A dream life: Korea to PCC to Nike, alum Seunghoi An designs her own career path
Photos and Story by Misty Bouse
With many facets and numerous job opportunities, the Portland Community College Graphic Design Program has many successful graduates contributing to a variety of industries.
This is good news for graphic design students who must be willing to work hard and push themselves to grow and be challenged like alum Seunghoi An, who is a Korean designer based in Portland. After graduating in 2018 with an associate degree, the program later invited her to speak as part of a panel of successful graphic design grads.
During that 2020 discussion, a local design and social media agency Swift, had thought so highly of Seunghoi that they created a new position in their company just to work with her.
The Strategic Plan: Workforce
- The 2020-2025 Strategic Plan prepares the college for the future of higher education. Part of the plan is responding to community and workforce needs by developing a culture of agility. The Graphic Design Program prepares students for a highly competitive job market and develop a presentation-quality portfolio of creative projects before graduation.
Throughout the program, which can be difficult and rigorous, An maintained a positive attitude and worked hard. Now, she specializes in brand identity, print, and user interface and user experience (UI/UX) design in her freelance work. But for nearly two years, she has also been a full-time design employee with Nike, which is her dream company to work for.
“PCC was my dream school while I was in Korea and while I was in the Graphic Design Program, Nike was my dream job,” An said. “My family and friends all know the brand, so it is exciting … especially that Nike is headquartered here in Beaverton where I now live.
“In my current role, I give inspiration to others,” she added. “I was formerly in Nike Brand Creative for North America but am now within Nike Human Resources as manager of creative and design strategy. I create the overall experience of employees. All experience gets designed at Nike from website, videos, benefits and offerings to campaigns.”
Because Nike is global, the audience could be anywhere. An said it is about “inclusivity and accessibility” in communicating clearly with lots of different people. It is a task she is uniquely adapted to address.
“It is a challenge but being from a different country and culture myself, I know from experience that much can get lost in translation. All people do not see communication and design through the same lens. There is much they do not get due to differing viewpoints and perspectives. I am aware and sympathetic to this.”
Her father eventually agreed to his eldest child looking at PCC’s International Studies Program, where he was impressed with the college’s affordability and academic rigor. Plus, An was able to secure the “Patty Jeanne Semura Scholarship” through the PCC Foundation, which is presented to a student who “possesses the vision, creativity, and potential to make a difference in the world.” Her younger sister, Seungwon An is also at PCC, completing her degree this spring in the Dental Hygiene Program.
But An’s purpose was the two-year Graphic Design (GD) Program. Faculty prepare the student for entry-level work in the highly competitive and deadline-oriented field of graphic design. Students are required to develop a presentation-quality portfolio of creative projects before graduation. This enables graduates to apply for industry employment or to transfer their degree to PSU as a student in the junior year of their BFA in the GD program. The Oregon Employment Department reports graphic designers’ average annual salary is $62,273.
“PCC is a special place with great instructors and international students,” she said. “Because I love all the many programs PCC offers, an online pamphlet on the PCC Graphic Design Program caught my eye in Korea. I was researching Oregon as we have cousins here. My father had been to the U.S. in his 20s and shared that he wanted me to experience its diversity. This was especially so since South Korea has more homogenous people and culture-wise.”
As she moved through the program, An settled in and created an opportunity for nature hikes for people of color. The hikes helped people reduce barriers and form an inclusive community. She also shares design job essentials on YouTube, exploring self-initiating projects, building a portfolio and capitalizing on your passion.
While growing up in Korea, An loved creating and doing fun things like writing horror movies with friends instead of studying.
“I most enjoy making something out of nothing,” said An, who is a self-professed life-long learner. ” But I never thought I was creative or an artist until going through the PCC program.”
That changed once she was enrolled at PCC.
“Graphic design students study color, typography, fonts, composition, art history and learn to critique one another’s work properly. That experience gave me a true foundation. It gave me confidence. Only then could I call myself a designer.”