The Recent Grad Report:Travis Bonilla

The Recent Grad Report:

Travis Bonilla

Next in our newest series is another familiar name. Maybe you've met SPD Student Member Travis Bonilla at previous student events, or maybe you recognize his name from our recent "New Work: Student Publications" profile where we featured his student magazine SMH Magazine. You'll also find him on our "The Real World" panel at SPD-U ... even though he hasn't actually graduated yet, he's managed to snag some impressive internships at Esquire and Complex, and even an official job at Essence!

Read on to learn more about Travis and what he's learned so far about the "real world" of magazines. And then don't forget to join us Monday, March 14 to hear more from him, Nicole and many others whom we'll be featuring this week and next.  Bring all your questions, they'll be ready to answer!

expected June 2011 graduate of New York City College of Technology - CUNY
Bachelors in Communication Design, with a minor in web design

Tell us a little about your education and any magazine-related school activities you're involved with?
Though my minor is web design, early in my academic career I fell in love with editorial design, specifically magazines. My college didn't have many publication design classes, so I basically learned the craft of editorial on my own by looking at magazines and SPD annuals. But when I did have the chance to take a publication design class, I without hesitation enrolled.
I did work on a publication while in college. I was the Design Director of our department's magazine, called SMH Magazine. I worked with a team of other students to produce the magazine. We all were designers, but we also wrote all the content of the magazine which added a personal touch to the stories and the design. It was a fun project to work on. It taught me overall how to manage and work with a team to produce something great.

Where are you now and what are some of your typical tasks?
I am currently working at Essence Magazine as a Web Production Designer. My typical duties are creating mock and prototype iterations in HTML/CSS, and designing Photoshop mockups for webpages, email blasts and web banners. 

What other jobs and/or internships did you have before this?
I previously held internship positions at Esquire and Complex. What I did at those magazines is completely different from what I'm doing now at Essence, yet in some ways it's also very similar. At Esquire I was working only on the print side of the magazine. This included typical intern duties like updating the wall and InDesign layouts, but I also got to design a few pages that ran in the magazine which I was excited to do because I was only an intern. I also got the chance to work on a few designs for their iPad app.
Over at Complex it was a mixture of editorial and designing for the web. I was working a bit on the print side of the magazine but mostly worked on creating images for their web site, in addition to the typical art department duties like updating the wall and InDesign layouts.
I also worked briefly at as a Junior Designer and at a weekly neighborhood newspaper as a Designer/Art Director.

We hear that we -- SPD Student Outreach -- were somewhat instrumental in the first internship you got. Can you tell us about that and how you got any other jobs?
I did get my first internship at Complex with a little help from SPD. I went on the Fall Pub Crawl in 2009 where I got the great opportunity to take a tour around Complex. There I met a designer whom is an alumni of my college. I stayed connected with him and eventually became an intern after applying for the position and showing my portfolio.
I got my first job at a weekly Brooklyn newspaper through a professor at my college. I was taking a typography class and my professor had an opening at the newspaper she was working at. She noticed my interest in editorial design and my strong typographic skills so she hired me while I was still in the class.

What's the coolest thing you've gotten to do so far?
I think the coolest thing so far is landing a full-time job before graduating. Your whole college career leads up to graduation to then look for a job in your field. I was fortunate enough to be able to begin my career by interning at very high profile magazines. Networking played a big part in helping me land a full-time job. I think the key for anyone to land a job before they graduate or right after is to be committed to what you want to do. Go to SPD events, go to talks, meet the people who are in the business who can help you and give you advice on what to do and how to do it. Also, meeting George Lois at SPD@FIT talk was pretty cool!

What do you think is the most important lesson you've learned so far?
The most important lesson that I've learned so far is that you need to know how to back up your designs. Meaning, if you design something great, you need to know how to talk about it and "sell" it. Although you're working for a magazine, you still have to pitch your idea to your "clients" which at most times is your Creative Director or the editors. In magazines, there are a lot of hands in the pot. From my own experience to watching what was going on at my internships, everyone is involved on the design of the layout.

Do you do any freelance or personal work outside of the office?
I do freelance design work for Marvel Comics. They have a magazine called Spotlight that I do editorial design for. It's a fun side thing I do, and now since I'm doing web design at my job, this keeps me on my toes as far as editorial design goes. I also do freelance work for small clients where I work on branding, packaging and web design.

As magazine designers, we're all looking for great typefaces that send the right message for our designs, and we're exposed to tons of great illustrators and photographers. Do you have any current favorites?
RIght now I am really loving Didoni. I'm currently using it on a project for school. As for illustrators, one of my favorites is Jessica Hische. I got the chance to meet her when the design club I am a part of brought her in for our speaker series, "Meet The Pros".

Come hear more from Travis at SPD-U on March 14. And find him elsewhere online:
TWITTER:  @travisbonilla
BLOG: (A blog that I created showcasing magazine design and anything design-related.)

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
  • So awesome that our Pub Crawl helped you get that internship, Travis, and congrats on your graduation this June!

blog comments powered by Disqus