AG CAREER PROFILES: WHAT DOES AN AG GRAPHIC DESIGNER DO?

Sharon Dodd began her career with Illinois Farm Bureau fifteen years ago in September of 2000.  She is a multi-talented individual with a passion for visual communication.

DEIDRA: How did you become who you are today—what did you do to get here?

6-9-16Dodd (Newton)_Sharon 2x3 11 (1)SHARON: I didn’t have an Agriculture background.  I worked at Kruger Marketing in Champaign before applying to Illinois Farm Bureau.  I worked hard to get where I am.  I paid my way through college, and I learned how competitive graphic design really is.  I worked as an Art Director, Ad Layout Artist, and a Typesetter for the Daily Vidette, a student newspaper at ISU.  I was an art major and a print management minor.  I did a lot of “spec” art, and I focused on the marketing side of the newspaper.  When I worked with Kreuger, I learned a lot about agriculture.  During meetings I would sit and listen to everything, absorbing it all.  I didn’t realize until later how much all of that would really help.

DEIDRA: What are some of the challenges and some of the rewards you face on a typical day?

SHARON: The rewards are the people in agriculture.  I like being a voice and an advocate for agriculture.  I like seeing results, seeing people smile from my work.  The challenge is that there is a lot of communication.  We’re trying to change legislative issues and the perception of agriculture.  It’s hard to see results and it can feel overwhelming.  We have to constantly keep putting that voice out there—creating and communicating agriculture.

DEIDRA: What are some of your favorite tools of the trade?

SHARON: I like Mac computers and the Adobe Creative Suite.  Photoshop is my all time favorite, and then second is InDesign.  I use Dreamweaver and other web tools, but they aren’t my favorite.  Photography is a huge inspiration.

DEIDRA: When drafting a project design, can you describe the process you go through to come up with your solution?

ag_graphic_designerSHARON: The first step is getting the content together.  If there is a marketing person involved, I really like to get the content and get a feel for how it’s being laid out.  Who am I talking to?  What is my point?  I like to be in the reader’s shoes.  How can I engage them in a brochure or a social media post?  I am a common sense designer, and I don’t like confusion.

After getting the content, I need to find out what the theme is.  I like to sit on a project for about 24 hours.  When you let your brain process you would be surprised what the next day brings in.  When I get a layout started, sometimes I will do a rough [draft] but won’t do the entire thing.  I will communicate with the marketing people and see their reactions, work with them for corrections, and try to get the right design for the project.

When I make a concept, I try to look for anything that can help.  I’m not afraid to ask questions to get the right idea, and I am comfortable drafting a concept in person.  I feel like a channel between the people and I have a good idea of what they are thinking and communicating.

DEIDRA: What would you say has been one of your biggest accomplishments as a graphic designer?

SHARON: The next generation excites me, they are savvy and in it together; I am excited about young leaders and “Ag in the Classroom.”  I know there are legislative issues, but I feel like I am making a difference here.

DEIDRA: What kind of advice would you give to an aspiring graphic designer?

SHARON: The number one thing is to be a good communicator and a good listener.  If you’re negative, or if people can’t brainstorm with you, or if you are afraid of change then it will set you back.  You need to be adaptable because technology is constantly changing.  The second thing is you have to be creative.  If advertising, photography, or art inspires you, if it’s driving you, then all you need is to communicate.

Are you considering a career in agriculture?
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Deidra Sonnemaker
Graphic Design Intern

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