the breadth of my first job — which included branding, packaging, web, social media, and environmental design.
What attracted you to this career path? My love affair with graphic design started as a kid. I distinctly remember a career day-style Girl Scouts project in which I had to do a mini report on a job I thought I might like to pursue in the future. I, of course, had no idea what graphic design was at age 8 or so, but mentioned to my mom that I had noticed the way magazines were laid out — how cut-up makeup samples, swatches, imagery, etc. could make the page look cool. Think I have to credit my mom with informing me that creating those glossy magazine layouts was a graphic designer’s job. I was hooked, presented my project with a ‘what is graphic design’ early web printout…and the rest is history!
Did your career path match your vision of a career path? What’s different? Not at all! Even as my passion for design grew and shifted over the years, I always thought I’d end up in the editorial world. After almost two years doing a little bit of everything at a small design and advertising agency, I accidentally ended up creating a bunch of Photoshop mockups of retail environments for a client. That’s when I became completely enamored with the possibilities of designing physical spaces. I came to understand that ‘experiential marketing’ was a fancy term for just that. I landed a job at an experiential agency and was introduced to a whole new world, one which somehow sent me even deeper down the rabbit hole into creative concepting and strategy. Both 8-year-old and 18-year-old Jen never saw it coming.
What is your favorite thing about your current job? I love being able to use both sides of my brain. The marriage of creative strategy and art direction has afforded me the ability to really think and to use big, wild, and often ridiculous ideas as the starting point for my designs. It was something I didn’t know I was missing. With each project, I get to become obsessed with people and their passions, use my imagination, and then build something both engaging and visually exciting. To me, it’s the best of all worlds.
Are you currently working on any interesting side projects? I’m an avid cook, and I know that’s not the typical side project for a designer, but for me it’s just another creative outlet. In the past months of quarantine and isolation, I’ve expanded my skills exponentially and can feel myself getting better at taking risks. I’ve been testing out more and more complex recipes and like to get a little lost in the challenge of the dish. Cooking feeds my need to create while allowing my mind to reset and declutter.
What are some of the biggest rewards in your career? Seeing everything come to life and watching people enjoy an experience I’ve helped to create brings me so much joy. That feeling is worth all the crazy months of work it takes to pull a project off. That, along with the opportunity to constantly study people and culture are the real bright spots.
What’s something that would surprise people about your day-to-day? I do a lot more math than I think anyone realizes. If you had told me, as I struggled through high school geometry, that math was part of the job, I might have ended up down a different path. But here I am! I’m weirdly good at spatial relations and am a complete nerd about building 2D scale models of our footprints and such when we’re in the planning stage of things. Essentially, I’m a human ruler now.
What inspires you? All the ways good design makes or breaks something. I’m equally as inspired by the way amazing branding can transform a company as I am by the effect a great set or lighting plan can have on a performance or the way architecture and interiors can make a space feel.
Anything else you’d like to share? I have to give my professors a shout because though I have a lot more growth ahead of me in my current career, I do have a 2.0 career plan which has been heavily influenced by many of them. At some point, I would like to go back to school and get my masters so I can teach design and maybe art history [Editor’s note: Teaching Art History requires a PhD]. I’ve always been interested in teaching, but no doubt that my years spent with Sue Jenkins, Steven Brower, Chris Medley, and Dr. Partridge — to name a few —confirmed that goal for me.
Any advice for current art students at Marywood? When I studied abroad in Florence, Italy (study abroad if you can, that’s my first piece of advice!!), my photography instructor said this amazing quote to us that’s always stuck with me. His parting words on our last day were, “Chase the wind but please, I beg you, never catch it.” It sort of perfectly sums up how important I think it is to keep yourself forever curious, ambitious, and intent on learning as much as possible. This chase served me well in school and has proven equally as essential in the real world. Absorb everything you can from the people, places, and experiences around you because you never know when it might just spark something new.
View additional examples of Jen Kadragich’s work at jenkadragich.com
“Chase the wind but please, I beg you, never catch it.”
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN STUDYING Graphic Design?
Graphic Design – Bachelor of Fine Arts: Design
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.
Low Residency MFAs in Graphic Design and Illustration are offered through our “Get Your Masters with the Masters” MFA for Working Professionals and Educators in Graphic Design & Illustration. This 60-credit Master of Fine Arts degree is specifically designed for working art directors, designers, illustrators, new media artists and art educators who have to budget their time and resources carefully, while continuing with their full-time occupations. While production and technical skills are stressed, the thrust of our program is on creativity and concept.