City Lights Shine on Designer

by Jennifer A. Cline, writer/editor-One College Avenue. Photos courtesy of Austin Hoyt.

Austin D. Hoyt, ’06 graphic design, is embarking on success in New York. Having grown up in a sparsely populated area in southern Vermont, he had not considered working in the Big Apple – until he outgrew his first job out of college and decided to interview with a New York-based, freelance-staffing agency.

Austin Hoyt

After freelancing for seven months and learning the ropes on projects for such clients as the National Football League, HBO and Clinique Cosmetics, Hoyt landed his first full-time position in the city in late 2007 with Van Wagner Communications.

A junior art director graphic designer for the company, Hoyt’s graphic-design responsibilities run the gamut of branding, collateral material, billboard development, advertisements, e-mail “blasts” and sales photography. Among his more memorable projects have been incorporating the work of George Kalinsky, official photographer for Madison Square Garden, onto giant billboards.

A series of Times Square billboards, developed by Austin Hoyt to showcase the work of famed photographer George Kalinsky, feature Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix and Frank Sinatra.

“Most recently, I had been asked to set up a series of George’s famous photos that included Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Jimi Hendrix to go on three billboards in Times Square,” he said.

He’s also been kept busy by complete brand-development responsibilities for the Foot Locker College Hoops Tour, a basketball exhibition that traveled to 19 universities in February and March. Hoyt developed not only the brand logo, but also T-shirts, posters, floor graphics, basketball backboards and more.

The small-town transplant is also learning lessons about the lifestyle of the “The Capital of the World.”

“Living and working here in New York requires a constant energy that you must maintain every day,” Hoyt said. “New York, although tough at times, continues to be an amazing adventure for me … I had never planned on working on this grand of a stage in the job world, but now that I have been working in the city for the better part of 2 1/2 years, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said. ■

In Hoyt's Words

Since graduation from Penn College in 2006, I have been fortunate enough to come into many great experiences and successes as a junior art director graphic designer. Though it has been a tough road up to this point, full of life's letdowns and frustrations working as a designer, at the same time, my experiences have helped to shape me as a professional and as a person, much like Penn College and its faculty had during my four-year term.

The logo produced by Hoyt for all Foot Locker College Hoops Tour promotions.

Coming from an extremely small area in southern Vermont, where heavy snowfall and country roads are always common features, the opportunities for design and advertising are not as common, making the road to success all the more difficult.

My first break into the design profession came when I was hired at a small design and advertising agency in Suffern, N.Y., just after graduation from Penn College. I would become one of seven full-time employees working under an art director who was the only other designer. My responsibilities included Web development, logo branding, and magazine and brochure design that would contribute to the company's success in the local community.

It was an experience, in retrospect, through which I learned more about the profession in real-life settings and could apply certain experiences to the rest of my career, both positive and negative. The company had a few worthy aspects, including the quality of work it turned out to its local community of clients, but unfortunately, it fell short in many areas from the business side. Fortunately, I was able to apply life and aesthetic skills acquired from Penn College that allowed me to move forward with my career in uncertain times.

Upon leaving the agency in Suffern, I began working as a freelance designer in New York City. At the time, New York, N.Y., was a place I had never considered attempting to work in and live near. It always seemed too overwhelming and difficult to handle. All that changed entirely when I contacted a New York City-based staffing agency to set up an interview for work as a freelancer.

Van Wagner 3D is a new company development that involves advertising within video games. This ad ran in Sports Business Journal.

My first taste of freelancing came when I started working for an agency that handled most of the creative work for Samsung Electronics in New Jersey through my associated staffing agency. I was involved with creative directors, copywriters, editors and production artists alike; all of the key people helping guide the success of the agency. Many of my responsibilities included working on television and print advertisements for the NFL and a variety of Samsung television and cellular-phone print campaigns. I had come into a setting at Samsung that allowed me to observe and work around other professionals in the industry, much of what my previous company had lacked.

After my extensive time at Samsung, I continued my freelance work in New York and discovered several great agencies and design firms throughout the next seven months. The clients I was fortunate enough to design for included Madison Square Garden, Home Box Office, Scholastic, NBA, Charles Schwab, Hang Ten Clothing, Firebrand Television and Media, and Clinique Cosmetics. Working with these types of high-end clients under company art direction gave me a great perspective on how large agencies and design firms handle such a volume and demand for quality work on a daily and weekly basis.

Christmas 2007 came early for me when I finally landed my current full-time position with Van Wagner Communications in New York. I work as a junior art director graphic designer in a corporate setting and play an important role as a creative person contributing to the sales and marketing income of the company. My responsibilities include branding, collateral material inclusive of presentations and brochures, billboard development for various high-end clients, advertisements, e-mail blasts, sales photography throughout the city, and company Web development, just to name a few. I have also had the privilege to work with a very famous photographer named George Kalinsky, who is most known for his work with celebrities at Madison Square Garden. Our company promotes his work on some of our most popular billboards in New York. Most recently, I was asked to set up a series of George's famous photos that included Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Jimi Hendrix to go on three billboards in Times Square.

Van Wagner is one of the largest out-of-home outdoor advertising agencies in the country. We handle and own thousands of billboard properties, phone kiosks, specialty media applications, sports and entertainment venues, and many other forms of media space throughout New York City and several other locations in the United States and Canada.

Working at Van Wagner thus far has been an exciting and interesting experience for me. I have learned so much about many different respected industries leading me up to this point in my career, and it has provided a thirst for more as I move forward as a designer.

This year began with much doubt and anxiety across the nation and the world. It's no secret that the United States is in a recession that affects everyone globally. Though times are tough and jobs are difficult to get into, especially design and advertising, I have been fortunate enough to be employed at a successful company with only the very best sales and team employees alike, who know the outdoor industry and forecast issues involving outdoor advertising. So what are some things I've learned from all of the cutbacks and layoffs that affect our nation? A few major ones among many I have encountered.

Living and working here in New York requires constant energy that you must maintain every day. The cost of living, as many know, is much higher here, and for someone just starting out, it becomes difficult to keep a balance between paying bills and taking your girlfriend out to a nice dinner. One of the lessons I have learned is to live within your means and to not overspend for what you don't need. Because New York is monster, it becomes easy to get caught up in all the latest hype trends going on in the widespread community. You name it, it's here.

Another important lesson I have been fortunate enough to learn here is to become a go-to person in the workplace. Since I've started at Van Wagner, I have developed great relationships with people at the office and have become a popular go-to person for many different projects and favors. I constantly get e-mails and phone calls, from salespeople on the outdoor side of the company to requests from people on the sports side of the company. One important characteristic I consistently use as a designer and go-to person is the ability to be flexible with people. Being willing to adapt and change focuses on different projects has become an important asset to me and has been extremely beneficial to the work I complete each day.

January was an exciting month for me this year. My company is constantly growing and changing for the best. We have become more and more prevalent here in New York and in Boston, along with many of our other locations throughout the nation. I was kept busy all January with brand development for the Foot Locker College Hoops Tour. I had been working with the account manager in our sports division on this project from start to finish. The College Hoops Tour is a basketball exhibition event that travels to many schools around the United States (Penn State University included) and gets each school's community of students to participate in each of the tour's events. Foot Locker and BIC were the two primary sponsors of the tour, which involved developing a brand logo, courtside A-frame advertisements, T-shirts, posters and fliers for each school, floor graphics, basketball backboards and event-space branding. Each event on the tour was an opportunity for students to challenge one another to a three-point shootout and slam-dunk contest and enter for many giveaways. It was an experience that was exciting to see develop from start to finish and was well received by each school as a positive and exciting extracurricular activity.

New York, although tough at times, continues to be an amazing adventure for me every day. I had never planned on working on this grand of a stage in the job world, but now that I have been working in the city for the better part of two and a half years, I wouldn't have it any other way. I recently moved from West Chester County, where I had been commuting in and out by train every day, to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with my girlfriend.

Penn College will always be an important chapter in my life that prepared me with the very best knowledge, faculty and staff it has to offer students. I intend staying in touch with Penn College and its faculty as I move forward in years to come.