Meet Jeff Florentine
The VCD Mag sits down with alumni Jeff Florentine to hear about how he found his way before and after the program.
Where are you from originally? Can you tell me a little bit about your experience growing up?
I am from Kirtland, Ohio. I grew up without cell phones, computers and all that jazz. We got cable television when I was young however, and a computer (Apple II GS) came along in my mid-teens. When I was young I was outside playing with friends, building forts in the woods, playing backyard ball, etc. My parents are very supportive and encouraged my older brother John and I to try any activity and participate in various athletics that suited our desires. Throughout my years in school, I was very active in athletics, music (I am a classically trained saxophonist) and a wide variety of extracurricular activities.
How did you choose graphic design as your career?
My story is almost unbelievable and quite long, so I will spare the breadth and go directly to what brought me to become a designer. I was floundering around taking various classes at Lakeland Community College (the third college I attended) when I took a typography class. It ruined me! I fell in love with graphic design and a passion was sparked that led me to Kent State VCD through the tutelage of one very astute advisor at Lakeland.
What led you to choose Kent State, and how was your experience living and learning here?
Coming out of High School in ‘93 I would not have even considered KSU. At the time I received a healthy scholarship from Ohio Wesleyan to attend as a Secondary Music Education major. I was completely unaware of what Kent State had to offer let alone the caliber of the VCD program here. Years later when I met with that advisor at Lakeland and was enlightened to VCD at Kent, I couldn’t wait to get in and dig in! My experience at Kent State, going through the program, was intense. I started here at the age of 31 in 2005, and will be forever grateful for getting in and started when I did. There are many projects from the foundation classes I went through then that molded me in to the designer I am today. Fortunately for me, I brought an overwhelming amount of transfer credits with me from the previous twelve years of college experiences I had. These basically took care of my LER’s and allowed me to work two full-time jobs and concentrate on the core VCD track, although I still didn’t sleep much!
What Kent State experience, academic or otherwise, had the most impact on you?
Looking back it is difficult to point to one specific experience that had the most impact on me. First thing that came to mind was presenting and receiving feedback during my Junior Portfolio Review. That experience was truly priceless in preparing me for what lay ahead. On an equal level was my experience as an intern/student worker at University Communications and Marketing for three and a half years! I knew going into my Sophomore year that employers were seeking three years experience at that time, so I sought out opportunities to gain that prior to graduation. Ironically I met a designer at University Communication and Marketing while bartending in Twinsburg. He would come in to have a beer and work on freelance. We got to talking and developed a friendship. When the position of student worker opened up he let me know to apply. I won the position and went to work! My time at UCM provided me skills and insights into the field of graphic design that the VCD program simply can’t provide. The collaboration with clients, vendors and fellow professionals as well as the infinite situations that continue to challenge me as a designer and visual problem solver/solutionist to this day. Lastly, The most profound experience I had at Kent State was walking across that stage and being handed my diploma. I have been (put myself) through a lot in my life. In all of the challenges and difficulties I have been through I maintained one goal; that of graduating from college. The feeling I got when I was handed that diploma was other worldly. All of those all-nighters and countless hours dedicated to the VCD program coming to fruition was truly exceptional.
How has your VCD education helped you get to where you are today?
VCD at Kent State is highly revered in the industry. The computer skills I was taught, as well as all of the core competencies that embody the rigors of the program, have given me a competitive edge in the design world. I am grateful beyond expression for having been honed by KSU VCD, and toward all those who have built and contributed to the building of the program.
What led you to work at Meister Media Worldwide? How has your experience been since you joined that team?
Upon graduation, I hit the ground running. I started firing off my resume and cover letters immediately. Within two weeks I was invited to several interviews. Meister Media Worldwide invited me back quickly for a second interview and I received an offer shortly after, which I accepted. Meister was a great company to work for. I pumped out three print magazines a month along with a digital publication and tons of collateral. I worked on a team of four designers and art director and creative director. My experience at UCM had me thoroughly prepared, and I proceeded to excel at Meister. I won several prestigious awards for my work there, and had a blast with not only the creative services department, but the company as a whole.
What qualities and abilities are needed to be successful in the field of graphic design?
Too many to list! Creativity, thick skin, quick reflexes, intuition, wit, execution, communication, a wide breadth of knowledge and experience, an open mind, a keen sensibility, the ability to find a solution, snark, a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at yourself, ambition, humility, honesty, precision, organization, endurance, and on and on… keep watching/looking/seeing/reading/learning/researching/talking…
What accomplishment or moment in your career are you most proud of?
At this stage of the game I am most proud of the ability to take pause at the inception of a project, prior to jumping in and starting work. To consider it from all angles, garner a better perspective, and ultimately provide a better, more successful, refined and communicative solution.
What advice can you give to current VCD students?