Fresh from Princeton’s ‘Designation’ Conference, Junior Ashley McFadden Considers the Future of Graphic Design – and Graphic Design in Her Future

Graphic Design student Ashley McFadden
Graphic Design student Ashley McFadden

Graphic Design student Ashley McFadden had an especially memorable Spring Break.

Ashley, from La Crescenta, CA, recently returned from attending an all-expenses paid, invitation-only design conference in New York. She was one of 99 student designers from some 50 colleges and universities across the country, selected from a pool of more than 1,000 applicants. Organized by Princeton Graphic Design students, the conference afforded Ashley the opportunity to rub shoulders with high-powered industry professionals via workshops, seminars and discussion groups.

Known as “Designation,” the gathering is an “exploration of the versatility of a career in design, how design is applied differently across industries, and what it looks like to be a design leader facing the business and social challenges of our world.”

Getting in was a challenge in itself. “The application process involved a short answer online survey,” she recalls. “Among other questions, I was asked to describe myself in one sentence, discuss something I’m most proud of, talk about why I felt like I deserved to attend Designation, as well as submit my online portfolio and resume.” According to Designation, leaders and attendees are matched based on mutual interests and goals.

“As the conference organizers note, Designation is a time to answer the big-picture questions shaping design today and where the field will go tomorrow,” says Graphic Design Prof. Cate Roman, MFA. “Learning happens as a result of collaborating, creating and critiquing.”

For Ashley, special inspiration came from Debbie Millman, the celebrated writer, designer, educator, artist, brand consultant and host of the popular podcast Design Matters, and Abbot Miller, partner at Pentagram, whose projects often deal with the cultural role of design and the public life of the written word.

Among her major takeaways:

  • You don’t (always) need design thinking.
  • It’s better to over promise and slightly under-deliver, rather than making a slew of mediocre promises and fulfilling all of them.
  • Once you get comfortable, move on to something new.
  • Be curious and adaptable.
  • The more interests you have in life, the more material you have from which to draw inspiration.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no.

“It was an amazing opportunity to be able to network in this way, meet some incredible student designers and hear from legendary icons in the design community speak to their journeys navigating the design world,” she says. “I left feeling very lucky to have been included.”

Learn more about our Graphic Design program

Translate »