For students looking to turn their graphic design skills into eventual careers, Thursday was an important night, as Curt Cuscino and Zach Russell of HypeLife Brands gave advice, answered questions, and discussed the ins-and-outs of life in a successful branding and marketing agency.
Curt Cuscino, Founder and Principal, and Zach Russell, Brand Strategist, teamed up to speak directly to a classroom of graphic design students at Johnson County Community College, many of whom are working hard to have careers in marketing and its related fields. Their topics were wide-ranging, covering first the basic tenets of good graphic design but eventually covering how graphics fit into the larger marketing picture, especially in relation to branding.
In light of lingering, low employment numbers, Cuscino deemed it especially important to address the practical ways to transition from a design that’s visually appealing to design that’s grounded in strategy. “With marketing budgets still tight throughout the country, it’s more important than ever for designers to become more than designers,” says Cuscino.
“What we tried to convey to these students is that if you can push past simply making something cool to look at, and learn how that cool design fits into a larger branding strategy, you’ll become instantly more marketable to agencies of all sizes.”
For Russell, who spent time with several top agencies in Kansas City before finding HypeLife Brands, it’s not just designers who are being asked to do more. “Part of what we talked about was the evolution of the agency model, and that it’s not just designers who are being asked to expand their skill set,” says Russell. “With the push to market to a primarily digital customer base, it’s not unusual for a designer to learn to code or to create content.
“I suppose the bottom line we discussed with the group is never to stop learning.”
Cuscino and Russell spoke for an hour before opening up the room to questions, many of which surrounded the current job climate and tips for getting a head start after graduation. For Cuscino, who has spoken to several groups of JCCC undergrads over the years, the questions were no great surprise.
“These last several years have been a wild ride for so many people, but one of the most impacted groups continues to be students,” says Cuscino. “Where are they going to work? How can you market creativity? Will my job still be relevant in 5 years?
“These are important and understandable questions considering the economy's shape. But hopefully, Zach and I were able to pull back the agency doors a bit and show these students some ways to succeed.”
About HypeLife Brands
Founded in 2001, HypeLife Brands is the leading branding and marketing agency focused on helping brands engage Millennials. Key client industries include apparel and streetwear, musicians and recording artists, entertainment and extreme sports.