From Art University Plymouth’s Illustration Course to Graphic Designer in the Golden State: Meet Sasha Seraia
31-year-old Sasha Seraia graduated from Arts University Plymouth’s BA (Hons) Illustration course with First Class Honours in 2014. Originally from the San Francisco Bay area, Sasha has since carved a niche for herself in the competitive world of graphic design. Seven years after moving to the UK and graduating, Sasha now works back in the Bay area as a graphic designer at AJ Tutoring.
Sasha said, “While I’d originally planned to attend college in America, my family moved to England so I was forced to rapidly adjust my plans. I hadn’t even heard of A-levels before! In all my research, Arts University Plymouth (then called Plymouth College of Art) stood out to me for its illustration course. It gave me the impression that they wanted to celebrate students’ inherent, individual styles rather than mould me into a specific type of artist.”
“I appreciated the fact that it was an arts university first and foremost―even more so that it was on the smaller side. Perhaps this is a result of an American perspective, but I'm wary of studying art at schools with wide ranges of degrees, as I'd be concerned with there being enough funding for the art programs.”
“I’d come from a school that had prioritised academics over artistic pursuits so to finally be in a space that wasn’t forcing me to write essays every week and instead encouraged the sole study of art was frankly a breath of fresh air.”
Spring is Upon Us, 2022, by Sasha Seraia
Currently Sasha works for AJ Tutoring, an online tutoring company based in California, as a graphic designer. “Where I live it’s quite difficult getting a foot in the door as a working artist, so I originally started as an office manager. I essentially created my job when it became apparent that the amount of design work I’d been doing in between admin tasks warranted its own role. I wear many hats, but I primarily format educational materials, collaborate with committees to create new ones, manage and organise our materials, create branded materials and work with vendors to print materials.”
“On top of granting me real world design experience, I’ve been lucky that this job has allowed me to build upon and cultivate other skills, such as editing and writing. This comes in handy for catching typos when making hundred-page-long workbooks from scratch! Moreover, due to the sheer number of materials I work with, I’ve gained the know-how to stay organised and retain a large amount of information while actively working on long term projects.”
Embark, 2021, by Sasha Seraia
Specialising in editorial and sequential illustration, Sasha enjoys incorporating storytelling into her work, bringing tales to life with a simple yet vibrant style.
“I struggle with working neatly when it comes to traditional art so I use Adobe InDesign for most of my everyday work, but I use Illustrator for creating my art. Working digitally allows me the space to experiment with things such as composition and layers without having to worry about making mistakes that are difficult to undo.”
Pumpkin Clock, 2021, by Sasha Seraia
“Understandably, much of what I do now relates to education, but we have monthly ‘themed posters’ that allow me far more creativity. My coworkers like to tease me for constantly working with different blues and black and I love playing around with light (although this isn’t the easiest thing to do in Illustrator!). I’m a giant nerd so I tend to throw in references from my favourite games and movies here and there. I’m undoubtedly inspired by them but the references are usually vague enough that only I know what they represent, which is hilariously satisfying to me!”
For those looking to break into the industry, Sasha offers sage advice. “Be prepared to make concessions and compromises, but avoid working for free if you can help it. If you’re planning to go freelance, learn bookkeeping and how to manage invoices - or at the very least find an app that will do it for you! Oh, and do your best to be patient when dealing with frustrating clients. Even if, or perhaps especially when their taste in design does not align with yours!”
Mel Brown, Senior Lecturer on BA (Hons) Illustration and Assistant Dean, said "Sasha always showed such confidence in image making and we’ve loved seeing her work progress over the years. Back in 2014 we selected Sasha’s work to be published by our in-house publishing venture Pylon Press. You can visit our online archive to view Sasha’s book, ‘Moon’s Mate’, a wordless narrative about a pair of companions who can only be together during the new moon."
A limited number of Clearing places are still available on undergraduate courses at Arts University Plymouth, starting as late as October 2023. If you want to begin a BA (Hons) degree or Foundation Diploma in Art & Design this year, call Arts University Plymouth on +44 (0)1752 203402 or Whatsapp on 07722 744184.