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A soft focus image of Shuihan Ding captured between large green leaves

Grad is a Graphic Designer at Recycled Karma Brands

Born and raised in Guizhou, China, Shuihan Ding attended Fremont Christian School (FCS) in San Francisco’s Bay Area. After meeting a representative from FIDM at a college fair event, Shuihan decided to apply after learning that the college offers an education with a concentration on problem solving in design. “While other art and design colleges offer fine art degrees that focus on experimental and abstract designs, I thought that designing something that everybody could easily understand was a better fit for my vision,” Shuihan said. After earning a B.A. in Graphic Design, the FIDM Grad is now working as a graphic designer at Recycled Karma Brands, a graphic and vintage t-shirt company that makes designs of famous artists and bands such as David Bowie, AC/DC, Whitney Houston, and Pink Floyd.

What led you to study Graphic Design? I developed a special interest in photography. I love walking around with my camera to record decisive moments in my life. Graphic Design is a major that could possibly combine my zeal in photography and design. In terms of design composition, the experience in photography assists me on how design elements integrate and how they fit together in any meaningful way. 

Tell us about your position at Recycled Karma: As one of the designers on the team, I’m responsible for creating graphic arts and fusing them with our brand identity. Because our brand primarily targets female customers, the designs that I create need to look feminine. The use of muted and soft colors is our brand identity. But some of our licensed artists and bands make hard rock or metal music, and their style guides tend to be harsher and more masculine. It’s a challenging yet fun process; the whole idea is how to turn rock n’ roll and heavy metal into something feminine while the designs remain recognizable. 

I love the approach of how we make a difference compared to our competitors. My other responsibilities are to keep direct email communication with the licensors’ creative service, obtain their approval on new concepts and pre-production samples, and revise designs based on their comments. Once designs are approved, I assist the senior designer organize the full-color digital art into individual color files for CMYK printing. To sum this up, my responsibility covers a full package from creating designs to preparing files to production.

How did FIDM prepare you for your career? FIDM provides small group and studio-like classes which gave me more opportunities to communicate with fellow classmates and instructors. These classes are always competitive and full of creativity, which helped me to make progress faster. Many instructors are professionals from the design and related industries, and I often received formative and diverse constructive feedback from them. This has helped me to improve my understanding of problem-solving and design strategies. I had the opportunity to develop meaningful connections with faculty, and while developing my skill sets, I could create and refine my portfolio to seek potential internships and careers. 

FIDM also offers opportunities to learn and improve skills from outside the classroom. In my last year, I applied for the position of Art Director at FIDM MODE Magazine. This invaluable experience taught me to work collaboratively with a variety of people in real-time on team-based projects. This experience revealed a sticking difference from the hypothetical group projects I was used to working on in the classroom. I think this was a great platform to practice before I got to work in the real world. 

What do you love about designing and why? I think part of what I enjoy the most about designing is doing different types of research because designers should really master the topics that we work on. I believe that research is often the source of solutions. In addition, design is not merely the result of creative elements being pieced together on a whim, but rather a process of research and problem solving that includes careful thinking. I’m always learning, and there’s always a feeling of excitement seeing myself come from nothing to something.

Categories:  Graphic Design Alumni