Jan. 11, 2016

Alumni Spotlight: Jason Esteban, BFA’97 (Art)

Arts alumni are an accomplished crew. They have great advice for students and fellow graduates, and know that arts degrees teach skills that are sought-after in the professional environment.
Alumnus Jason Esteban stands in front of a pixellated portrait
Jason Esteban, BFA’97 (Art)

Jason Esteban graduated with a BFA in Art in 1997. As a graphic designer he has worked with a range of clients including IKEA and VANOC, the design committee for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Jason is currently Art & Design Director at banter grace & lollipop, a branding, design & communications studio based in Vancouver.

You can learn more about Jason's work at jasonxesteban.com

What is your favourite University of Calgary memory?

Well, I met my wife at UCalgary, so it would have to be related to that of course! She was a science student, and I was an art student. Her residence roommate was a fellow art student and she played matchmaker. I lived at home when I attended UCalgary, but having a girlfriend and good friend living in res gave me the opportunity to see what living in residence was like. I loved hanging out there in the evenings and between classes.

What was your favourite campus hang out spot?

There was an extraordinary grad student in the art department named Dean Smale. Dean’s studio was always filled with interesting music (often played by Dean himself, accompanied by his guitar), amazing art, and lively conversation & discussion. To this day, I still consider Dean one of the biggest influences in my understanding and appreciation of art. Dean’s studio was easily my favourite hang out spot.

If you could give one piece of advice to a student completing the same degree that you did, what would it be?

The UCalgary art department (at least at the time I did my BFA), is a very conceptual school. Much of the instruction is focused on the bigger picture aspects of art and art appreciation, as opposed to practical technical teaching. I am, and will forever be a lover of art, and I credit the UCalgary with really opening my mind in this regard. That said, there are many professors at UCalgary with incredible technical and practical skills, and I don’t think I took enough advantage of having that amazing resource so close to me every day for all those years. My advice to students doing their BFA would be to ensure that they squeeze every ounce of information, resource, and help from their instructors. You’ll never have an opportunity like that again, and you need to make the most of it!

How has your career evolved?

I took the skills I learned in my BFA and applied them to a job as a graphic designer at IKEA. Over 10 years, I grew as a designer, eventually working in multiple locations across the globe, planning the graphic design aspects of new IKEA stores. My experience at IKEA, working in graphic design applied to the physical environment of the store, helped get me a position on the design team at VANOC (the Organizing committee for 2010 Olympic Games)—a truly once-in-a-lifetime position. I was on a small team that collaboratively designed the Look of the Games. It was easily the most rewarding collaborative creative experience I’ve ever had. After the games, I continued expanding my design focus, and honed my digital chops working for Vancouver tech company Hootsuite. The culmination of all these varied design skills led me to my current position at banter grace & lollipop, where I have the opportunity to apply them all with an exciting and diverse group of clients, continuing my work as a designer, but also working more in an Art Direction capacity.

What is the best thing about your job?

Currently, I actually do most of my work from home, going into the studio as needed for client meetings and creative sessions. Both my children are home learners, and as such, my “colleagues”. While I’m doing my work, they’re doing theirs (my son is working on fractions across the table from me as I write this!). I love being able to spend more time with my family, while doing work that I really enjoy.

How did your arts degree help you get to where you are now/your current career?

More than anything, I believe my experience at the UCalgary art department opened my mind. And having an open mind really helps get you places. On a practical side, I believe that having a fine arts degree makes me quite unique in the design world. I have many colleagues who are quite uncomfortable outside of a computer. And, while my primary output is digital, I almost always fall back to using my hands and paper, and pencils or ink or paint as part of my design process. Those abilities help make my work process more fluid, but also often imbue it with a more personal, hand-made feel—something that is more and more rare in the increasing digital world. Again, because the focus of the UCalgary art department is more conceptual than it is formal, I was easily able to take the things I learned and apply them to a related, but different field. My UCalgary degree didn’t trap me with a very specific set of skills, limiting my career options to a handful of possibilities, instead it gave me the foundation to apply that knowledge in whatever direction I chose to go.

Do you have any other thoughts or memories you would like to share?

I saw on another Alumni profile that its still referred to as the “Art Parkade” which is a term that will forever make me happy. UCalgary is unquestionably the only place in the world with a building called that. Enjoy it!