If you follow us on social media or have seen our website, you know we’re fans of well-crafted illustrations. They’re a key component of our overall visual strategy but, more importantly, they bring our mission to life.
Sure, we’re an edtech company, but we’re a people-first platform. It’s important to us that everything we make looks, feels, and sounds human, and we’d like to introduce you to the dynamic duo who make it happen.
First up is Janet Tauszik, Visual Designer.
Where are you from?
I was born in London, but our family moved to the Tampa Bay Region just as I started first grade!
Where did you go to college and what did you get your degree in?
I spent five years at the University of Florida, earning a BFA in Graphic Design. I hopped around a bit to get there; my first year I was a Digital Arts & Computer Science major in the engineering school. I figured since I was good at math and science in high school, that was what I should pursue in college. But, after a year of calculus and chemistry, it was a less than exciting degree program for me. So, off to the College of Fine Arts I went 🙂
What was your favorite class in college?
Visual Methods and Processes. It was the first “design” course I took after I switched my major. I didn’t really know exactly what graphic design encompassed at that point, and that class showed me what was possible. I adored my teacher and did my best to absorb everything she shared with us because I loved it so much.
How did you end up working with Knack?
They’re not wrong when they say “it’s a small world.”
I grew up in a neighborhood close to Samyr (our CEO) and went to school with him, starting in elementary and continuing through to college at UF. We were never really close friends, but we knew each other well enough from going to school together for so long. Because of social media, I knew he had started some sort of education company in Gainesville, but that was about it.
Earlier this year I was with a friend, Adrienne, who was on her laptop working on a freelance project for Knack. What she was working on looked vaguely familiar to me, but I couldn’t figure out why. I took a second look at it and realized that it was Samyr’s company!
After explaining the backstory to Adrienne to justify the confused look on my face, they brought me on a few months later to help out with their social media illustrations and design.
What’s one skill you use often that you weren’t necessarily taught in school?
For me, especially now that I’m a full-time freelance designer, I’d have to say organization and project management. I’ve always been a pretty organized person, but that has improved and become even more important during this time in my career. I manage projects for 8-10 clients at once. Managing that communication, prioritizing what comes next, and always knowing the status of everything is so, so important. If I didn’t have a system in place to do that, I would feel overwhelmed every day. I think it is an especially important skill to have now, as most jobs will have at least some element of remote working for the foreseeable future, and being able to organize yourself is important in that setting.
What’s something you wish you had learned in college but didn’t?
Academically, probably how to write for marketing purposes. It’s something I’ve always felt weak in, and I know it would only strengthen my work if I were stronger in it. I primarily work alongside marketing teams that provide all the content, but I want to feel like I could do that on my own if needed. It’s one of many items on my “things to learn” list 🙃
Do you have any advice for current college students?
Oh gosh, yes, I’ll try to not ramble too much.
First – and this comes from what I needed to hear and what helped me more than I thought it would – pick the major that you actually enjoy and not the one your parents think you should do, or the “you’ll make a lot of money if you work in that field” one. It’s so important that you actually like the work that you do! If I had stayed in the engineering college, I could have graduated just fine and gotten a job. I probably would be making way more money than I do as a designer, but I know that personally, I would have not enjoyed the 4 years of college coursework and the career that followed.
Second, connect with as many people in your industry as possible during college. I worked as a designer for 2.5 years in a department on campus, and my supervisor there ended up getting me my first full-time job. I had applied to an organization, but didn’t make it through the automated HR screening process. I mentioned to my supervisor in passing that I applied for a position at that organization without knowing that he knew someone that worked there. His recommendation got passed along to the hiring manager for the position, and they pulled my application from HR and brought me in for an interview. I didn’t know any of that had happened in the background until a few weeks after I started, and I almost couldn’t believe it.
Having a wide range of connections has also helped me tremendously in my role as a freelancer now. All of the projects I have are from people connecting me with people they know. I wouldn’t have been able to go from being laid off to having a full schedule of design work in just a few months without those relationships! You’ll meet so many people in internships, organizations, and jobs, and you never know how they may be able to connect you to an opportunity in the future, or how you might be able to do the same for them.
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