A couple of weeks ago, I participated in Meet the Pros (read Drew Gourley’s account of it here), and it got me thinking about my own time in school and my own path towards becoming a designer.

After spending almost ten months out of school, 2013 is the first full year that I haven’t been attending an educational institution since 1992.

That being said, it took me a little longer to get through college then most. Right after high school I attended Muscatine Community College, a great little campus in the “big city” just south of my little hometown. At the time, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. Well, if i’m honest”¦ I knew. But I wasn’t sure it was possible. And I wanted to be sure that it was the right decision. (It was.)

Typographic Exercises from my high school "Exploring Graphics" class.Typographic exercises from my high school “Exploring Graphics” class.

I wanted to design. I’ve always wanted to design. But during high school, I didn’t know how to go about it. Or how to turn my incessant doodles into a paying job. Because, even then, I knew I wasn’t an artist. But I did know that I liked to find meaning in images and their relationships to each other. And that I really liked to make things fit together. (Things I now consider “Art Direction” and “Layout”.)

So I took every art class that my high school offered. And convinced my journalism teacher to let me design the school newspaper. And my senior yearbook.

But I still wasn’t sure.

Examples of the Calumet, the student newspaper for Muscatine Community College.Examples of my work on
The Calumet, the student newspaper for Muscatine Community College.


So I went to community college. And basically repeated the process. But then I really got serious about it. I knew that I wanted to design. I knew that I wanted to move pictures around. And match them with type. To give meaning; to present information. So shortly after I started at MCC, I convinced the Journalism professor to make me editor of the school newspaper, The Calumet. And I started to really consider making this design thing my life.

Still Life from my first semester at Iowa State.Still Life from my first semester at Iowa State.
Still Life rendered in colored pencil from later on that first semester.Still Life rendered in colored pencil from later on that first semester.

Granted – as you can see – I had a lot of learning to do. But that time to grow and discover was really important. By the time I got into the Graphic Design program at Iowa State, I knew what I wanted, needed to take less credit hours than my peers, and had the added bonus of already knowing my way around InDesign. (In case you didn’t know, you must attend Iowa State for one year and participate in the the “Design Core” before applying to a design program of your choice.)

So I finally went for it.

At Iowa State University, design became my life. I didn’t sleep. I ate fast food. I took a job that allowed me to work on my projects at work. Everything I could to allow myself more time to sketch. To concept. To create.

You can view more of my student work from ISU at my website, www.nkirkman.com.You can view more of
my student work from
ISU at my website: nkirkman.com

And now I’m here and I realize that was just the start. And I know now that really, I’m still in an educational institution. Only this one is called life.

So here’s to more things to learn. And to more to grow. I’m looking forward to working with you. :)