Meet KCAD's 2021 Valedictorian: Q&A with Becca Morris
Posted April 30, 2021
KCAD's Class of 2021 Valedictorian Becca Morris
2021 Valedictorian and Graphic Design student Becca Morris shares how her KCAD experiences have shaped who she is today.
What brought you to KCAD?
I grew up in Hudsonville, not too far from here, so I've always felt like Kendall was in my backyard. I’ve always been a creative person and imagined going into a creative career field, but it wasn't until my senior year of high school when I completed all the credits I needed to get my diploma. I knew someone who had dual-enrolled at Kendall before and really enjoyed it, so I decided to do that too, and I think my dual-enrollment class was the deciding factor for me.
I'm not going to lie, it was a hard class that I took, especially because I was brand new. I didn’t know my way around, but it gave me that extra push to get out of my comfort zone. Just being in the environment surrounded by other creatives made me feel like I belonged here in some way.
Which experiences outside of the classroom left the strongest impression on you?
Getting involved outside of the classroom in a lot of different ways has been a huge part of my growth and finding my place. I’ve been working in the library since my freshman year, which has given me the chance to meet so many people that I probably wouldn’t have crossed paths with otherwise. My boss and supervisors are amazing people, along with the regular visitors I got to know over my time working there.
Working for UICA [KCAD’s Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts] and connecting with my professors led me to a lot of new experiences too. Every project, even the small ones, helps connect me to new people.
I also loved living downtown and being immersed in that community. A lot of other students and alum live in the area, so we had a little community of designers and artists all in one place. It was so fun to be close to campus and all the activity going on in the middle of the city. I felt connected to Kendall in a different way and it allowed me to be more present.
"Bridge Publication" by Becca Morris (image courtest of the artist)
What was your experience like working at Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts? What did you take away from it?
I have so many great memories from this time. I worked over the summer as an Assistant Project Leader for the Artworks program, where younger students can engage in art, design, and installation projects in the city.
One of the high school groups was in charge of creating a large-scale community mural, and my team of students designed a parklet for the mural. I had never been in a teacher or leadership role like that before, so I loved getting to know every student individually and celebrating all they could accomplish.
I’m not an expert in building parks but being able to offer my advice and input as a designer was really interesting. I think that taught me a little bit about what it’s like in the real world.
Did you undertake any internships?
I’ve been doing an internship with an interior design studio in Grandville since last year. I do a lot of social media work for the studio, like managing all the platforms and designing the graphics that live on social. I also do some work with the website. I’ve learned that I really like social media and I’ve kind of developed a new relationship with it.
How have the Graphic Design faculty and your experience in the program helped prepare you for life after graduation?
Connecting with my professors and interacting with my classmates has really helped me open up more as an individual and prepared me for networking and conversations with clients. I’ve learned that communication is a huge part of graphic design, and that includes being able to clearly communicate person to person.
All of my classes have played a role in learning how to accurately pace projects—multitasking and juggling a lot of different things at once has been a big part of that. I think having online classes has created a realistic depiction of what it will be like to work remotely in the future. Sending drafts back and forth and mostly communicating through email and Zoom has given me a clearer picture of what to expect after graduation.
I’ll definitely miss being in an environment where we’re all learning, growing, trying new things, and supporting each other. Being surrounded by creatives has been an important part of my growth as a designer and as a person.
"City of Detroit ad" by Becca Morris (image courtesy of the artist)
How have you developed your creative process over the past four years? What does that process look like?
When I started at Kendall, I didn't really know anything about graphic design. I never had a computer of my own, and I didn't know anything about design programs, but I found it interesting and thought it was something that I could do well in. So, I had no creative process coming in, but I’ve been able to form and refine one on my own terms alongside the instruction and guidance from my professors.
I like to start with asking questions and forming a plan in my head, and then go into sketches. Like a lot of designers and artists, sketching is a huge part of my creative process. It also includes writing out my thoughts and ideas to help with my own understanding of what I’m working on.
It can be a lot of trial and error, and sometimes I have to go back to square one. I didn't know much about digital media and the technology at first, so thumbnails and rough sketches were especially helpful in bridging that gap. It’s all a lot more intuitive for me now.
What has inspired or motivated your work?
I like seeing what other designers and artists around me are doing, and I definitely seek out those who are more experienced than me. In a certain way, I’ve always looked up to those who are ahead of me. It’s so helpful to have friends who are in the same industry to look to for advice and support.
At the same time, I recognize that I am my own person, so I try to keep a balance between looking outside at others’ work for inspiration and going inside myself for inspiration, too. As a designer, I’m quick to notice how everything around me is designed in some way, shape or form. If I’m at the grocery store and I see a cool package that catches my attention, I’ll just take a picture so I can remember the inspiration for later.
"Poppy Skincare Package Design" by Becca Morris (images courtesy of the artist)
What does this honor of being named Valedictorian mean to you?
It was quite a surprise, but I’m really honored to be recognized in this way. I’m so thankful to everyone at Kendall who thought of me.
What’s next for you?
I want to stay in the West Michigan area, at least for a little while, but I'm very open to whatever life throws at me. I think a lot of opportunities are opening with the option to work remotely becoming more widely accepted.
Everything is up in the air right now, but I've been working toward this for four years, so I’m excited to see what’s out there and start working. For me, it's more about the company values and who I will be working with than what exactly I'll be doing.
What would you say to someone in the same position you were in four years ago when you first started at KCAD?
I would say don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone because that's where you’ll grow the most. I’m an introvert and I don’t like going into new situations or not knowing anybody, but I made myself do it, and that created so many new opportunities and friendships. That wouldn’t have happened if I didn't put myself out there, and I’m so glad that I did.
Also, don't be afraid to ask stupid questions! I was scared to do that that when I first came here because I didn’t know anything about graphic design. Getting better is really all about doing things that are a little scary. Don't be afraid, everyone is in the same boat.
See more of Becca Morris’ work at beccamorris.com.