Lauren Salgado absent-mindedly checked for email on her phone last summer during a break from her job at Marketplace West. What she found was the answer to her future.
“It’s really scary to apply to the graphic design program at Oregon State,” she explains. “When I applied, there were 75 people applying, and only 25 make it in.”
The news that she’d been accepted caused a kind of relief and excitement that had her celebrating in the quiet, near-empty dining hall.
“It was motivating,” Salgado says. “It was a reaffirmation that I’ll be able to do what I love for the rest of my life.”
Salgado’s been making art since she was young. She says her mother probably knew she was going to be an artist before she did. Her mother enrolled her in every local art camp she could find, and Salgado took every art class available at Wilsonville High School.
Before attending Oregon State, Salgado participated in JumpstART, a summer precollege visual and performing arts workshop sponsored by the School of Arts and Communication in the College of Liberal Arts. The program is designed for young artists ages 15 to 18 who have demonstrated heightened interest in visual and performing arts and seek an opportunity to increase their skills.
“We took two classes a day for three weeks and spent time here on campus,” Salgado says. “As soon as I was done with that I said, ‘I have to come back.’ This campus is so beautiful.”
Salgado has found a home away from home with her cohort in the College of Business’ graphic design program and her job at MU 204, the Memorial Union’s graphic design studio. There, she works with organizations on campus like Memorial Union Retail Food Services, University Housing and Dining, the Center for Civic Engagement and others.
Salgado’s designs can be seen on posters for the Oregon State Craft Center, TV slides around the Memorial Union and on dining hall and café menus around campus.
“It’s great real-world experience for me, because after graduation, I’ll be working in that kind of a setting, handling my own projects and meeting my own deadlines,” she says.
Salgado says it’s also fun to receive feedback from her friends.
“Especially when you get positive feedback from other students who aren’t designers, that’s even more helpful,” she says.
Salgado also gets feedback online in the form of Instagram likes. She uses the smartphone photo and video-sharing app to share her design work with more than 6,000 followers.
“When I started my Instagram account, I wasn’t taking it that seriously, but when I got to college, I realized that other people were doing such cool work with their Instagram,” she says. “You can find careers and make meaningful connections that way.”
Salgado has found Instagram to be a motivating community for artists and designers. She often reaches out to people she admires and hears back quickly.
“People are so friendly and willing to help,” she says. “It’s motivating to see the likes and comments. Sometimes people tell me I’ve inspired them.”
Salgado often features her embroidery projects on Instagram, and she sells them on the peer-to-peer e-commerce website, Etsy. She also sells hand-drawn stickers and other items on Redbubble, another creative community and online marketplace.
The fine arts minor says she wants to keep those kinds of projects separate from her goal of becoming a graphic designer.
“I prefer the functionality of graphic design,” Salgado says. “It’s fun to do artwork on the side, but I think graphic design is better for me mentally. I want to do something that helps other people with their own businesses and careers.”
Salgado plans to graduate in 2017 and hopes to return to the Portland area because she finds her home city inspiring.
“I’d love to work for another studio, but after a few years of experience it would be ideal to be my own boss and do freelance work,” she says. “I really believe that you should do what you love and love what you do, and I’m so lucky I found a passion for graphic design.”