Article By: Piper Hale
Published: Oct 25, 2011
Robert P. Hernandez, from Waterville, Maine, earned an M.A. in illustration design through SCAD eLearning in 2010.
Robert P. Hernandez has been working as a graphic designer for several years, both for newspapers like The Los Angeles Times and for his current employer, Colby College. Newspapers and colleges demanded very different skills, according to Robert. "At the newspaper, there's a certain rush just at the end of the day, meeting the deadline," he says. "But working in higher education, that urgency is taken away, so you're able to craft your design or your idea in much more depth than when you just have one day to get something done."
Between these drastically different work environments, Robert did find one skill that overlapped; in each position, he faced an increasing demand for a more artistic touch in graphic designs - a demand Robert was eager to meet. "I've always loved to draw," he says. "As a graphic designer, I've always personalized my designs to each project and tried to take it much further than just type and photographs." His innovative and illustrative design style has been recognized with numerous awards, including a Best Front Page Design award from the Society of Professional Journalists and a UCDA Award of Excellence for his design work for Colby College's alumni magazine.
As Robert pushed his designs further to include more elements of fine art, he eventually hit a point where he was no longer growing as an artist. He then began to look into graduate programs. "I was really drawn to SCAD's illustration design program
. This program is the best of both worlds for me," Robert says. "It allows me to grow as a graphic designer and an illustrator at the same time." He was also able to complete his degree through eLearning
and remain in his position as senior graphic designer at Colby College. In his second quarter, Robert needed this flexibility in his schedule more than ever when he and his wife had their second child. "I could do class work at night once I got home and got the kids in bed," says Robert. "That was my time to study."
Although Robert chose eLearning for the convenience, he says it provided some other unexpected benefits, such as the emphasis on writing in the curriculum. Because Robert never considered himself a strong writer, he initially viewed the writing requirements as a disadvantage of the program. Instead of holding him back, however, his writing skills improved dramatically as Robert completed the coursework. "I'm able to put into words the way a design will look and feel, or my intentions," Robert explains. "That comes across great when you're dealing with clients. You're able to communicate on a much higher level."
Submitting his homework electronically also taught him how to turn his ink-and-paper and watercolor illustrations into high-quality digital images, a tricky process that has proven useful to him. "Even when you spend hours and hours working on an illustration, if you can't scan that in well or photograph it and color correct it, it's going to look horrible," Robert says.
While at SCAD, Robert worked on projects far outside the range of the kinds of work already padding his portfolio. He created a brand for a coffee company; designed illustration layouts compatible with print, online and mobile media; and, with the help of his friend, programmer Ben Greeley, created a GPS-based iPhone app targeted toward hungry tourists and other diners in Maine looking for the best local lobster restaurants. These experiences have challenged him both as a graphic designer and an illustrator, and Robert says his most recent artwork demonstrates how much he has grown in both fields. "The quality of work that I'm putting out now is far superior to the quality it was before I started at SCAD," Robert says. "My work seems to have a sense of authority and confidence to it now. You can really see that in illustration, whether someone's confident in the strokes they make or in the colors they choose."
In his work at Colby College, Robert now incorporates more illustrations into his designs. He even considers himself primarily an illustrator now rather than a graphic designer. In addition to his full-time work, Robert plans to seek freelance illustration jobs to further his artistic development, and will continue to partner with Ben to develop new media projects.
View Robert's online portfolio.