The Graphics & Multimedia Design Department at College of the Canyons was looking to establish an "on-campus" (remote) creative agency to help new designers bridge the gap between their education and career.
I was brought on as the Design Team Manager to build a remote team, set up our systems and logistics, establish operational standards, as well as provide design mentorship and design direction on all of our internal and client-facing projects.
Intersect|GMD brings students with diverse areas of expertise together to put their design education into professional practice.
Our job was to create an "on-campus" creative agency to help design students establish their creative and collaborative experience using real-world projects.
While in this program, design students receive mentorship and guidance from the Design Team Manager—all while providing high-quality design services to the college community, non-profit organizations, and for-profit businesses.
- Team Building & Leadership
- Systems Organization & Logistics
- Planning & Execution
- Budgeting & Reporting
- Design Direction (UX & UI / Brand Identity)
Going from an idea to completing our first year successfully was a collaborate effort of many College leaders in various departments.
As the Design Team Manager, I helped get buy-in & secure funding, recruit our teams, established standard operating procedures, and provided creative direction on internal, as well as client-facing projects.
1. Get Buy-in & Secure Funding to Kick This Program off the Ground
The idea of Intersect GMD was inspired by Intersect LA, a sister chapter which has been running successfully for ten years at California State University, Northridge (CSUN).
Under mentorship from Intersect LA's leadership, Intersect GMD founders Shannon Doronio and Mark Daybell worked closely with College of the Canyons to get this program off the ground for our students.
I was brought on at the very beginning of this journey, requiring me to collaborate with several leaders in various departments at the College:
- Graphics & Multimedia Design (GMD) Department
- Career Education Services
- IT Department
- Purchasing Department
- Cooperative Work Experience Office
To make this project a reality, we created a launch plan and budget for the resources that it would take to kick it off. Here's the overview of our launch process:
Aligning on Vision
Inspired by Intersect LA
With support from Intersect LA, which has self-sustained for 10 years, we modeled our program after theirs.
Envisioned by Dept. leaders
Guided by the Graphics & Multimedia Design (GMD) Department Chairs, my job was to execute their vision.
Creating a Budget
Hardware & Software
Going from an in-person, on-campus collaborative experience to a remote one, I cut our hardware & software budget in half.
Having assembled remote creative teams in the past, I created a time estimate to go from zero to first cohort.
CREATE A GROWTH ENVIRONMENT
The ultimate goal of this program is to provide new designers with an environment in which they gain real-world experience to launch their careers.
We are also striving to provide competitive salaries to all participants, as well as removing reliance on grants. We allowed ourselves a one year startup period.
2. Creating a Recruitment and Marketing Process to Attract Applicants
For this program to be successful, we had to create a recruitment process that allowed us to choose from the very best candidates the Graphics & Multimedia Design (GMD) program at College of the Canyons has to offer.
Our Marketing Campaign
To reach ~200 potential candidates with our recruitment campaign, our strategy was to drum up interest in our own classrooms, as well as asking fellow professors to do the same in theirs.
To recruit the initial cohort, I created visually-agnostic marketing material templates, as to not influence any design direction for our brand identity, which was yet to be created.
Later, these templates were updated with Intersect's brand identity and reused to promote future cohorts.
Additionally, we advertised on the Department’s Instagram page, the student-led Discord channel, and with the help of the Cooperative Work Experience office to reach recent grads.
Using this multi-channel recruitment approach, we attracted 20+ qualified candidates, conducted several rounds of interviews, and assembled our pilot team of 7 designers—in just 3 weeks.
The approach we created has been applied successfully again and again to give us enough qualified applicants for each cohort, creating a backlog for us to tap into as spots on the team opened up.
3. Onboarding Our First Team and Creating a Way to Collaborate
Using my previous experience leading remote creative teams, we used a variety of online tools and platforms to create an hyper-organized, engaging, and fun working environment.
I believe that not only does a remote workplace produce better results in less time, it leads to a better work/life balance.
I am not shy about adopting new tools to continue making this a reality.
Getting the Team on the Same Page
Getting to the heart of each team member’s "why" is the basis for tailoring every aspect of their experience on the team specifically to them.
Also by encouraging a conversation amongst team members connects them on a deeper level and makes them feel more invested—after all, people support what they help create.
My goal is to empower my team members to become the next generation of design leaders—fostering a growth mindset, and teaching digital strategy, soft skills, as well as stakeholder and project management.
4. First Project: Designing Our Own Brand Identity
Having no marketing assets except for our name, the team underwent a full-cycle design process to collaborate on our own brand identity.
Starting with a discovery session, we distilled 5 word combinations to guide our creative direction. We wanted our brand to relate to:
- Design / Marketing
- Bridge / Intersection
- Imagination / Creativity
The team and I aligned on qualities that make a good logo:
- The logo must be scalable to all sizes
- The logo must not rely color to work
- The logo must be contextually appropriate
Using our logo design requirements as well as our words of inspiration, we submerged ourselves into research.
Each team member created a moodboard based on their research:
Our goal was to create a fun, yet professional, and versatile color palette.
We wanted to include colors that would work well when used on light and dark backgrounds, including accent colors with utility—for success and error messages, as well as high-contrast calls-to-action.
The Intersect GMD final color palette:
Each team member researched a font pairing, with legibility and typographic contrast in mind. After conducting some legibility and scaling tests, we chose Neuzeit Grotesk Black for headings and Interstate Light for body copy.
Both being sans-serif fonts, the typographic contrast is created with weight. The font pairing is different enough to elicit interest, but share enough similarities to create a uniform look.
The research for the selected font pairing was done by Mike Anagnostis .
Bonus: The team also resonated with the fact that the body copy font, Interstate, is used on all major roadways in the United States, alluding to the journey the Intersect program provides to participants—from education to career.
Imagery (Illustrations & Photography)
Using the color palette, two team members created several dozen illustrations and photo assets each that we used throughout our brand identity.
Below are examples of just a few:
Logo Design Concepts
As part of the logo design process, each team member was tasked to come up with several concepts each—first, on paper. We discussed each concept as a team and came up with things that we believe worked well, and things that could be improved.
Over several rounds of revisions, we brought our top choices into a digital, high-fidelity format. These were our top picks for our logo mark:
We gathered feedback from program founders and landed on the "X" concept as the main mark for Intersect GMD, which is based on two geographical planes intersecting.
Final Logo Design
Combining the final logo concept with our color scheme, we ended up with a logo mark that could stand along as a recognizable icon, as well as the full design.
5. Developing Our User Experience to Create a Stream of Clients
With Intersect's brand identity solidified, the team set out to create a web experience for the program. The intended purpose was to promote our work to get new clients, as well as to help recruit future team members.
We started the process by outlining all of the pages that we needed to include at launch, as well as the multiple ways to enter our funnel:
- Top of Funnel (Email Signup): Allows those who are interested in our services, but may not have an immediate need to stay in touch.
- Bottom of Funnel (New Client Onboarding): Invites those who are actively seeking a creative team to tell us about their project.
Creating A Userflow
Developing Our Information Architecture
Having our userflow fleshed out, we put our boots on the ground by collaborating on the marketing & UX copy for each page. We did this in "layers".
The outer layer of this process was to outline the pages that we needed at launch. Then, we outlined all of the sections that should exist on every page. Lastly, we collaborated on marketing and UX copy for each section. We ran through these collaborative exercises using Google Docs.
Each team member created wireframe sketches for each page, including each section, as outlined in our detailed information architecture exercise.
After reviewing wireframes as a team, we created a master wireframe layout that was translated into high-fidelity mockups. Designs were reviewed and common themes emerged.
High-fidelity mockups designs of the Hero Section from the Home Page, sourced from three different team members:
Using the entirely of our team's brand identity explorations, wireframes, illustrations, photography, and mockups, we developed a live version of our website. Below is an example of the Home Page:
Within a span of three cohorts and a total of 12 teammates, the Intersect GMD teams have successfully underwent the creative process from beginning to end on multiple internal and client-facing projects.
Intersect team members have created the program's own brand identity, launched its web experience, and have fostered meaningful new client relationships.
Intersect alumni has been prepared with real-world experience and portfolios which have been used to pursue various opportunities in the design industry—
- One has received a full-time scholarship at the Royal College of Art in London
- One has been offered a paid position at our sister chapter, Intersect LA
- Four of our designers have received paid internships at SnapChat's Snap Design Academy from a group of 15 scholars out of a highly-competitive applicant pool
- One has accepted a paid internship position on CBS' TV show S.W.A.T.
- Others continue building their experience as freelancers
We have currently finished recruitment for our next cohort, starting in Spring '22.
The Intersect GMD program has been created under my on-the-ground leadership while (mostly) in collaboration with the following individuals.
- Mike Anagnostis (Discovery & Brand Identity)
- Matthew Bibicoff (UX / UI Design & Digital Strategy)
- Shaimaa Elbaya (UX / UI Design & Digital Strategy)
- Laijia Forman (UX Design & Client Work)
- Maria Garsa (Illustration, UX / UI Design, Client Work)
- Stephanie Guillen (Discovery & Brand Identity)
- Arielle Guillen (Discovery & Brand Identity)
- Arthur Jensen (Discovery & Brand Identity)
- Lois Kim (UX / UI Design & Digital Strategy)
- Felicia Mesadieu (Discovery & Brand Identity)
- Leana Romero (Illustration & Client Work)
- Xander Turnbough (Photography & UX / UI Design)
"Getting as far as we did gave me a huge confidence boost as a designer."
"I am so grateful to have been given the chance to be a part of something bigger than myself."
"Intersect taught me how to build an identity, communicate my designs, and collaborate with a creative team."
"It was such a pleasure to collaborate with an amazing team of designers while adding to the success of a startup."
"Thank you for helping to make this program such a tremendous success for our students—we really appreciate your work!"