It was 2007 when five students and art instructors Joe Bautista’01 (graphic design) and Dave Moon ’89 (graphic design) crammed into room 410 of the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communications. In that room a new door of opportunity opened for California State University, Northridge students to gain knowledge and experience in graphic design for their futures.
Nearly a decade later, 4V1SC0M Center for Communications has grown stronger than ever by opening its studio doors to dozens of dedicated students each semester and leaving behind a legacy of successful alumni working in major design firms.
Moon, founder and creative director of the center, said he was inspired to offer a hands-on approach to graphic design for students at CSUN because of his past as a Korean immigrant who had few opportunities available to him before coming to the United States.
“The main thing I learned from my parents was to work my butt off,” Moon said candidly. “They taught me that by working hard you get opportunities. We have a lot of gifted, talented students, and a lot of students who are first generation. I observed early on that even talented individuals can be impeded by people with money and titles, and this always felt wrong to me.”
Moon also gave credit to the CSUN staff and faculty who provided him with opportunities to grow as a part of the campus community since the 1980s.
“I received some opportunities, too, by intentional or unintentional angels,” Moon said. “People have given me opportunities without really understanding how much they gave me. Like simply believing in me enough to encourage me to go to graduate school, move to a faculty position, then a staff position. They literally set me up for opportunities.
“How do you forget that? That ties so deeply with how I grew up. I want to do the same thing for people here. 4V1SC0M was created for students.”
With students in mind, Moon brought a former pupil of his, Bautista, on board for the program as a fellow creative director and recruiter. Bautista’s position as a faculty member in the graphic design department aided him in getting the first five students on board, and his commitment to teaching allowed him to work as an educator with a hands-on and real-world approach to graphic design at CSUN.
“It was a way to fuse two things that I really have passion about, which are design and education,” Bautista said. “Why not take the learning environment to the next level? That’s not to say that the classroom isn’t rewarding, but there is another level of rewarding experience when you see students meeting clients and taking ownership of their projects.”
The wide network that Moon and Bautista brought to their 4V1SC0M team has afforded numerous opportunities for students to work with professional clients as part of their design portfolios before graduating from CSUN.
Moon explained that the opportunities are not “handouts,” requiring vigorous dedication to achieve success before leaving the program.
“I have very high standards, demands and expectations,” Moon said. “Students have to do more. You have to be more dedicated. You have to prove yourself to get recognized, and show people around the world there are a lot more people like you that deserve the opportunities.”
Bautista added that 4V1SC0M’s goal was to get the teams excellent experience to take with them when they leave.
“The ultimate goal is to get them in and get them out,” he said. “We want to send them out for interviews and to call our connections. They give so much to 4V1SC0M. It’s our responsibility to give back to them. We are going to provide them the leads for job opportunities.”
With his background as a designer for the Santa Monica-based firm Hamagami Carroll, whose client base includes the creators of The Sims and Skylanders video games, Bautista used his connections to send 4V1SC0M team members out to interview for positions.
“We send Hamagami Carroll two to three student designers every year,” he said. “They don’t all stay there, but a lot of their designers are CSUN grads.”
Moon is proud of the success of 4V1SC0M alumni and the program’s ability to provide it for them.
“Give students an opportunity and they will surprise you,” he said. “You discover what a terrible waste it is if a person wasn’t given an opportunity just because he or she wasn’t in the right position for it.”