Grad is Online Guest Speaker in Mobile Photography Class
Born in Oakland, California and raised in nearby Piedmont, Chelsea Bangert was an artistic child. She took consecutive art classes from elementary school through high school, finishing her senior year in AP Art, but was unsure about a career as an artist. She opted to study Environmental Management and Protection at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, but while volunteering with the Peace Corps in Ghana during her senior year of college, Chelsea had an epiphany: she still craved a creative outlet and wanted to return to art. She later attended FIDM’s Graphic Design program in San Francisco and graduated magna cum laude in 2016. Today, Chelsea is an entrepreneur with her own graphic design and illustration company and served as an online guest speaker in Lisa Hoffman’s Mobile Photography class.
Tell us about your path to FIDM: I took an AP Environmental Science class my senior year of high school, which while I enjoyed quite a bit, I didn’t know what art-related careers were out there, so I went the science route as that was my second favorite subject. I got the whole “don’t end up a starving artist!” argument from so many people while applying to colleges and was easily convinced at the time to forget about getting a degree in art and go for a subject that was more “career driven.” I learned later there were plenty of career options as an artist, but they hadn’t been represented in any of my high school career fairs, or mentioned by teachers.
I knew that I would not be able to afford going back to college right away, so upon my return home from volunteering with the Peace Corps in Ghana, I worked a few different jobs over the course of around four years in order to save up, including: Membership Coordinator at Children’s Fairyland, Bartender at a local watering hole, and Administrative Assistant and later Student Loan Coordinator at a local health sciences university. I had my eye on the end goal: making it back to college so I could end up doing what I love for a career.
What did you most enjoy about the Graphic Design program? I loved the small class sizes, but even more so, the fact that you and your cohort move through the program together. We had many amazing personalities in our class, and given the amount of work we were given, it was really helpful to have a group of friends there every day to help support one another.
What have you been up to since graduating in 2016? I had a few short-term contract jobs right after graduation, then was hired full-time as an in-house Graphic Designer for a risk management and insurance company in San Francisco where I worked for about three years. I loved the stability of it for the first few years, but started getting the itch to follow after my one true love: travel. One of many reasons I chose graphic design as my next career was the fact that as long as I had a computer and internet, I would be able to work anywhere in the world.
How did FIDM help prepare you for your career? FIDM did a great job preparing us for the workforce. Each class focused on a different niche in the graphic design realm, from technical skills in using the Adobe Creative Suite to typography and packaging design. My teachers were very invested in us understanding the history and theory of design, as well as developing our own aesthetic and pushing us to get outside of the box. I later had plenty of trying moments in my job, however, I was so accustomed to dealing with those deadlines that I felt like I still had it under control and could manage my stress levels.
We heard you had taken a year to travel around South America. What was that experience like? In spring of 2019 I quit my corporate job, and after lots of planning, had two amazing and distinct adventures ahead of me. The first was a month-long work trip to Bali, Indonesia, where I was the Graphic Designer and Art Director for an independent film. After that, I flew to Colombia where I began what was to be a year-long trip through South America. I worked part-time with local businesses who needed logos, branding, website help, or photographs for websites or marketing materials, took Spanish classes, and in general just had a fabulous time traveling through Colombia, Peru, Uruguay, and Argentina.
How did Covid-19 impact or change your plans? Covid-19 stopped my trip right in its tracks. I wasn’t planning to come home until June or July, but things started to go downhill very quickly in South America around the same time things started getting crazy in the U.S. In sort of a fluke moment, I checked the U.S. Embassy website for Argentina for the first time in months. There was a new post saying that the Mendoza airport and many other airports across South America were closing down less than three days later. I called my family that afternoon and told them what I’d read, and that I wasn’t sure what I would do, but I needed a night to sleep on it. Sunday morning came, and I booked a flight home. I luckily found a seat on the last flight out of Mendoza.
What was it like to be a recent online guest speaker in Lisa Hoffman’s Mobile Photography class? The online system is of course totally different from being an in-person speaker, but I had fun doing it, and really hope the students got something out of it as well. I shared a handful of pictures I’d taken throughout my travels, and also shared a few stories about my overall career, travel, and life experiences as well.
Learn more at chelseabangert.com