Until very recently, Jamielyn Smith never lived in the same house for more than three years. While growing up as the second of five kids (three boys and two girls) in a family having a father in the Navy, the 23-year-old San Diego native remembers loving to create things.
“I had a subscription to Highlights for Children magazine and would always do the craft projects. I also did all the projects in old rainy day craft books for kids and would get different craft kits and art supplies for my birthday and Christmas.”
But it would be composing photographs that would lead Smith to an ongoing outlet for her passion for creation. At only 11, she started taking pictures with a friend. Then, at 12, she went to visit that friend in Phoenix and took a lot of photos of the city’s landscape. Her parents noticed her talent, and they decided to foster her skills by giving her a Canon SLR camera for Christmas.
From there, she set goals, worked hard, tried new things, and got involved in creative endeavors while continuing to hone her aesthetic eye, which she said really developed while in college at George Mason University.
“I had never been to DC before, but I have always loved the art found in cities and wanted to be close to a big city. I didn’t go to art school because I originally thought about majoring in International Relations or Journalism. I didn’t really know that you could make a living as an artist. But after going to one International Relations class, I realized that I would rather be studying art and photography.”
She expanded her existing knowledge of art and photography to sculpture, print-making, digital photography, web design, and graphic design. She helped to start a magazine, emDash, under the guidance and lead of her faculty adviser, Jandos Rothstein, though, she said that most of her photography and design professors also had a huge influence on her, including Peggy Feerick, Jessica Rodríguez, Shanshan Cui, Elliott de Luca, and Anne Kerns.
“[Jessica Rodriguez] exposed us to a lot of designers and different types of design. After taking her class, I decided that I liked graphic design enough to change my concentration. I learned concepts in my fine art and photography classes that I later applied to my designs, like color theory and composition. Anne [Kerns] also has her own business and is really involved in the DC design scene, so it was great to learn from someone who is actively practicing her craft. She also encouraged us to attend lectures and events and even had a few designers speak to our class.”
Now, having graduated in January with a B.F.A. in Graphic Design, Smith is looking to start her career full-time at a creative studio somewhere in DC or near her parents in Virginia Beach.
“I hope to be working on projects with a social conscience. One of my favorite projects in school was when we were required to create a brochure that brought awareness to a problem in the world. I did my brochure on TOMS Shoes, a business that gives a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes they sell. It made me realize the power of design and how designers can use their talent to create positive social change.”
She’s excited about finding similar innovative and impactful work among the DC creative community.
“I can see how people who are unfamiliar with DC would think that it’s really conservative and designers are only doing work for the government, but they couldn’t be more wrong. There are some amazingly talented designers and studios that are producing really creative and award-winning work in the area.”
And she’s already got a track record of taking initiative to market herself and create her own opportunities; for example, she landed an internship her senior year at KINETIK after sending her resume and portfolio asking if they needed an intern … and without their advertising for one.
“It was great to see KINETIK’s design process and what goes into creating a project. In school, you’re normally working by yourself and, although you are assigned some bigger projects as you progress through the design program, most of the projects are fairly small in comparison. But in the real world of design, the projects are on a much bigger scale, and there are many different moving parts and multiple people working on the same project. Even when I was just making photocopies of a round of project revisions or purging old job folders, I got to see the process behind the project, which is not something that every student gets to experience.”
That real-world design process introduction – combined with her collegiate experiences and some good advice to “be open-minded and learn from other people” – has motivated Smith to continue developing her abilities as a designer.
“It’s important to be open-minded because you can’t learn or grow if you always think you’re right. Plus, you can get so attached and involved when you’re working on a project, it can be hard to see where it can be improved unless someone else critiques it. And, after you graduate, you still have a lot to learn, so it’s important to be around people who are more experienced and are better designers than you are.”
She finds great design and inspiration in the DIY movement spearheaded by websites like BuyOlympia and Etsy, which feature artists who create handmade items. Someday, Smith hopes to create a line of handmade paper goods and housewares that she could sell.
But, until then, she’ll be looking for the right studio to start her post-graduate design career and polishing her portfolio, which you can see at her portfolio site: www.jamielyn-smith.com.