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”If you can’t handle critique and work according to it, you’re not in the right business”

When he was younger he wanted to work within marketing or advertising. Graphic Design was his hobby, but as the years passed he realised that maybe he could turn these interests into a profession. This is when Berghs Bachelor came into the picture. Meet one of our alumni students - Carl-Hampus Vallin, who recently graduated from Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

Hello Carl-Hampus! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Carl-Hampus and I’m a recent graduate from Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I was born and raised in Stockholm, but moved to San Francisco in 2014, where I still live and will soon be working for a design studio called Hybrid.

What made you decide to apply to the Berghs Bachelor program back in 2013?

When I was younger I wanted to do marketing or advertising and was only practicing graphic design as a hobby without any specific goal in mind. Later, I learned that I could turn these interests into a profession and started to look for schools. I believe it was my dad that first told me about Berghs. Berghs seemed like the best choice to me at the time. But to be sure, I enrolled in a couple of their part-time classes.

I applied to the Bachelor program because I wanted an academic education and the challenge of study abroad really appealed to me.

What do you remember the most from the semester at Berghs in Stockholm?

I started Berghs in the Fall of 2013. I had applied to the Bachelor program the year before but didn’t make it all the way. I remember it as a time full of excitement and new challenges with great peers and instructors. Many students often have the same experience from Berghs – a creative environment where you learn a lot from both working and playing hard. I sure wish that one semester at Berghs could’ve been longer but I never regret picking the Bachelor program over any of the other full-time programs.

What made you decide to continue your studies at Academy of Art University in San Francisco?

I actually met with one of the Bachelor program teachers, Clas von Sydow, before I even started at Berghs to talk about what school would be best for Graphic Design or Art Direction. He broke down the different schools for me to make the decision easier for me. I also tried to picture where I would have most success professionally after my graduation. San Francisco has been ”the place to be” for lots of people in the industry for a long time and I now had the chance to actually go there and experience it myself.

Tell us a bit about your studies in San Francisco!

Like I mentioned above, I didn’t really know if I wanted to do Graphic Design or Art Direction at first. I think my time at Berghs really helped me understand that going away from the advertising industry and focusing on Graphic Design was the right choice for me. The Graphic Design Department at AAU is focused on print, branding and packaging but you also have classes in motion graphics, basic HTML and CSS – not so much digital and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. With that said, if you’re looking for digital design and coding, I would research the Web Design & New Media Department.

The first two semesters cover a lot of the principles of design, while the remaining semesters are more about developing yourself as a designer and creating a portfolio as diverse as possible.

Not all classes are going to make sense and you’ll most likely meet instructors that disagree with you until you reach your boiling point but that’s usually a good thing. If you can’t handle critique and work according to it, you’re not in the right business.

Also, a tip: For anyone that wants to become an Art Director, pick the Graphic Design program. Your portfolio will be 10 times better than the one you’ll get from the Advertising / Art Direction program.

CHV_berghs

What are the main differences between studying in the U.S. compared to in Sweden, in your opinion?

It’s very different from Berghs. First of all, it’s a university and not a diploma school like Berghs, which for example means that you have to read a bunch of Liberal Arts classes. These classes might seem out of line and unnecessary but they are simply required by the school in order for you to receive a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts degree).

Second, the classes in the Graphic Design department are almost always critique-only classes. Meaning that you show your work, get critique, go home, refine. There are very few lectures during class time, although the school holds lectures now and then that you can attend on your spare time.

The Graphic Design program is one of the most time consuming programs that AAU has to offer and the work pace and expectations are very high (especially if you’re Swedish), so be ready to put the work in, no one is going to do it for you.

A couple of weeks ago, you passed your final exam and you are now finished with your studies. Tell us about the final semester at AAU!

The final semester was by far the most fun and exciting one, this is when you create your portfolio. All graduating students (in the Graphic Design program) pick their 8-10 best projects throughout the years and put them all in one big portfolio book. In the end of the semester you showcase your book in the school’s annual Spring Show. This is where you get to meet the industry and talk about your projects and who you are as a designer. There is a ton of work putting everything together but when you stand in front of your book and all your collected materials at the show, it’s a great feeling and most definitely worth it.

You mentioned that you already got a job. Congratulations! How did you manage to get hired before even finishing school?

I accidentally ran into an old instructor outside one of the classrooms. This was just days before my portfolio was due but I asked him if he could critique it anyways. I also told him that I wanted to work for a studio called Hybrid – where he (luckily) knew the Creative Director. This instructor forwarded my portfolio to him, I came in for two different interviews and shortly after I was offered a position.

Hybrid is a multidisciplinary studio that focuses on brand experiences and ”brand extensions”. They are working with big brands like Nike, Levis, TED, Sonos, Converse and Hypebeast. For as long as I’ve know about them, they’ve been creating incredibly inspiring and cool work that I felt like I needed to be a part of. Now, I’ve only met them a few times but they seem like a great group of people and it’ll surely be a progressive environment and a good challenge working there.

CHV_berghs_portfolio

What is it like to find jobs within the creative industry in the U.S. compared to Sweden? Do you usually have to do internships before getting hired?

I think your chances of getting a job increases if you’ve had an internship but it’s not at all crucial. Friends of mine have landed great jobs without interning. In the end, it’s mostly about how your portfolio presents itself. I myself interned over a period of 6 months and I would recommend doing that if given the opportunity. Besides getting to know how a real business works and operates, your chances of getting hired at that same company after graduation are higher.

Another big plus about the internships in the U.S., is that they are almost always paid – compared to Sweden where you don’t make a dime interning.

What are your plans, hopes and dreams for the future?

First of all, I look forward to experiencing what it’s like to not be a student in San Francisco. I know the city and the surrounding cities has a lot to offer (food, beaches, nature) but that’s difficult to experience to the fullest as a student. However, I know I’m going to have to put in a lot of hours at work so we’ll see how all of that goes.

The Graphic Design program is now part of something called STEM, which means that international students are allowed to stay 2 more years after our 1 year OPT expires, without applying for a H1-B Visa. My plan is to stay in the U.S., these 3 years and work my way up the ladder.

If I can’t stay after that, I could definitely see myself in London but eventually I would probably like to move back to Stockholm.

As for dreams, I would like to build something from the ground together with my friends. I guess there’s an entrepreneur living somewhere inside of me.

Can you share any advice to students who are just about to start their Bachelor Program at Berghs?

Work hard, make a mark, do your own thing and have fun while doing it.

Want to see more of Carl-Hampus work?

Take a look at his portfolio book or portfolio site!