Kate Snow '03 Art Major

Kate Snow '03 Art Major

"Graphic design is about visual communication. I chose the design field because of its broad societal influence and constantly evolving nature with respect to global and technological change."


Kate Snow '03 Art Major

Early experience
Living and working abroad
Design as a career path

CES: How did experiences during college influence your career development?

KS: The biggest influence during my time at Puget Sound was by far the semester I spent in Rome at Temple University studying Byzantine art history, printmaking and the Italian language. Those six months studying and the month after spent traveling around western Europe really broadened my perspective about culture and language, and sparked a great interest in travel.

CES: What was your first job after college? In what ways did that experience meet or not meet your expectations?

KS: My first job after graduating was photographing the various classes at a summer camp in San Diego. Although I enjoyed taking photos at a different location every day, what I really wanted to do was then work with the images in a form of print media, but there wasn't enough budget at the camp.

CES: Did the time in that position help you develop/plan your current career pursuits? How so?

KS: It made me realize I really wanted to work in print design. I have always had a love for photography and typography and this experience just reconfirmed it.

CES: Tell us a little bit about life as a designer and what it's like working and living in Holland.

KS: I came to the Netherlands in the fall of 2005 after being accepted into the Graphic Design department at the Utrecht School of the Arts. After graduating with a Master of Arts in Editorial Design from the Graduate School, I was immediately hired by the design studio I interned at the year before in Amsterdam (a 20-minute train ride from Utrecht) doing mainly magazines and corporate identities. Recently I began working as a designer at CLEVER°FRANKE  a smaller studio in Utrecht, which focuses more on print and interactive data visualizations.

Living in the Netherlands is great and in general pretty relaxed. I really enjoy that the only problem I have with my daily  transportation is the occasional flat bike tire (easily fixed at home) or nowhere to lock up my bike on a crowded Saturday afternoon in the center city.

Also, the relationship between work and private life is very balanced in the Netherlands. With an annual average of 25 vacation days, bi-yearly vacations are taken very seriously, which they should be, in my opinion.

Working as a designer here also has its advantages in that the Dutch government (like many European countries) provides funds for a variety of art, cultural, and research institutions, giving designers more work. (Although recently the acting government has been cutting funds to various institutions.)

CES: How did you make the decision to pursue your current path? Were there pivotal moments?

KS: The most pivotal moment was choosing for an education in the Netherlands. In 2004 I was accepted in the Masters graphic design program at Pratt Institute of Arts in New York but then realized I couldn't finance it. I was 23 at the time and still technically 'dependent' on my parents in the eyes of the financial aid department. So instead of becoming tens of thousands of dollars in debt, I decided to move to Seoul, South Korea and work as an English teacher for a year. That's where I became more financially secure and came across the idea to study design in Europe. The year after I lived in Seoul, I moved to Utrecht.

CES: Why Holland?

KS: Holland has a rich tradition and history of design in general and especially graphic design. Plus it was one of the only schools that would accept an international student who didn't speak the language (with the expectation that you speak fluent Dutch after the first year).

CES: What advice would you offer current students considering a career abroad?

KS: If it's possible, get your hands on an EU passport! That makes things ten times easier. It's not impossible to live here as an American but the immigration laws are stricter when you're a non-EU citizen. My advice would be first find a job, then worry about work permits. If the company really wants to hire you, you can find a way to get a work permit through the immigration department.

Secondly, speaking the language helps enormously. Although the Dutch pride themselves on speaking fluent English (and increasingly more and more Europeans), the language of communication in the professional world in the Netherlands remains Dutch.

Lastly, whatever you do during your four years at college, study abroad! This will prepare you for living abroad and give you a taste of what to expect if considering a career abroad. (Mainly by learning how as an American to respond to or laugh off stereotypical remarks about the US.)

CES: What is a typical work day like for you?

KS: Every morning I bike to the studio around 8:30, which is about 2.5 miles from my house on the other side of the city of Utrecht.

I begin the day by discussing with my three colleagues the plan for the week (usually on Monday), the projects in progress, possible deadlines and presentations which need to be completed that week. Throughout the day we discuss designs, phases in the project, possible problems we might run into, etc.

After work I do grocery shopping but unfortunately no other errands, since all shops besides grocery stores close at 5 or 6 p.m., a consequence of the appealing work/life balance yet quite inconvenient for an American used to 24-hour shops!

CES: What do you most enjoy about your work? Least enjoy?

KS: I most enjoy thinking of and sketching challenging and innovative concepts for new projects. That's when you really get to open your mind and test the limits of your creativity. It's the part of the process when anything is possible in theory. Also it's great when I'm able to work on some illustrations/drawings/sketches away from the computer for the day.

What I least enjoy is hearing from a client that a design or typography should be "playful."

CES: Where do you get your inspiration for your designs?

KS: Inspiration for a concept or visual style of a design comes in many different forms. It can be from art history, work from a designer I admire, a recent societal trend...but generally it revolves around the subject matter the design deals with.

CES: What advice do you have for students considering a career in the art field or as a Graphic Designer?

KS: If considering the two possible career paths of art or design, my advice would be first to realize they are not one in the same. Secondly, to realize why they're not one in the same. It's important to think about what and how you want to communicate, and who your ideal audience is. Those are the defining differences in my opinion between the two fields.

Graphic design is about visual communication. I chose the design field because of its broad societal influence and constantly evolving nature with respect to global and technological change. Everything you see around you on a daily basis is influenced by a designer of some sort and I found it intriguing to be able to play a part in this realm in which graphic design functions.

Lastly, my advice for students considering the design field would be to talk to as many designers as you can, ask for a tour of a design studio, and follow a graphic design and/or typography course. It's a really exciting and challenging field to work in nowadays!


Photo: Olivier Pirard