By Richard Burnett
From his first digital logo years ago as a teen to his polished portfolio today as an accomplished graphic designer, Dan Graff has parlayed his talent and education into a career brimming with potential.
The 2019 Beacon College graduate has combined internships, free-lance assignments, and temporary volunteer work to fine-tune his professional chops in the graphic design business.
Buoyed by his bachelor’s degree in web and digital media, Graff, 24, has landed gigs with firms such as AD Leaf Marketing, Indian River Colony Club, and Sky Advertising, coupled with volunteer projects for Catchafire and VolunteerMatch.
Though still early in his career, he has made a strong impression at every stop. He’s a quick study of the advertising business, including the technical, design, and communication dynamics, recalled Rachel Terry, junior art director for Sky Advertising in Merritt Island, Florida.
“Dan was incredibly receptive to feedback and worked well in a fast-paced environment,” she wrote in a LinkedIn recommendation. “He would make a great asset to any team.”
Learning differences presented many obstacles along the way
The journey was not always a smooth one for the New Hampshire native. In middle school, his grades suffered and learning difficulties emerged. He was soon diagnosed with auditory processing and speech development disorders. Years of professional help, specialized instruction, and individual attention paid off. His grades and his confidence improved.
As a high school sophomore, however, his family moved to Florida for his father’s engineering job. It was almost like starting all over again:
“We found out that Florida just didn’t have the same services for students with learning differences that New Hampshire did,” Graff said. “So I had to be in regular classrooms, without much extra help. And that was a struggle for me. But my parents and I kept working through it all and things eventually got better.”
Two major milestones proved to be turning points for Graff. The first came in his junior year of high school when a teacher noticed his computer savvy and inspired him to take his first class in digital media — a move that opened a new world for him. The second milestone was coming to Beacon College.
His whole game escalated
Sandy Novak, one of Graff’s mentors at the college, remembers his transformation from a quiet, tentative student to a knowledgeable digital artist. “Once the light bulb went on for Dan, he became passionate about graphic design and all forms of digital media,” said Novak, now a retired professor emeritus who taught in Beacon’s Business & Technology Department.
Graff’s transformation gained momentum when he entered the “real world,” working a series of summer internships, she said.
“That had such an influence on him when he got into the working environment, his whole game started to escalate,” Novak said. “He came back to classes in the fall with much more confidence and drive and rose to the top of his class.”
In addition to his academic pursuits, Graff would always take time to help other students, his professors said.
“He was a hard worker, very detail-oriented, and he worked well with others,” said Matthew Cupach, an instructor in computer Information systems. “He communicated effectively and was easy to talk to, which was invaluable for other students, who may not have caught on as easily as he did.”
As knowledgeable as he was in class, it may have surprised other students to know how tough things had been for Graff until then. Learning differences had weighed on him in community college and forming relationships had been difficult.
But all of that changed at Beacon.
“Beacon helped me in so many ways,” said Graff, who graduated summa cum laude. “With academics, of course, but also with life in general, understanding other people, living with roommates, and developing other skills that were helpful throughout my entire college experience.”