(WACO, Texas) – Alissa Foss grew up in Central Texas and is a graduate of Texas State Technical College’s Visual Communication Technology program in Waco. She is a graphic designer at National Sign Plazas in Cedar Park.
What inspired you to study Visual Communication Technology at TSTC?
I have always loved art and drawing but never really knew what direction I could go career-wise with these skills. My fiance was attending TSTC, and so I decided to do some research into the programs offered. I started in the Web Design and Development program, as I believed I could apply my art skills with coding to make a lucrative career for myself. My mind changed after being in Stacie Buterbaugh’s graphic design class. I never realized I could utilize my artistic knowledge and apply it to so many different mediums in the design world.
How did TSTC prepare you for the graphic design field?
I believe the professors did an amazing job preparing me for my field. TSTC has hired instructors who genuinely care about the success of their students, which made such an impact on me. They helped prepare us to deal with critiques, handle changes to designs, and work with clients to achieve the best results. They also prepared us by teaching us how to handle multiple projects at once and how to manage our time efficiently. Working in my field now, time management is such a critical aspect of graphic design, and I believe having the practice at TSTC has helped me immensely now.
What is a typical workday like for you?
My day starts with getting to the office about 7 a.m. and checking my schedule and assignments for that day. I will usually have a meeting every Tuesday with co-workers to talk about current workflow and projects, future goals and project updates. I am one of two designers that handle all of our graphic design requests across divisions in my company. Depending on current projects and clients, I will have an extremely busy or a slow day. The scope of designs I typically work on can range from basic real estate signage to civic signs and blueprints. I get home about 4 p.m., and from there I work on my computer at home on contract work for other clients.
How does technology play a role in your work?
Technology plays a huge role, from using printers to graphic design software. Technology is the base for creating any design piece. I mainly work with Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Acrobat. I have also spent some time learning how to use Adobe XD, as many companies and clients are wanting more UX/UI design. I also work a lot in the Google Workspace apps. Technology and design programs are constantly changing, so I find myself spending a lot of time researching user methods, tutorials and more to stay up to date.
What career advice would you give to those interested in pursuing your field?
My advice is to surround yourself with as much design and art as possible and find others in the field you can network with. You will always be learning, and having a community, guides, references and resources will help you learn more about what designs work in your industry and what designs do not. Networking will be your best friend in this industry, so communicate and reach out to anyone and everyone. Most, if not all, of my contract work has been through networking with clients, creators, teachers, peers and more. Word of mouth is a huge asset for a designer, so I highly suggest learning to use social media to connect and network with other creators in the industry. Another piece of advice I have would be to learn how to pace your work and make time for self-care.
Graphic designers in Texas can make a yearly median salary of more than $49,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website. The agency predicts that more than 20,000 graphic designers will be needed in Texas by 2028.
TSTC offers an online Associate of Applied Science degree in Visual Communication Technology. For more information, go to tstc.edu.