James Dolence
BFA in Graphic Design
Graphic Designer at Nike
Portland, Oregon, USA

What is your favorite thing about your job at Nike?

Working on World Cup 2018 has been a humbling experience. From choosing the typography used for the names and numbers, to designing kits that will represent entire nations. Being able to design the kit that the Netherlands will wear was a particular honor.

Why did you choose graphic design as your major and what were your major classes like?

Prior to enrolling at MCAD, I taught myself how to use the Adobe suite as the lead graphic designer of my high school newspaper. Perhaps because I misunderstood the curriculum, I came to MCAD as a bachelor of science student, but I quickly found that I always chose the role of designer when given the opportunity to work in small groups. That being said, introductory classes like Ideation and Process were very eye opening, and in my second semester I changed my major to web and multimedia environments. It wasn't until my third semester that I returned to the thing that brought me to MCAD in the first place: graphic design.

Favorite place on campus? Off campus?

Despite its size, MCAD has so many fantastic corners to explore. I absolutely love the white tiles, exploring the stacks of design books in the library, and all of the great green space. Off campus, the place in Minneapolis I miss most is the Walker Art Museum. Additionally, they have an incredible private library that I would recommend every MCAD student visits at one point or another (all you have to do is schedule an appointment).

Where did you intern and can you briefly describe the experience?

In my second year at MCAD I interned with the visiting artist Nicole Killian at her studio Hot Sundae, where I assisted on a variety of client work. In my fourth year at MCAD I was fortunate enough to intern at the Walker Art Center's in-house design studio.

What did you get out of your internships?

Interning at Hot Sundae was a lot of fun, and it gave me my first glimpse at a professional practice and how fluid the idea of a "studio" can be. The informality of a small studio was a great environment to start in, but it wasn't until I interned at the Walker that I truly gained the professional experience that I needed to prepare for my career. The opportunity to work for a cultural institution—and such a prestigious contemporary art museum at that—was a dream come true. 

Has your work evolved since leaving MCAD?

The work I do now is drastically different. I left MCAD with a portfolio geared towards branding, typography, and publication design. Now I design apparel graphics, so it's been exciting to learn all of the different production processes and technical limitations, and to translate my skills to something totally new.

What was the value of your MCAD DesignWorks experience in your professional life?

I had the unique opportunity to redesign MCAD's identity while at DesignWorks. That, combined with some unexpected staff changes, put me in a role with a great deal of creative and professional responsibility. Learning to manage designers, lead a massive identity redesign, and work with internal partners allowed me to leave MCAD with the kind of experience that can take years to foster.

How did your DesignWorks experience differ from the rest of your college experience?

I learned how to make compromises, work with difficult clients, and work with real-world restrictions like budgets. It gave me a place to hone my professionalism with one foot still in academia.

What advice do you have for art/design students?

Use MCAD as an opportunity to explore and change. Make a mess now, because the stakes can feel too high outside of school to take risks, and the more risks you take now the better suited you'll be to take them in the future.