Building A Strong Foundation for a Web Designer Role

by Lauren Hernandez | April 18, 2024
We love to hear stories about students and graduates applying their digital media and design skills in the professional environment. Which is why we were stoked to hear that recent AOS in Graphic Design graduate Shelby Payne had landed a new position as a web designer at design agency Smarter Web! We interviewed her to learn more about Shelby and her journey in finding this exciting opportunity.

What led you to decide to pursue the AOS in Graphic Design?

Since childhood, I’ve had a deep passion for art and creativity. My journey into graphic and web design began during a trip to Disney when I was fourteen. Participating in an animator studios class at Hollywood Studios, where they taught drawing popular Disney characters, ignited my love for creating. From there, I explored various mediums, from drawing to acrylics, and eventually stumbled into website creation using platforms like for personal art projects.

As I matured, I realized the potential for a career in art, which inspired me to pursue a degree in Graphic Design.

What does a typical day look like for you in your new Web Designer role?

Smarter Web is a data-driven design agency in Pensacola, FL, specializing in custom websites that prioritize data for high-ranking results. A typical day varies depending on ongoing projects. I usually start by addressing emails over my morning coffee, followed by mocking up pages in AdobeXD or developing websites using WordPress Elementor. Additionally, I conduct keyword research for clients regularly and work on updates for existing websites. My day typically wraps up around 4 pm, and then I usually take my dog for a walk in the park.

Describe your interview experience. What skills or attributes helped you secure the position?

The interview was exciting as it marked my transition into a dedicated design role. My previous experience in a marketing role, which involved some graphic design work, was a focal point. Given Smarter Web’s focus on data, they inquired about my knowledge of SEO, which I initially lacked but have since gained through training and certifications provided by the company. They also asked about my preferred aspects of the role, which allowed them to tailor the position to fit my skills and interests. Overall, the interview was relaxed and conversational, and I think we all could tell it was a good fit.

My prior role in marketing provided valuable experience in website maintenance and designing landing pages on WordPress. Moreover, my dedication to passion projects during my studies, particularly in UX/UI and website design, equipped me with a portfolio showcasing my skills. Sessions played a crucial role in honing my design and time management skills, preparing me for a remote work environment. Therefore, I’d say a combination of real-world experience, academic studies, and personal drive has shaped my transition into my current role.

What course(s) have you taken during your program that have been the most applicable/helpful for your career path?

While numerous courses and professors have been influential, three stand out: Drawing I, UX/UI Design, and Graphic Design I. Drawing laid the foundation for fundamental skills, which I still apply today by sketching out website elements before digital execution. UX/UI Design introduced me to design systems, elevating my designs to a new level, thanks to the guidance of Professor Mike Hamm. Graphic Design I and II, under Professor Andrew Shalat, were transformative, fostering significant growth in both talent and confidence. His feedback was instrumental in refining my designs and shaping my journey as a designer.

Advice for someone who is looking for their first role in design?

Persistence is key. The field of design can be competitive, and there may be moments of doubt along the way. However, don’t let setbacks discourage you. Keep refining your skills, building your portfolio, and applying to opportunities. It took countless applications before I received my first callback, but perseverance eventually pays off.

To learn about degree programs at Sessions College, visit our Bachelors Degree or Associate Degree areas and visit Degree Program Admissions.

Lauren Hernandez is the Manager, Faculty and Curriculum Development at Sessions College. Lauren is an artist, educator, and former middle-school teacher with a passion for everything art-related. Outside of work, Lauren likes to take care of her plants and hang out with her bird.