Industry Insights: Jose Velasquez, Graphic Designer at The Walt Disney Company

Jose Velasquez has been a designer with Disney for over seven years. He was kind enough to participate in our Industry Insights series, and we interviewed him about his career and views on the industry at large. 


Can you briefly describe your current role at Disney?         

J: So right now, our group is doing in-house creative, and we cover all aspects of the corporate site. We have a lot of internal clients, and if they need a logo done, or a presentation, we’re kind of their go-to group. We’re not just designers – we have writers, videographers, members of the marketing team…all for the in-house group.

Our main client is D23, so a lot of the work that I do is very public-facing. Our other event that we do is the D23 Expo, our big event in Anaheim that we do every other year. It’s a good thing for me too, because it’s both internal and external facing, so I kind of get to work in both worlds.

Yeah, that’s gotta be an interesting combination.

J: Exactly! Another good thing is that we get to work in a lot of print, digital, merchandise design…it’s not all the same thing.

What are some traits that you feel are necessary to be a successful graphic designer?

J: I think that the number one thing is the ability to take criticism. Especially with corporate design, you kind of just have to read the client and your creative director…everybody has their own style, and while you can initially go with whatever your gut feeling is, ultimately whatever the client wants is what’s right.

When I’m designing, I’m always analyzing. Before I even get started, I’m thinking “who’s seeing this?” You always have to keep in mind who this project is for.

I think passion and drive are big things too. If you don’t have passion, you’re not going to produce the best product. That’s not to say that every project that I work on in my career is necessarily something I really want to do, but you still have to have the passion and drive to succeed and produce the best designs.

You were talking a little bit about how you analyze and research your audience and what they are going to want. How do you stay up to date on the latest design trends?

J: I think networking is a really good thing. Not just going online and checking things out, but really being involved in the industry. I also feel like social media is a big help right now…it’s a great way to showcase your own work and see what other people in the industry are doing.

And it’s not just always about the latest trends. I believe in looking into the past, you know, into retro archival stuff. If there’s a logo that I’m designing, I’m always researching past designs from different time frames.

How do you refuel creatively?

J: I love traveling. It doesn’t have to be out of the country – even just a weekend trip helps. Just being out, checking out signage and billboards…obviously graphic design is everywhere, and no matter where you go, you can find inspiration. Even if it’s just an interesting menu or a sign at a grocery store, someone took the time to design that. I always take photos, and if I come back from a long vacation, I try to log it, so that I have that inspiration if I need it.

You were talking before about how you like to look at previous trends. What’s been the biggest change in the industry since you started your career?

J: Well, a big one is print, obviously, with everything going to digital. We had an internal news publication for employees, and about a year and a half ago, we stopped the whole print publication and converted that to a digital platform. Seeing that progress has had a huge impact on my career, because I started working on the publication as soon as I got to Disney.

Also, now a lot of employers want designers to learn programs like After Effects. With social media and the Internet, there’s a perception that still images are kind of boring now. If you have a choice between a still image and a moving image, you’re going to want to click on the moving image. Our attention spans are just shorter now.

If you could pick a tool or a command in Adobe to use in real life, what would it be?

J: That is amazing. The “command+z”, “undo”, “previous command”…I feel like I need those in everyday life.

Yeah, as designers, we definitely get spoiled because we use those all the time.

J: Right! I’ll mess up on something and be like “wait, ugh, I can’t just go back”.

What’s a piece of advice that you’ve received that you’d like to pass on?

J: I feel like when we’re in school, we have a tendency to gear towards our favorite programs…when I was in college, I loved Illustrator, and thought, “I’m the King of Illustrator”…but when you actually get into your career, being able to be diverse in all of the programs makes you stronger as a designer. If you’re sending a poster in Photoshop for print, and it needs to be billboard-size, that’s not going to be the right way to send that. Being diverse in all of the creative suite programs and being able to use the right tools is an important lesson that I would want to know if I was in school right now.

What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on?

J: So our public-facing publication is 23 Magazine, which is a quarterly magazine that goes out to gold members. We have a section called “By the Numbers”, and they needed an infographic for the celebration of 50 years of the Pirates of the Caribbean boat attraction. I worked on that and based it off of a pirate map, and I was able to do all of the illustrations and kind of just make it my own. After it was published in 23 Magazine, they ended up republishing it, like, five times. So I kind of felt like “wow, this is my viral piece.” First it was internally published, and then they used it again at the D23 Expo 2017. It was totally huge, and I was very excited about that piece.

What new advancement in technology do you think is going to impact the industry going forward?

J: 3-D printing is a huge thing. Now, anyone can design something and just print it out. Obviously right now, the printers are thousands of dollars, but just wait to see what happens once they get cheaper.

Jose, thank you, it’s been great talking to you.

J: Thank you.

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