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Alum’s creative side flourishes in graphic design career

Virginia Tech graduate Matth Vergara thought he wanted to be an architect, but a study-abroad trip to Europe and the mundane time he spent drafting at his first job convinced him that his heart was in design.

He found the perfect career fit by earning his Associate of Applied Science in Graphic Design at Tidewater Community College’s Visual Arts Center (VAC). Today he is a graphic designer and architectural illustrator at Saunders + Crouse Architects, a Virginia Beach firm that allows his creative juices to flow.

“I wanted to expand my skill set,” he said. “The professors and the critiques were supportive and the feedback was more helpful than you’d get in a university setting, where they’re a little bit old school in their feedback.”

Vergara lists art professors Rosemary Hill and Heather Boone as two mentors; Hill connected him to a local musician for whom Vergara continues to design CD covers. Boone convinced Vergara to teach Communications Design at the Visual Arts Center for a semester.

“I learned so much from both of them,” he said.

Matth Vergara with his hula hoopThe portfolio he assembled by graduation showed off his specialized web and design skills used to create logos, magazines, layouts, brochures and books. While Vergara gained proficiency in programs that include Adobe Creative Suite, the biggest takeaway was mastering the design skills to apply to any professional project regardless of the software.

“Before you leave, you take the portfolio class, and that basically got me my job,” he said. “My bosses were definitely impressed by it.”

Vergara spends much of his time at Saunders + Crouse, adding his creative touch to renderings and creating holiday cards for clients. He loves the freedom of the job – one that allows him to turn to a hula hoop for inspiration at times. Often he’ll spend a few minutes twirling the hoop to jumpstart the creative process in his head.

“When you graduate from architect school, you think you know a lot about design,” he said, “But, boy, when I took those classes, it opened up a new world.”

Vergara suggests potential students interested in graphic design diversify their skill set, a perk of learning in the VAC, where offerings range from classes in motion graphics to ceramics to photography to glass blowing. “Once you have a taste of all the things you can do,” he said, “you’ll realize what you want to do.”

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