Senior plans to pursue graphic design at UCLA

May 23, 2018 — by Kevin Sze and Kaitlyn Wang

Crowds milled around booths featuring design elements and products at San Francisco Design Week last June. Admiring the different works on display, senior Katrina Sung, an aspiring graphic designer, would remember the event as a moment that reinforced her desire to pursue graphic design and digital art.

For Sung, this convention was an opportunity to learn how popular products become successful and explore the possibility of a career in product design.

“It was a formal event and most of the people who attended were adults, and it had a professional but fun atmosphere,” Sung said. “I got to see all the elements I’ve learned in classes really being put to use in all these organizations or companies, so that was exciting. It made me realize that I could look forward to more events like this in the future.”

Sung has always had a passion for art. She began drawing in second grade and used to take traditional art classes involving still life and figure drawings. But it was not until she joined yearbook during her junior year that she realized pursuing design and digital art could be a serious future and not a hobby.

Starting second semester junior year, she also began attending a class with an emphasis on conceptual art, stressing ideas more than the technical execution, a main aspect of design portfolios, according to Sung.

“It opened up my mind more and resulted in me experimenting more in my art,” Sung said.

Sung recognizes the negative stigma many people have about pursuing art as a career, however.

“There are people who say, ‘You’re going to art school; that must be easy,’” she said. “But I really don’t care what they have to say.”

While Sung’s friends and peers in art classes have been supportive, she did face initial opposition from her own family.

“Coming from a traditional Asian family, my parents were a bit against it to start,” Sung said. “But I think they realized I wasn’t going to change, and they decided that if I was going to pursue this, I might as well become good at it.”

Sung had been concentrating more on graphic design, but she recently grew interested in fashion design after designing clothes for the Benefit Fashion Show. She also sewed her own prom dress, using gold, floral fabric to create a long dress with a leg slit over the course of three or four days. Sung said that it was “just an experiment,” but she’s glad that she took the initiative to create it.

Aware that only a few individuals can make a viable living in fashion, Sung remains unsure of what she wants to do in the future. According to Sung, expressing one idea in variety of styles in fashion is difficult.

“You have a target audience and you have to make sure that your audience is pleased with your work,” Sung said. “Otherwise, you’re done. It’s a lot of dedication because you have to keep working on your collections and how to be the next big thing because you can have a bunch of other designers who can do similar work.”

Even so, Sung will attend UCLA’s Design Media Arts (DMA) program in the fall. Over the summer, she took a design camp at UCLA, which helped her become more familiar with the campus and what to expect from the school’s offered program.

For Sung, the camp exposed her to more forms of design. While she was familiar with graphic design, she also had the opportunity to experiment with video, web and game design. During the camp, Sung found the accomplishments of her counselors, current UCLA students, inspiring.

“One night they presented slideshows about their work,” Sung said. “And that was really a pivotal moment for me, just sitting in that room looking at these people only several years older than us with the ability and creativity to create what they have created.”

Now looking back on the college application process, Sung recognizes that while her focus on artistic exploration has taken a toll on her academics, in the end, grades were not as important as others insisted.

“My grades definitely have suffered from my incessant need to find inspiration, but it’s honestly been worth it because of the experiences you get from those moments,” Sung said. “I know a lot of art students who are being told that their grades are not competitive enough and that their GPA is a priority, but I really want people to know that that’s not true.”

According to Sung, it has been worthwhile to sacrifice time and effort on exploring art instead of focusing solely on academics, as the portfolio is the most essential factor of the application process.

“Pursuing artistic endeavors by buying new materials, going to art classes and conventions or going places to look for inspiration is what’s going to make you stand out, not the numbers,” Sung said. “As long as you stay confident in your character, your ideas and your artwork, you will be guaranteed a great future in design or art.”