How JWU Design Team Made Me a Better Graphic Designer

Author Julia Shiels '24 is a Graphic Design major and works as a student assistant at JWU, contributing to JWU News.

The Graphic Design program at Johnson & Wales does an excellent job of preparing students for the design industry. Students take a variety of classes in print, web and 3D design to learn about different areas of the industry to become a more well-rounded designer. But one of the best ways the program prepares students for the industry is through the Design Team course.

Design Team is a yearlong course split into two sections: Design Team I and Design Team II. These courses are taken during the student’s senior year and offer a real taste of what it’s like to work in the graphic design industry. Students work with real-world clients, ranging from internal JWU clients to external companies around Providence. These clients offer a variety of projects that students work on in teams of two or three designers, under the guidance of Associate Professor Deana Marzocchi.

Students meeting about design team project

During Design Team I in Fall 2023, I worked with two other designers, Samy Alves ’24 and Erik Furtado ’24. We worked on four projects, three of which were internal clients and the other being an external company based in Rhode Island. Erik and I both have a focus in print design and Samy has a focus in web design, so we had a versatile group with different strengths to produce effective designs. Over the course of the semester, we produced advertising materials for a criminal justice class, created two restaurant brands with packaging, and began the process of a rebrand for a local brewing company.

Collage of projects worked on in the fall semesterFALL 2023 PROJECTS

During my last semester in Spring 2024, I completed Design Team II as a part of a different group, with print designers Joe Faioli ’24 and Andrew Byrnes ’24. We completed three projects: a logo for an upcoming documentary, a marketing campaign for a new course at JWU, and wayfinding signage for the beverage display case in JWU’s Cuisinart Center for Culinary Excellence.

Collage of IDES project worked on in the spring semesterSPRING 2024 PROJECTS

Design Team is a tough course, but one of the most beneficial courses I’ve taken during my time at JWU. As Professor Marzocchi says, “The class is meant to challenge students and push them through the actual experiences of being a designer. As seniors, these students have the skills — now it is time to put them into practice while doing the job of a project manager.”

Throughout this course, students must complete a weekly invoice. In this invoice, students track how many hours they worked on each project. At first, I thought this task was just a way for our professor to keep tabs on us and our work. After landing my first freelance client, I realized how beneficial this exercise has been because now I can easily create my own invoices and send them to my client to get paid and show them what progress was made each week since I had already been doing it for a few months.

Another major benefit of Design Team is that you gain experience meeting with clients, which has also helped me with my own freelance work. Throughout the course, students meet with their clients either in person or remotely multiple times to discuss expectations or share progress. Students are taught best practices for these meetings, all of which I have kept with me as I meet with clients outside of JWU.

Design Team has also given me multiple additions to my portfolio as well as being a notable addition to my résumé. By working on these industry-level projects, I have strengthened my teamwork, professional and project management skills while learning more about branding and marketing through design.

Students presenting at design team final

“Design Team is boot camp,” says Professor Marzocchi. “This class is not for the faint of heart, but I am always so proud of how prepared our students are for the real world and how much they overcome. They never disappoint!”

Despite the long days and tough projects, Design Team has helped shape me into the designer I am today, ready to take on the real world now that I’m about to graduate. I’m grateful to my professors and the members of both my teams for all the amazing work we did and how they helped me grow.

To check out my full portfolio, visit my website!

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