Cassandra Smolcic

Feature Film Graphic Designer

Pixar Animation Studios

San Francisco, California

What kind of work are you doing now?

I am a feature film graphic designer at Pixar Animation Studios. Since joining the Pixar team in 2009, I have worked on films such as Toy Story Three, Cars Two, Brave and the upcoming, Monsters University. Many of my design projects for Monsters University took me back to my days at Susquehanna. I worked with the film’s director and production designer for months to nail down the university crest design for MU (which is featured on the Monsters University site), and I also designed the Greek logotype treatments for the featured fraternities and sororities in the film.

What is the best thing about being a designer?

The opportunity to be a vital part of something that is much larger than yourself. Whether I’m working on branding, marketing, or designing for the film industry, I am always aware and appreciative of the incredible power of visual communications. A design I create can help a business thrive, arouse interest in a social cause, or support an amazing story that will resonate with a child for life. The things we make as designers always have some social, cultural, environmental or even political impact, and it’s important to never forget the greater context of your work; it’s a notion that keeps me both humble and inspired.

How did the graphic design program at SU prepare you for the real world?

Susquehanna’s graphic design program was a great studio setting that introduced me to the field literally from the ground up: I hadn’t even heard the term “graphic design” when I signed up for Computer Applications as an elective! Susquehanna introduced me to all the nuts and bolts of design. Our exercises and assignment schedule prepared me for the fast pace of the industry, our honest and open critique environment prepared me for the routine rejections you will inevitably face as a working designer, and the range of projects we took on gave me a full portfolio of work that helped me land my first design job and eventually a seat in a competitive graduate graphic design program.

What are your favorite memories of the graphic design program at SU?

I absolutely loved the rush of deadline time and the sense of relief that came with hanging up your final piece in critique, then having the opportunity to look around the room and see how your classmates all approached the same assignment. The program gave me a very unique opportunity to compete with a group of talented designers and really see just how broad the plausible solutions are for each project. Seeing that spectrum of approaches was a beautiful thing, and taking the time to analyze the strengths and shortcomings of each teaches you so much about the nuances of design.

What advice do you have for someone choosing a college design program?

Pay attention to your instincts and observe the unspoken culture of the program, and above all choose a school filled with work and people that inspire you. Don’t let anyone hijack your career aspirations or your college choice. Parents, friends and family tend to have loads of well-intended advice about which path to take in life, but in the end it’s your life and your future. Do what makes you happy.