Alumni Interview: Web Director Julie Tork
Sessions College alumni Julie Tork completed her Graphic Design Certificate program in 2009. Now a Web Director at Nebraska’s KHAS-TV for News 5, Julie shared with us her experiences and her career path since graduation.
You earned a degree in Art History from University of Nebraska-Lincoln prior to enrolling at Sessions College. How did your Web Design career evolve?
A little over a year after college I started out at KHAS as a part-time webmaster, then I was able develop that position into a full time one. At some point I realized that if I was going to keep advancing in my career I needed more education. So I turned to the Sessions College Graphic Design program.
Web design was another extension of art for me so it felt like a natural evolution when I was given the chance to work at KHAS and manage their website. My art and art history background has served me well as a foundation upon which to build my design skills. I am able to take more traditional art methods or concepts and blend them with modern techniques.
What is your favorite part about working as part of the news team? What’s challenging about it, and how do you overcome those challenges?
Variety is my favorite aspect of working in the news media. Each day can be wildly different from the last in what someone needs you to do. One day I can be doing HD graphics for cyber hacking and underage drinking and the next I can be assembling a mini-website for the State Fair.
Aside from the Web site, I also do on-air graphics for the newscasts. This is great because I can really exercise my creativity with various features and stories. I’ve also done print work for the station.
The biggest challenge I’ve faced in my current job is discovering who I am as a designer and the direction I want to take it in the future. It wasn’t cut and dried from the beginning for me. With my degree I could’ve gone a number of different directions, but I realized my passion was in graphic and Web design.
I wasn’t confident enough in my skills yet, so I loaded up on books and applied to Sessions College for professional instruction. It’s made a huge difference in what I am capable of doing in my current job. I’m so happy I did it.
The KHAS-TV site has won several awards. Can you tell us about them and the role you played?
We’ve won a number of Associated Press awards for our site. We’ve had a couple site redesigns and each has been rewarded nicely by the AP. I was the project lead on the last site reworking. We basically scrapped the entire site and rebuilt it with a new web host. It has been very successful with our viewers and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far.
As a Web director for a news station you must manage a constant flood of updates. How do you handle deadline stress?
Well, I have a silly-looking stuffed giraffe named Girard perched on top my computer to help me smile when things get intense…
OK, on a more serious side, the best advice I can offer is to make sure your core design skills are solid. Color, composition, typography, and so on. This applies whether your medium is print or Web or multimedia. The stronger your foundation, the faster and more confidently you will work.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of budgeting your time correctly. Once you have a few projects where you’re working up to the last second and your hair is falling out you’ll realize how much sense this makes. Poorly budgeted time and striving for perfectionism in every project is what leads to the greatest amount of stress.
Acknowledge the fact that you are not always going to wake up feeling like Paul Rand. You will have “off” days, but the important thing to remember is to do your best, learn to budget your time, and don’t let projects go unfinished.
Do you have other creative endeavors outside of your Web Director role? How do you approach continuing to learn or develop creatively?
I love side projects—they keep the creative juices flowing. I am currently working with a wonderful organization called ALCES XXI – the International Association of Spanish Literature and Film which brings together Spanish authors, poets and filmmakers for discussion and also publishes their writings in an annual journal. I have recently completed the design of the inaugural issue of their journal and I am now working on the redesign of their website.
I read a lot (books and websites), I go through online tutorials, and I try to stay active on a number of design websites, including NAPP. I am never satisfied that I have enough knowledge and I think that’s essential considering the Web changes so quickly. You have to keep studying beyond your college instruction.
Any final words of wisdom for the aspiring creative professionals out there?
First, build a solid portfolio and keep refreshing it as you grow. Second, believe in yourself and what you can do. For some, this can be tough, especially when you’re starting out. There have been many times where I’ve been discouraged because I felt that I wasn’t as good as another designer. The truth is everyone advances and learns at different rates and your work a year from now is going to be drastically different… and better. So stick with it and focus. There’s always room for another creative voice.
Sessions Staff is a restless soul who loves to share Campus News stories with current and prospective students.