As a Senior Art Director at Time magazine in New York City, MSU alumna Carrie Gee’s work is seen by millions of people around the world, and she credits Michigan State University for giving her the necessary skills that helped propel her career and which fuel her job on a daily basis.
“The professors I had set the bar high and expected us to have ideas and then continue to expand upon them,” said Gee, who received dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Studio Art and Journalism with a focus in Graphic Design. “That’s been really helpful for me because in my daily run of things, I have to push myself. I have to keep asking, ‘what else can I add?’ And oftentimes, ‘what can I take away?’ That constant editing process, I got from Michigan State. I did really good work while I was there and that comes through on a daily basis for me now.”
MSU and her time at The State News also taught Gee how to create something out of nothing.
“When you have a story that doesn’t have anything and people come to you and say, ‘we need ideas,’ I already knew how to make something out of nothing because you start with a blank canvas in every class,” she said.
At Time, Gee says she thinks of herself as a project manager, but in a very creative way.
“It’s my job, obviously, to design things, commission illustrations, work with the photo editors, but I also have a unique opportunity to be part of the conversations about planning projects, finding the best visual solutions for how we present stories, and even what kind of content we can add to elevate stories and really connect with our readers,” Gee said.
With her specialty being typography and template design, Gee tells stories visually, and when she works on a project, she lives by the rule that the story is paramount to everything else.
In today’s digital age, Gee considers all environments and how her designs can transform into other things, asking herself with each project, “how can I build something that works well static, yet can be taken apart and turned into other things.”
Many of the projects Gee works on at Time are closely guarded secrets until published. One such project that she recently worked on was the Time 100 issue, which consists of Time’s 100 most influential pioneers, artists, leaders, titans, and icons of 2017.
“You’re working on a project where people trust you to keep the information secret, whether it’s Person of the Year or Time 100, that information can’t be leaked,” Gee said. “It’s something our brand holds very dear and takes very seriously. Time is such an iconic brand in the publication industry and we have to respect that secrecy.”
That constant editing process, I got from Michigan State. I did really good work while I was there and that comes through on a daily basis for me now.
When Gee first came to Michigan State University, she started out as a Journalism major, but later discovered a different way of telling stories.
“As a Journalism major, I wanted to tell stories and then found I could add art into that being a graphic designer, that was really special for me because I often did art on the side,” Gee said. “Getting into the Studio Art program was wonderful because I learned color theory and composition; I was able to take graphic design, drawing, and painting and just figure out how to mix colors and work through conceptual ideas to get visual solutions.”
Gee advises students to keep an open mind as well and to try as much as possible when exploring different career options.
“Don’t come in thinking you know what you want to do,” she said. “I thought I wanted to be a writer because I didn’t know that design was a thing.
“Your expectations and your plan for yourself are constantly evolving and Michigan State is a great environment that promotes growth and exploring different options for what you want to do with your life. Then when you figure out what you love doing, pursue it and become the best at it. Set that bar for yourself, no matter what your passion is. Then you’ll be on the path to go anywhere, and wherever you want to go, you’ll be successful.”
For Gee, her open mind and career exploration, combined with her creative drive and talent, helped lead her to her ideal career.
“This is a dream job,” she said. “I love my colleagues at Time and all the projects I’ve been fortunate to work on with them. For me, it is the culmination of all the work in school and professionally. Many of the skills I’ve worked to perfect, I’ve gotten to utilize here.”