The Recent Grad Report: Brett Tabolt

The Recent Grad Report:

Brett Tabolt

Joining our previous "Recent Grad Report" designers on the SPD-U "Real World" panel is Brett Tabolt. Read on to hear his story and then join us Monday, March 14 to hear more from him and the others about finding the perfect internship and first job.

2008 graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
BFA in graphic design

Tell us a little about your education and any magazine-related school activities you're involved with?
While in school I spent four semesters working on Ninth Letter Literary and Arts Journal, a collaborative arts and literary project produced by the university's graduate creative writing program and School of Arts and Design.

Where are you now and what are some of your typical tasks?
I currently work as the assistant art director at Surface magazine in New York. My duties include contracting photographers, editing photos, producing the layout, developing type treatments, coordinating production and pre-press with the printer, and conducting press checks. Additionally, we just completed a redesign of the magazine. This called for a new grid, new styles, and a new logo--which included font research--and, finally, generating a new aesthetic for the layouts.

What other jobs and/or internships did you have before this?
I have freelanced for MTWTF, Triboro Design, Bureau TM, and The New York Times Magazine. With the exception of The New York Times, the bulk of my past experience has been working for small design studios. What makes working at a magazine different is that a wider breadth of work comes your way at a studio. Working for a magazine is much more about finding ways to use a set of constraints to create an interesting--but consistent--aesthetic within a constant medium.

Not going to school in or near NYC can make the job-hunt a little trickier since you haven't been here all along to make contacts and intern while in school. Can you tell us about how dealt with that and how you got your internship/jobs?
During my last year at Illinois, a friend in New York gave me a list of eight or so graphic designers in the city. I contacted all of them and requested informational interviews. I got meetings with five from that list. One of them was Glen Cummings of MTWTF. The meeting turned into freelance work, and the rest of my work has all come from networking off of that original list of eight contacts.

What's the coolest thing you've gotten to do so far?
Being a huge fan of 2x4, it was amazing to work one-on-one with Glen at MTWTF. At Bureau TM, I worked on LCD Soundsystem's "This is Happening" packaging. I'm a fan of the band, so that was a really enjoyable project, too.

What do you think is the most important lesson you've learned so far?
Establishing positive relationships. And maintaining them.

Do you do any freelance or personal work outside of the office?
Yes, both. Personal work is extremely important to me; it is a space where I can explore and experiment. My ultimate goal is to have my own office, so I want to spend time now developing an approach. Hopefully all of my personal work will start to define what that approach is.

As magazine designers, we're all looking for great typefaces that send the right message for our designs. Do you have any current favorites?
Greta by Typotheque.

Come hear more from Brett at SPD-U on March 14. And find more of him online:

Are you a recent grad who's managed to score steady paying work and feel like sharing some of your newfound wisdom? Or maybe you know someone who has and deserves a little shout-out? Then let us know! Email us suggestions at
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