Graphic Design / Interactive Design / Fine & Applied Arts / Parkland College

“I can’t image doing anything else.”

Catherine Yao

Alumni Profile:
Catherine Yao

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Catherine Yao

Hometown: West Lebanon, NH
Year Graduated: 2015
Currently working at: Wolfram Research

How does it feel to be a professional designer? It feels great! I would have never thought I would be a professional designer before Parkland and now I can’t image doing anything else.

How do you like your job? I love my job. It’s rewarding knowing that I am working for a renowned international company. I also remember using Wolfram|Alpha when I was studying biology so I have that feeling of accomplishment knowing I am working for a company where I have used their products before.

How did you get this job? I was fortunate enough to have been invited to present my portfolio during a Parkland Graphic Design Advisory Board Meeting. Wolfram senior designer Heidi Kellner was among the members and after the meeting, invited me to apply for a graphic designer position that was open. I never thought I had a chance at working for Wolfram straight out of school so I was ecstatic when I managed to land the job.

Have you done any freelancing? I have done a few freelancing projects here and there, but I am not actively looking for freelance work due to my full-time job. If an opportunity comes up for a project, I will most likely take it because it’s nice to change things up a bit every now and then.

Are you involved in any other projects currently? At Wolfram it’s an endless stream of projects that need to be done, whether it be signs, brochures, or websites. It certainly keeps me busy. Most recently I re-designed the website for Wolfram’s Hour of Code. I like the way it turned out, especially since I designed it in only 2 or 3 days.

How do you stay in touch with other designers? I am part of a small group/club called “Designing Women” that comprises of local women designers. We meet a few times a year over lunch to discuss what we have been doing and any design related topics. The group is a great resource to get feedback on any projects we are working on (something that I miss from classes). I also volunteer for the CUDO PRO SHOW and recently joined the CUDO board. I also keep in touch with a couple designers at Thunderstruck Design where I did my internship.

What was the most exciting project you’ve worked on since graduation? I think the most exciting project for me is a help/marketing page for Wolfram’s add ons for Google Drive. It’s not complete yet, but it was the first “big” project assigned to me since starting at Wolfram. I also had to recall how to use After Effects because after the third mockup, it was determined the best way to portray the information was through a video clip rather than a series of images.

What were some of the most important things you learned while at Parkland? The most important things would probably be time management, HTML/CSS, and being able to use Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign efficiently. Being able to juggle multiple projects at the same time and deliver the final product on time is vital at any design job. Even a one day delay could cost you or your client a delay in the product release. I think code is important for any modern designer to know, at least HTML/CSS. I need to use it everyday to spec websites and to tell the developers what to adjust when they code websites I’ve designed. Being able to easily flow between the Adobe programs is also extremely useful. When I started, my weakest program was Photoshop and I feel that hindered me for the first couple of months. I have improved since then, but only because I have to use it for almost everything.

What do you wish you had done differently when you were at Parkland? I wish I took an additional marketing class so I could understand how to tailor a design to a target demographic better and to look at design from a marketing standpoint. I also wish I took an additional computer science class because the majority of Wolfram’s design is online, and I feel I lack some basic knowledge with understanding how everything is integrated on the web.

Who is your favorite designer and why? Massimo Vignelli because I enjoy the look and feel of Swiss design. I also enjoy the work of Chip Kidd because of his creativity when designing book covers. His TED talk is very inspirational and I highly recommend watching it. Draplin Design Co. is also a recent favorite of mine. I love their logos and the variety of styles they come in.

What is your favorite typeface and why? Bebas Neue because it has a strong presence and works for modern or retro designs. It also has five weights to it so you have some variety. I tend to use the bold and light weights the most.


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