Dan Stainfield

Dan Stainfield at ACE Sign Co. Neon sign in background.

Designs for the 21st century

Dan Stainfield, LLCC alum and designer at ACE Sign Co., works in the production and fabrication field. He creates and works with others’ designs to figure out how to construct them, from identifying any limitations to selecting materials to getting to see the final product out in the world. 

“My father worked on vinyl wraps, and I was part of an intensive visual arts block program in high school, but I had gotten away from it and was working in the medical field,” he explains. “When I moved to Illinois, I was taking classes at LLCC to get my Illinois certification. I also took an art class and ended up changing majors. The instructors were wonderful and became friends. Professor Thom Whalen became a mentor and really broadened my perception of the career opportunities and avenues in the art field. 

“We visually communicate through designs on cars, architectural aspects, the clothes we wear, things on shelves in the grocery store that we buy and use every day. Design touches everyone’s life. I encourage others to not have a narrow scope on what’s possible. We each bring our own unique visual ideas, and that’s valuable.” 

For those looking to share their visual creativity, LLCC is providing the technology, guidance and support to help them turn interests into rewarding careers. 

Integrated media design

Integrated media design “Design in the 21st century differs from that of the 20th century,” explains Adam Watkins, dean of arts and communication. “LLCC’s two-year degree in integrated media design is about high-impact, hands-on learning and working with traditional graphic design and new technologies — web, social media, app design.” 
“We take a craft-oriented approach, rather than personal expression, to take students’ skills to the next level,” says Thom Whalen, professor of art. 

“The program provides the foundation for learners to connect 2D and 3D design into the digital realm,” adds Matt Shaver, professor of media design. “Students gain experience in a variety of media. We explain the background and procedures behind the ‘how-to’ so that you also get the ‘when and why.’” 

Students who start at the same time, take the same sequence of classes together each semester as they advance through the program. “This cohort model is going great,” says Professor Whalen. “It builds a sense of community and connections with faculty.” 

Three students working together in Mac lab

Growing the program

“We’re state-of-the-art and growing,” says Whalen. This fall, as part of a U.S. Department of Labor grant, LLCC is expanding the opportunities for training in its integrated media design program. 

A Mac lab will be built, fully matched to one on Springfield’s main campus, at LLCC-Medical District located at 130 W. Mason St. near downtown Springfield, providing a more convenient location to those who live or work in that area to earn an associate in applied science degree in the subject. 

“The program will be offered at two of our locations where you can complete all of your courses. Wrap-around supports, including transportation, childcare and a laptop with an Adobe suite of programs, can be provided to help members of marginalized communities overcome enrollment and participation barriers,” says Dean Watkins. 
“We are working with local employers who are looking to diversify their workforce and are interested in offering jobs to graduates of this program.” 

Real-world application

The capstone course in LLCC’s integrated media design program provides the opportunity for job shadowing and internships. 

“We want our students to build portfolios that show real-world experience,” says Watkins. “We work with local businesses to ensure our training meets their needs for skills on the job. Students earning the integrated media design degree will be qualified for local jobs in graphic design, application design and web design.” 

Many of the courses also transfer to a four-year university for students to continue their art and design education.

Story published in the LLCC FORWARD magazine, April 2023.