Design by Numbers (www.ucollege.edu, OutlookMag.org)

For Cid Coto ’14, the digital world isn’t just about ones and zeros, or servers, networks and hardware. As Union College’s first computer major to graduate with the new web design emphasis, he understands that when it comes to computers, form is just as important as function.

Coto feels called to serve others by helping to solve problems, create beauty and visually organize the World Wide Web. In today’s world of constant connectedness, web design has become increasingly vital. “It is now how we do business, practice medicine and stay in touch with those we care about most,” Coto explained. “A web designer has to be there to ensure the site is understandable and enable interactions to take place.”

In the months before his December graduation, Coto attended several career fairs hosted by Union and by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Because of his interactions at those career fairs, he was interviewed and eventually landed his first job as a graphic designer at Sandhills Publishing. This international company is headquartered in Lincoln, Neb., and serves industries like agriculture, heavy machinery and construction.

At Sandhills, Coto’s main responsibility is to accommodate client requests for website changes and maintenance. On a daily basis, Coto uses the skills he learned at Union such as HTML and CSS coding, as well as industry-standard tools such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. He also credits his writing courses at Union for preparing him to meet the professional standards of his job, where grammatically accurate communication is just as important as technical skill.

Building practical experience

Before completing his degree at Union, Coto interned as Web Content Manager for Eden Valley Institute of Wellness in Colorado. There, he was in charge of all the writing, photography, videography and website design for the non-profit organization. “I was a one-stop shop,” Coto laughed. “If I wanted it to happen, I had to create it.”

But while he was challenged and stretched during that summer, he believes his web and graphic design classes at Union prepared him well for the experience. Class projects like building a WordPress site from scratch for a client taught him how to work through an authentic work assignment from beginning to end. He later used this experience when he redesigned the homepage for Eden Valley to be more easily navigable, intuitive and maintainable.

He is also grateful for his time working as a student employee for the Marketing Communications department at Union. During his time there, he worked as an assistant web developer, student photographer and video cameraman. Experiencing each of these roles gave him an idea of how the whole marketing communications process should work as well as how to solve problems as they arise in real-life situations.

Before coming to Union, Coto attended high school in Wyoming and later earned a two-year degree in computer science at a local community college. But a bachelor’s degree was his ultimate goal. Coto has always been drawn in a clear direction toward the web design field because it combines aspects of computer programming with the instant visual results of design. He finds this creative combination very rewarding and looks forward to a lifetime of continued learning.

Learning to learn

Coto is grateful not only for the skills he learned in his web design classes, but also for the close friendships he made at Union and the camaraderie he found. He first came to Union because he wanted to associate with peers and mentors who shared his beliefs. Those friends and mentors would later influence the way he viewed the world and his role in it, both professionally and personally.

While redesigning Eden Valley’s website, Coto was asked to research and highlight all of the organization’s satellite missions. To do this, he had to read through several years of archived quarterly publications and later write about them for the website. He laughed as he remembered he had never expected to use the research skills he learned in college, but for projects like this, they proved to be invaluable.

Beyond work-related research and design, Coto credits the influence of Ben Barber, one of his instructors and work supervisors, for his heightened intellectual curiosity and desire to continue learning for its own sake. “He inspired me to become more of a reader than I already was,” he explained. “It’s amazing how much information there is out there to learn if you just take it upon yourself to learn it.”

Overall, Coto feels his career path has been a spiritually guided one. “I am still on this journey,” he said. “It doesn’t end when you leave college, but if it were not for college, specifically Union, I know my experience would have been different.”

(Originally published at https://www.ucollege.edu/news/2015/06/08/design-numbers and http://outlookmag.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/july-august-2015.pdf)

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