Ryan VanDyke, Graphic Design class of 2007

Graphic Design Success Spotlight: Ryan VanDyke, UX Designer at Amazon

Ferris’ design program focuses on giving students the tools and knowledge to achieve success in the real world; it’s as simple as that.

Ryan VanDyke, a 2007 graduate of the Graphic Design program, moved to Seattle in Sept. to begin a career as a UX Designer at Amazon.com. Ryan has completed design work for some of the largest companies in the world, including Apple and Microsoft. While at Ferris, Ryan was a member of AIGA and Gamma Epsilon Tau.

Why did you choose Ferris State University?

I initially chose Ferris for the Pharmacy program. During the first semester, I realized I would be so bored with life with Pharmacy work so I switched programs. I was excited when I discovered that Ferris also had a great design program that was business based, not arts based. An important distinction given that I had little arts background and I wasn’t really interested at all in fine arts. A hobby of mine at the time was website design & development and so I decided to make a career of it.

How did your program prepare you for your career?

Though the profession continues to rapidly evolve, the GRDE program provided me with a solid framework of design principles to work from that still drives everything I do. The business aspects of the program were also an integral part in aiding my success in the world of working with a vast array of types of clients; from scrappy startups lead by former car salesman to some of the biggest companies in the world, including Apple, Microsoft, and of course in-house at Amazon.com. Though not every course was particularly valuable (the program back in those days still had quite a bit of focus on print design) the challenges I faced prepared me for the realities of the working world, most of the time you don’t get to work on ‘perfect’ projects; budget and time is always a constraint. The most valuable of all my classes however was with Alison Popp, who really helped me understand what design on the web could achieve.

What did you do outside the classroom that helped prepare you for your career?

I made a point to stay involved in related student organizations, primarily the AIGA (where I was treasurer for a year), but also, for a time, Gamma Epsilon Tau. I also partook in as many student trips as possible that allowed me to network with other design students and visit actual design agencies. This is something I still continue today, networking and involvement in local organizations are a large part of leading me to where I’m at today.

Why should students choose to study Graphic Design at Ferris State?

Ferris’ design program focuses on giving students the tools and knowledge to achieve success in the real world; it’s as simple as that. With a little focus, ambition, and design talent a GRDE graduate can go many places; and many have. Its business focus also gives grads an edge compared to arts-based programs. The program also has leadership and professors that have a wealth of experience at award-winning agencies and companies, giving students an opportunity to learn from the best.

What advice do you have for current students in Graphic Design?

Enjoy the college experience while you can but never lose focus of where you want to be in 5 years, or even 10 years; the effort you put into your work now will have more impact on where you will be in 5 years than you realize. Though you’ll be learning new things all the time never become complacent about your craft and what you know even after graduating, the market is evolving fast, the devices and media we’re designing for today may no longer exist within a decade. Stay involved in local organizations such as design for good and local chapters of the AIGA and IXDA, the friends and relationships you’ll develop will turn into future colleagues, collaborators or even cofounders. Don’t be afraid of trying freelance or contract work full time; my time as a freelancer was immensely valuable in helping me determine what I loved most about what I do. To quote Steve Jobs, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

What was your favorite part about Ferris State University?

Ferris provided the opportunity to obtain just the right mix of knowledge, tools and contacts that allowed me to jumpstart my career right out of college. Of course, there were a number of aspects of going to Ferris that I wasn’t thrilled with, but overall I have more fond memories of my days at Ferris.

Visit the GRDE website to learn more about the Ferris State University Graphic Design program. For more information on AIGA, the graphic design student organization, visit their Facebook page.