Article By: Piper Hale
Published: Nov 11, 2011
Zach McFarlen, from Waco, Texas, began working toward an M.A. in motion media through eLearning, and now attends SCAD Savannah.
Zach McFarlen first discovered his interest in motion graphics working in a video production position as a senior in college. By then, it was too late for him to abandon his studies of the languages, literature and culture of ancient Greece and Rome, so he finished his degree and began working in design and video production with almost no industry training.
Throughout his time in the field, Zach kept his ear to the ground for a program that could provide him with a stronger foundation for the work he was doing. He came very close to enrolling in several different programs over the years, but ultimately decided that none of them was quite right for him. After a few of these false starts, Zach heard that SCAD had a motion media master's program
and knew that he had finally found the right school.
Zach couldn't move to Savannah right away since his wife's career was keeping them both in Texas, so instead he began taking classes online through eLearning
. He took advantage of the flexible schedule provided by his online coursework to keep up with design work through his independent freelancing company, Blinding Light Productions
. "It was nice to be able to log in and do discussion board stuff in the middle of the night if I had to instead of being tied to a strict schedule," says Zach. "For people like me who are in unique circumstances, time-wise or location-wise, that's really beneficial."
He was able to transition to Savannah
after a quarter, and says that while he misses setting his own schedule through eLearning, he loves interacting with his peers and exchanging ideas face-to-face. "There are people here from all kinds of backgrounds," says Zach. "The program really caters to a range of experiences."
With several years spent in the industry, Zach is on the higher end of that range, but he says he still came into the program with huge gaps in his skill set-gaps he didn't even know he had until they were filled. "For example, concept generation isn't a process I'd had a lot of exposure to before," he says. "Learning about that whole process of ideation has been one of the most helpful things about SCAD."
Zach believes this emphasis on conceptual thinking will continue to be important after he leaves school. "We have a strong reputation within the motion industry because we are one of the few schools that does true motion design," says Zach. "I think that's why so many of the great firms come to SCAD looking to hire us. They know we have that focus. Just last year, I applied for an internship at VH1 and they said they couldn't interview me for five weeks. I emailed them back and said something about SCAD and then I got an email back that said, 'Oh, I went to SCAD! We'll interview you tomorrow!' And I got the internship."
As he has progressed through the curriculum, Zach has cultivated a sleek and imaginative design style. He has been recognized for his polished designs with two regional ADDYs, a gold SCADDY and a semi-finalist status in the Adobe Design Achievement Awards.
Zach is now working on his thesis, an exploration of typography in film. He is focusing on text that interacts with onscreen action, citing the movies "Zombieland" and "Stranger Than Fiction" as examples of movies that use this technique. He participated in commencement, where he was given the Outstanding Achievement Award, and will receive his degree after he completes his thesis. Shortly after he finished classes, Zach moved to Columbus, Ohio, to work as Senior Designer for marketing agency Resource Interactive.