"At the core of a good designer is a desire to create art," Jeremy Smallwood '00 says, and as he talks it becomes clear that he considers himself an artist. Smallwood is one of three Class of 2000 graphic design graduates who are now studying at Portfolio Center in Atlanta, one of the nation's most prestigious design schools. And while he's deep into the creative side of his work, he knows that a good designer also stays true to a client's concept. "At the end product, whether a bottle design or an annual report, if that becomes art, that's great, but you shouldn't go out to create art because you might miss the concept."
Unlike a traditional graduate program, students at Portfolio Center (nicknamed "PC") concentrate on creating their "book" - a portfolio of successful design projects. Smallwood has already designed logos for a retail clothing company and a system guide for Amtrak. PC also helps students move forward more aggressively than a traditional school, says Jeremy. "People come out of this school more professional in their knowledge and portfolio. You also get networked with other companies around the world. The Portfolio Center tries to build you so that you can get a job in the design field."
Smallwood came to PC with a diverse set of interests. At Drury he began by taking advertising classes with communication professor Ron Schie, enough that he still feels comfortable talking business, not just art. Dudley Murphy, who directs the design arts program, then led Jeremy through the basics of design; Smallwood notes that while it can be difficult for a small program like Drury's to be thorough, "Dudley does a great job."
When Smallwood arrived in Atlanta with his friends, he realized how good a job Murphy did. Design skills and computer knowledge put them ahead of some of their new classmates. "We were amazingly well-prepared," he says. The challenge for the first year became learning to think in three dimensions, developing designs for bottles, boxes, toasters and so on, not just the posters, ads and brochures he created at Drury. If you were thinking in three dimensions at Drury, he jokes, you were probably studying architecture.
He's also learning to see the distinction between advertising and design; design is more fundamentally related to an item's image and more grounded in visual and artistic esthetics, while advertising draws more explicitly upon communication and social theories to influence an audience. Smallwood sees new evidence each day of a boom in design. He points to the Target discount store chain as an example. By emphasizing modern design, Target has carved a unique niche among retailers as a stylish alternative to stores like Wal-Mart and K-mart.
Jeremy's looking forward to a career both successful and fulfilling. "I like fusing design, art and architecture," he says. "You feel more in charge. You can make stuff more attractive, more environmentally effective, and it's good."