2022 Graduate Yaritza Velazquez’s Real-World Experience in Otis College’s Design Lab Has Her Poised for a Thriving Career

2022 Otis College Graduate Yaritza Velazquez
Friday, July 8, 2022
“Otis provided the space for me to reflect on myself, my work, and what I want to do for my community,” says the 2022 Communication Arts graduate.
Anna Raya

Yaritza Velazquez (’22 BFA Communication Arts, Graphic Design with a minor in Advertising Design) arrived at Otis College ready to dive into graphic design, even though she had no prior experience. “I knew I wanted a place that had the patience and willingness to work with a student like myself, who wanted to learn design but never really knew about it,” she says of her decision to move from East Palo Alto, California to Los Angeles to attend Otis. She graduated this past May with a BFA in Communication Arts with an emphasis in Graphic Design and a minor in Advertising Design, winning an Academic Excellence Award in the process. She is passionate about representation and visibility towards marginalized communities, and departed Otis fully-versed in typography, visual systems, and how to work with actual clients and tight deadlines due to her experience in Otis Design Lab, a design studio that functions through a collaboration between students, staff, faculty, and external client partnerships. 

It was in Design Lab that Creative Director Emily Carlson saw how poised Velazquez is for a successful career. “Like any other design studio, the work ebbs and flows in Design Lab. Sometimes we can take our time, and other times we’re working on a crazy deadline and need the students to step up and put in some extra effort to get a project done,” says Carlson. “Yaritza always volunteered to take on extra work. I remember one time, another student was struggling to get their Design Lab tasks done along with their schoolwork, and she just took the whole project on herself, did a gorgeous job, and the client loved it! When I see a student like that, I know they’re going to succeed because that’s exactly the type of work ethic that will put them at the top of their field.”

Read on for more on Velazquez’s experience at Otis College, her goals for the future, and who are some of her design heroes. 

Typeface by Yaritza VelazquezWhat type of work do you create?

I enjoy working on identity systems and branding, designing publications, and creating typefaces. As for material, it all depends on the context and how I can best relate to it, but I enjoy layering and screen printing, mixing and matching analogue with digital.  

What brought you to Otis College? 

I was looking for a program that would teach me from the ground up, since I had no prior experience in design. I knew I wanted a place that had the patience and willingness to work with a student like myself, who wanted to learn design but never really knew about it. 

What is your proudest achievement while you were a student? 

My proudest moment would be our sophomore show. It was the first moment our Graphic Design class worked together to set up a show from the ground up. I felt we transformed the room, and we created a place with what resources we had. I thought we were so resourceful, and we worked well together. 

Describe one of your happiest days at Otis. 

It was heading back to campus after two years of staying at home because of the pandemic. It was my senior year and receiving news that we can once again work on campus was the happiest news I could get to start the academic year. I missed campus life and being able to be in the labs. Before, much of our work was presented through mockups. There’s nothing better than being able to hold projects that you worked on for so long. 

Describe some of the bigger challenges you’ve had to overcome during your time at Otis.

I had multiple jobs on campus (at the One-stop, Registration, and Design Lab) in order to pay for my tuition, living expenses, and school supplies, but it taught me about time management, communicating with my supervisors, and it really did push me to improve my work habits as the years went by. 

Who are some of your mentors at Otis, and how have they impacted your goals and experience? 

Jermiah Chiu [a 2022 Teaching Excellence Award recipient] has been someone I look up to, from his work ethics to his design projects. He has been a professor who is hard working, motivated, and transparent about being a designer.  I have learned so much from him and hope to accomplish as much as he has. 

Carlos Avila: It’s always great to have a teacher who shares a similar background as you, someone who can not only help you, but are physical proof of the possibilities of being able to produce work for the joy of creating, while serving as role-model to their community. Through him, I’ve gained the comfort and confidence in embracing my background and applying it more in my work. 

Frankie Hamersma is another teacher that I received so much guidance, and support from. For every project when I felt confused we would have brainstorming sessions and endless resources. Watching her share ideas to every student in class made me want to be a similar designer—someone that joyful, never running out of ideas, and being an encouraging friend and mentor to others. 

I feel that every faculty member at Otis that I have interacted with has been a mentor, and has shared not only their time and attention but also their experience. I’m truly grateful to all my teachers, my co-workers and managers at Design Lab and the One-Stop office—there are just so many. I'm sorry I could not mention every person, but every moment and conversation I’ve had has helped me feel at home, thank you.

Describe how Otis College has supported your artistic/design journey. 

Otis has been a welcoming home where I have met many friends and mentors. Before I came to Otis I did not know anything about the art world, or specifically about the graphic design world. Thanks to the faculty and my classmates I came to learn about designers that I identify with, and I discovered what type of designer I want to be. Otis provided the space for me to reflect on myself, my work, and what I want to do for my community. 

Logo by Yaritza VelazquezWhat are your career goals and plans for the future?

I am excited to explore every aspect of the work field. I want to know what it’s like to work in a small business, work with large, well-known brands, as well as experience the freelance world. One goal I wish to accomplish is to produce work that can be featured in museums so more people can learn about multiple fields in the art world. I want to be able to produce work that can live in multiple formats. 

Sky’s the limit: What would be your dream project?  

To have a studio where people, brands, and all walks of life visit to collaborate on projects. Another big dream project would be to create a type foundry that is dedicated to creating typefaces inspired by BIPOC individuals. 

What is your current mantra?  

“When something is important, you don’t make excuses,” and “Don’t leave for tomorrow what you can do today.”

Where do you find inspiration? 

Everywhere—going to museums, talking to friends, watching films from different countries, and books. 

What artist or designer would you want to have dinner with and why? 

James Jean! I absolutely love all of his work; the color choice for every piece he makes is out of this world. I also like the fact that he is not limited in creating work that ranges from book covers to murals, movie posters, and even sculptures. Another designer is Kelli Anderson. She is a hands-on experimental designer and you can see through her work that she enjoys playing with different materials and points of view, and can create publications that are informational and fun for anyone. 

You can see more of Velazquez’s work at her Annual Exhibition virtual portfolio, on her personal website, yavedesigns.com, and you can follow her on Instagram, @yaritzadesigns

Main image: Photograph by Monica Nouwens/Otis College of Art and Design. Inset images: Designs by and courtesy of Yaritza Velazquez.