Creative Lead Alan Nguyen wins Best Graphic Designer at 2022 Pacemaker Awards

Alan+Nguyen.

Madison Taylor

Alan Nguyen.

David Li, News Contributor

A couple of hours before the deadline for the national award for Best Graphic Designer, Alan Nguyen heard about it. In that time, Nguyen hurried to apply, not knowing he would end up winning.

On Oct. 28 in Washington, D.C., Nguyen, creative lead at Orange Media Network, received the award for Best Graphic Designer as part of the 2022 Pacemaker awards.

“The award signifies what a lot of us already know, which is that we have a lot of talented students here at OSU,” said Velyn Scarborough, director of Experiential Learning and Activities. 

According to Scarborough, even though OSU doesn’t have a journalism school, OMN won numerous awards, including Nguyen’s, signifying that OMN is on par with national standards. Students are encouraged to join OMN should they have an interest in media.

According to Nguyen, he grew up in Portland, in a family who came from Vietnam. He started his journey in graphic design by making fan artwork for a well-known television variety  show called “Paris By Night” using PowerPoint as a hobby. Nguyen began posting his creations on a Facebook fan page that he started in 2014 which eventually grew a following.

Since then, Nguyen’s skills in graphic design improved from learning on YouTube and his own experiences in high school, as he took graphic design classes and led a team to create art projects. 

“That’s kind of where my passion for creative things came from,”  Nguyen said. 

Nguyen’s path wasn’t without difficulty. He never thought he was going to go into journalism.

“That was probably the last thing because one thing is I hate is reading, and secondly, I can’t write to save my life,” Nguyen said.

As Nguyen found that he could visually contribute to journalism through his experiences as OMN, he also struggled with imposter syndrome. 

“I’m not a graphics design major. I never got true training in graphic design. I never learned about the grid and all the rules that you have to have,” Nguyen said. “I am not good at illustration. Like I’m terrible at drawing. So I always felt like, ‘Oh, I’m not a real artist.’” 

According to Nguyen, he felt he had an eye for design that enabled him to understand how things are laid out, how to make things look good, and how to break the rules of graphic design to make things look visually interesting.

His parents didn’t fully approve of him going into design, preferring Nguyen to go into careers that seemed more worthwhile. As a result, he pursued a business background as a backup. His first job at OSU was as a marketing associate, something that “wasn’t really design,” but built the foundation for him to become the creative lead.

During his time in marketing, Nguyen pushed his designs into various marketing campaigns, putting design into a place where there wasn’t any previously. 

“Having [experience in] marketing gives him the ideas, for actually taking those ideas and turning them into the elements or design,” Scarborough said. 

Nguyen began breaking out of his role on the marketing team by working with Beavers Digest to show his design skills through social media.

“[This is when] people started to see that I could do design for this organization,” Nguyen said. 

Now, Nguyen works as a creative lead, but in a way different than his predecessors. 

Where the previous creative lead would have simply accepted assignments from other parts of OMN after the story and photos were completed, Nguyen makes a point to collaborate and build relationships with other editors throughout the whole process, contributing ideas and putting design at the beginning instead of just the end.

Where he often had doubts regarding the quality of his work or doing the right things for the job in the past, Nguyen has conquered his imposter syndrome after seeing the result of his work, relationships he has built and finding a future in design. 

“I never thought I would be doing this for a career, and now here I am about to start applying for journalism careers,” Nguyen said.

Throughout Nguyen’s journey, there have been many people who have supported him, including  teachers who have allowed him to explore and those at OMN.

“I’m really appreciative to every single person, especially Velyn, who has been my advisor throughout this whole journey, has really guided me and I am so appreciative of her,” Nguyen said.