When Artsy Becomes a Career Option

by Angella Knaack | July 2, 2018
Kerstin Briar
Tok, Alaska
Associate Degree in Graphic Design
Associate Degree student and Student Ambassador Kerstin Briar was the go-to creative in her family, but she had never considered training as an artist or designer. Friends and relatives urged her to explore her creativity, and so she searched for online programs. Now at Sessions College, Kerstin finds her artistic and research skills growing in leaps and bounds, without disrupting the busy life she leads in her rural Alaskan hometown.

Q: What led you to study graphic design?

Like many students at Sessions, I’ve been interested in art from a young age. I had a reputation in my family for being the “artsy” one, often being called on for color choices, card-making – anything that could be classified as an art-like pursuit.

Pencils and paper were (and still are) my favorite mediums, but I experimented with everything from pastels to markers to charcoal. Parallel to that, I broadened the application of my abilities to include everything from figure drawing, to crafting greeting cards for family members, to designing signs, and whatever else might present itself. However, I never treated my pursuit as a serious career option, since I valued practical skills and couldn’t imagine allowing myself into the “starving artist” realm.

Q: What changed?

I have to thank my many friends and relatives who insisted that I should pursue art anyways, and especially those that recommended graphic design to me. I was fascinated by this field that seemed to be both artistic and relatively practical.

After extensive market research and even taking a design class online through the University of Alaska, I began searching for a school that could provide me with a marketable toolbox of skills with which to enter the design field – and eventually found Sessions. Since enrolling, I have learned an immense number of things about design and computer technology, and have begun finding opportunities to employ it in my own life. I’m excited to continue growing my skills from here!

Q: You live in a rural location. How did an online program help you meet your goals?

I live in a rural town in the Interior of Alaska, seated on an intersection of the Alaska Highway, about 90 miles from the Canadian border. We are a minimum of three hours from the nearest Wal-Mart, movie theatre, or hospital. It is a quiet town of about 1,200 people in the summer (half that in winter), and our main source of revenue is summertime tourists passing through on their way into the state. Honestly, it isn’t the most remote location in the area – we still have internet and electricity, for one. But still, it might not surprise you when I say I do not have many higher education options locally.

Studying online with Sessions College has been extremely beneficial for me in many regards both due to my location, but also my lifestyle. Since Sessions is online and because it doesn’t have scheduled meeting times or “call-in classes,” I am able to attend classes smoothly even despite time differences.

Additionally, because our assignments are always due consistently at the end of the week, I am able to plan study around my job and life – even to the point of working ahead when I travel (which is relatively frequently). All in all, I am able to get a quality education while living in a considerably remote location, and all that without sacrificing my rather exciting life.

Q: How do you approach your creative projects now?

When given a project, I usually begin by defining the project goals so that I can narrow down ideas as they come to me. Depending on the project, this may mean looking up artists who have done work for similar projects (such as brochures), or designs that match the subject field (such as banking), and sometimes even technique-based research if it is a medium I’m less familiar with (such as looking up terminology for a certain art style or program).

Research allows me to determine design trends in similar projects, and create something that would look “right” associated with that trend. Usually by this point I will have gathered enough inspiration through the overall trend and the small details (like a layout method or a certain computer effect), to begin working on a design solution for my project.

Q: Outside of Sessions, what do you like to do?

Outside of school, I keep busy with both work and my personal life. I am employed as a dental assistant at a small clinic in town, as well as working as a part-time clerk/receptionist at a local gift shop during the summer. At home, I am blessed to have loving parents and six siblings, as well as grandparents, other extended family in the area, and a great community. I use much of my free time spending time with my family and helping out with community and church events, such as our town’s food bank. My life is very full between these areas, but I also manage to make time to visit friends out of state a few times a year.

As far as interests and hobbies outside of Sessions, the biggest is (of course) drawing. I love being able to get back to good old physical sketching when I can. Other than that, a few things I enjoy doing are reading and taking walks in the woods (of which there are plenty here).

Q: What are your professional goals after graduation?

Since I am still fairly young, I don’t have a solid grasp yet on where I’d like to take my skills professionally after graduation. At this point, I hope to work on developing a client base from which to begin some freelance work. I have enjoyed being able to create promotional material such as brochures and advertisements and logos, so ideally I would be able to keep doing similar work professionally.

To learn more about Graphic Design programs at Sessions College visit and chat with an Admissions Advisor.

From 2018-2020, Angella was a Student Advisor at Sessions College. She has a Master’s Degree in Educational Policy from ASU, and likes to use her knowledge of graphic design to make invitations, holiday cards, t-shirts, and more.