Thinking In “The Box”

Thinking in the “Box”

By: Ken Macro, PhD

California Polytechnic State University, Graphic Communications


Many of us are finally emerging from our gopher holes.  Our eyes in to slowly dilate from the past year-and-half of binge-watching Netflix, Prime, Hulu, and Apple TV. The George Jetson and Mr. Spacely-like Communications are less frequent, and the summer light, sounds of birds, and crisp—albeit hellishly hot—air has become a welcomed friend. It’s been a LONG six quarters of coursework, teaching from my garoffice surrounded by tools, brooms, and a hot-water heater.

After endless months of viewing hundreds of digital boxes affixed with avatars and names in the lower-left corner, I will absolutely relish the opportunity to be in the front of a room full of students, appreciative of the traditional educational didactic model. I believe they will embrace in-person instruction with a moving, fast-talking lecturer full of unending stories to shock them back into a relatively acceptable realm of normalcy. I can smell the whiteboard markers already.

Celebrating Milestones

Interestingly, we celebrated our spring quarter-end in mid-June. An actual ceremony commenced — extremely condensed and open to only minimal guests for each graduate and held in our football stadium. Upon graduation, a couple of students invited me to meet them for a quick celebratory beverage and toast their accomplishments. With great hesitancy, I agreed. It was a Wednesday evening, and, having not visited our little town of San Luis Obispo for over one year, it was eerily fun to walk on the streets once again with people trolling the shops nearby. Awkwardly, we met at the establishment (known for their excessive choices of beverages), deciding whether or not to hug, shake hands, or bump elbows. It was great to see everyone, and immediately we all began talking about our educational experiences over the past year. As it were, I was actually quite proud of them all and excited that I—the old guy—could share in their experiences.

They were all very respectful of the time, and after two hours (that flew by quickly), we decided to embark and meet again when the time permitted. However, as we were leaving, two students walked up to me and said, “Macro, is that you?!” Then they came up and hugged me. Shruggingly, my eyes clicked as I referenced the forty-drawer filing cabinet in my head full of the thousands of students, friends, and acquaintances’ names that I have collected over time. Unfortunately, within that nano-second, they could see that I did not know who they were. The one young lady made a square around her face with her two thumbs and pointer fingers and said, “Sophia.” By this time, I had located the file and responded, “right, 422, section 02, column 3, row 2.” And we all laughed and recognized the identification tactic as if in code.

Getting Back To It

The bottom line is, I miss the classroom and in-person instruction. And, as we begin to understand the good, the bad, and the ugly of online learning, I can only hope that students in this slice of time will prosper. They are highly resilient and for the most part optimistic. I am confident that every student, K-12, post-secondary, and even those with unique needs, will recover and emerge stronger than ever before. The experience of compressing their identities into that digital box has provided them an internal awareness of the importance of personality and the interconnectedness of humankind. The box still exists, but now it is about the vastness of family, friends, and community. It brings a whole new perspective to “thinking in the box.”

Dr. Ken Macro is a professor of Graphic Communication at the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California. He is serving his 21st year. His areas of interest are management (contemporary, production, human resources, and Lean manufacturing), sales, and marketing. He is also the faculty advisor for the Charles Palmer Collection – The Shakespeare Press Museum housed within the department. Ken sits on the PGSF board of directors as an educational institution representative. Should you wish to contact him, his email is

PGSF: Helping Attract and Support New Talent for the Graphics Arts Industry

In this March 2021 interview, Jules Van Sant, current Chair of the Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation, shares an update about PGSF and its current initiatives and excitement for the future. Jules wears many hats in the print and graphics industry, including her current volunteer leadership role with the foundation. Her goal is to lead the organization to benefit students and cultivate the next generation of graphic communications leaders. Jules and the current board of directors continue to focus on growing the PGSF beneficiaries and getting the word out on available scholarships. Annual funding exceeds $500,000, benefitting 200+ student applicants with tuition assistance at trade schools, two-year and four-year colleges/universities. This support encourages more students to consider a career in the broader graphic communications industry. Positions and opportunities are vast for the generation — from marketing and sales roles to graphic design and prepress jobs to running press and finishing equipment and every opportunity the industry offers.

Thank you to Cary Sherburne and for allowing us to spread the word! See the energetic interview HERE.

There is still time to apply for scholarships on our website –  Deadline extended through May 8, 2021.

PGSF: Helping Attract and Support New Talent for the Graphic Arts Industry – WhatTheyThink


Apply for PGSF Scholarships

Scholarship Recipients Average $1,000–$5,000 Yearly

Pittsburgh, PA — The Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation (PGSF) announces that only two weeks remain to apply for its annual scholarship for the 2021–2022 academic year. PGSF scholarships provide funding to individuals interested in pursuing an education and a career in the graphic communications industry. The 2021–2022 scholarship application period ends May 1, 2021. Scholarship recipients will be notified by mid-June of 2021.

PGSF encourages the graphic communications industry and employers to contact high schools, trade schools, community colleges, and four-year universities to urge students to apply for funding.

“The PGSF scholarships provide an invaluable opportunity to receive funding to support not only students’ educational initiatives but also their careers,” comments Jules Van Sant, Chair, PGSF. “Our board members have a vested interest in building tomorrow’s workforce in the graphic communications industry.”

PGSF awards recurring scholarships to high school seniors or students already enrolled in a post-secondary program. Funding is also available to individuals seeking additional education who are currently employed by a company involved in the graphic communications industry. This is the second consecutive year that PGSF is offering scholarships to part-time students.

Full-time students

Requirements for full-time students to be considered by the selection committee:

  • Application submitted by May 1, 2021
  • Two(2) recommendations
  • Official transcripts or a copy (must be submitted online with the application),
  • 3.0 GPA or better,
  • Full-time status (12 or more credits per term),
  • Enrolled in a printing or graphics program at a technical school, college, or university within the United States, and
    pursuing a career in printing technology, printing management, graphic communications, or publishing

Click here to start an application for full-time enrollment.

Part-time students

  • Individuals currently employed by a graphic communications company and are seeking additional part-time education are encouraged to apply for a PGSF scholarship.
  • Their employer must confirm applicants by May 1.
  • The employer must be in the graphic communications industry, either as a service provider or as a supplier to the industry. The applicant must also intend to continue a career in graphic communications, printing technology, printing management, or publishing.

Click here to start an application for part-time enrollment.

About PGSF

The Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation is a not-for-profit, private, industry-directed organization that dispenses technical and college scholarships and assistance to talented youth interested in graphic communication careers, as well as current employees in the industry. The mission of PGSF is to promote the graphics industry as a career choice and support students through their education process.

Students in print Elijah Carrington

Students in print Elijah CarringtonElijah Carrington is a Junior attending Robert Morris University in Moon, PA. He is pursuing BFA in Media Arts with a Concentration in Graphic Design.

Q) How did you first get interested in the graphic arts?

A) In high school, I was introduced to graphic design through an intro class that focused on photo manipulation in Adobe Photoshop. I took the class because it looked fun and easy, with the thought that I would eventually pursue an architectural degree. After taking drafting classes and comparing it to the design classes I was taking simultaneously, design appeared to be a better avenue to pursue. Ignoring the warnings of low pay and other industry woes, I decided to major in Media Arts with a concentration in Graphic Design at RMU. It was a great decision, as I am currently working as a remote designer throughout school, and have plans to continue integrating my design education with self-taught coding capabilities.

Q) Did you take any courses in high school that were related to graphic communications, or that prepared you for your planned career and what are you studying now?

A) I took Intro to Graphic Design and then continued with GD 2 & 3. In college, I am taking a variety of Media Arts, Studio, Printmaking, Visual Arts/Communications, Color, Design, Typography, Web design, Digital, Production for the Designer, etc.

Q) Is there a particular area of the graphic communications field that is of special interest to you as you consider where you want to focus your future career on?

A) I am currently focused on graphic design for print and web. I create raster and vector graphics for a variety of mediums, including, but not limited to: PowerPoints, brochures, labels, web ads, mag ads, booklets, business proposal covers, and informational videos. I am hoping to branch out into design & development, and have already launched Boldest on the App Store. Boldest is an app that started as an idea within a business plan, and turned into a full-fledged product after sketching, creating mockups/wireframes, and coding UI/front-end. I am going to focus on creating another app before I graduate because it is a great way to showcase a multifaceted skill set.

Looking to the Future

Q) What type of company would you like to work for after you graduate?

A) Startups are versatile and look like great environments to start out in. I am also looking for professional design firms that would give me the experience to start out on my own, after a few years in the industry.

Q) What do you think employers are looking for in today’s workforce and current industry environment?

A) Drive & determination, a broad skill set, the ability to follow instructions and deliver on time, and leadership skills. Employers that are looking for the best employees want to see an inner drive to persist and stick to projects. Skills can be taught, but there must also be cognitive ability to adapt and learn on the spot. The current industry environment is fast-paced with a high turnover rate and little emphasis on pensions. This is especially in the case study of Amazon’s white-collar, overworked employees. They work
80-hour weeks due to the pressure and strain from high-performance. Soon an industry norm, millennials
have the ability to reduce social life to appease a company because of increasing student debt and less
focus on purchasing big-ticket items, such as homes.

Q) Is there anything that you have found to be particularly different from what you initially expected now that you’ve progressed through your education process?

A) The educational process is most beneficial if you are fully invested in the topic being taught. I learn a lot more when I have taken an interest, or have applied what is being learned to a personal project. Combining information from two distinct classes can have an impact on interest. I expected learning about design to be fun and interesting, and there have been great instances of that. We have had field experience, talks from designers from Pittsburgh, the opportunity to explore museums, and plenty of time to design on the computer. I love drawing/sketching, painting and analog forms of expression, but my focus is on digital art forms, and the relation tied between on-screen design and print.

Q) Have you changed your plans or ideas about what area or type of job you might like to have since you first considered the graphic communications field and began studying for a career in it?

A) I have slightly changed my plans to include working for smaller startups because I love the type of work that can be created by smaller teams. Employees have the ability to expand beyond their normal, daily
responsibilities to contribute to the growth of a startup in a rapidly shifting marketplace.

Q) Has being a recipient of a PGSF scholarship made a difference in your education, and if so, how?

A) PGSF has provided me with the tools to start and continue my education at Robert Morris University. Whether it was assisting in the purchase of educational materials, such as books, or artistic supplies, PGSF has made a great difference in my education.

Q) Anything else that you would like to add?

A) I am currently studying abroad in London, England for my second semester of Junior year. It is a great opportunity to explore European countries and gather insight into maturity and individualism. This is also my first travel abroad experience, outside of the United States.


Students in Print

Students in Print – Building Tomorrow’s Workforce

This page features some of the more than 200 current students that are receiving scholarships from the Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation. This series gives you an up close and personal insight into the thoughts and motivations of the young people that are coming into the graphic communications industry today. As the current workforce reaches retirement and leaves, replacing them becomes an increasingly important factor for many companies. Here are the stories of the people who will be joining the industry and will make up the workforce of the future. To read their profiles and learn about their stories, simply click on their image.

  • Elijah Carrington
    Junior at Robert Morris
    University in Moon, PA.

  • Josie Moore

    Junior at College of
    the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri.

  • Olivia Konys

    Senior at the Rochester
    Institute of Technology in
    Rochester, New York.

  • Brianna Ferguson

    Sophomore at University of
    Wisconsin-Stout in
    Menomonie, Wisconsin.

  • Katelyn Theis

    Senior at University of
    Wisconsin-Stout in
    Menomonie, Wisconsin.

  • Katherine Dayton

    Fifth-year student at
    Western Michigan University
    in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

  • Megan-Hagedorn

    Senior at University of
    Wisconsin-Stout in
    Menomonie, Wisconsin.

  • Megan Ho

    Freshman at Texas State
    University in San Marcos,

  • Rebecca Nattress

    Senior at University of
    Wisconsin-Stout in
    Menomonie, Wisconsin.

  • Samantha Bressler

    Senior at College of
    the Ozarks in Point Lookout,

  • Tim McMahon

    Junior at College of Design,
    Architecture, Art, and Planning
    at the University of Cincinnati
    in Cincinnati, Ohio.

  • Toni Berning

    Sophomore at Ball State
    University in Muncie, Indiana.

  • Madison Ebbert

    Freshmen at James Madison
    University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

  • Kaitlyn Anthony

    Freshman at Illinois Valley
    Community College in
    Oglesby, Illinois.

  • Austin Heredia

    Freshman at the Art Institute
    of Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

Video Tour of a Corrugated Design & Manufacturing Facility

The Video Tour of a Corrugated Design and Manufacturing Facility is a great introduction to the inner workings of the corrugated industry. With this program, viewers get an overview of all the processes through which corrugated containers are manufactured. It’s a lively, informative introduction to students considering a career in the corrugated packaging and display industry.

Find more Career Resources here.

PRINT Career Day Speaker Video

Find Your Future in the Graphic Communications Industry

If you are a high school student looking for an awesome, creative career path you need to learn more about the graphic arts industry. It will lead you to so many opportunities. No matter what it is you want to do – get a four-year degree or go right to work – you’ll have everything you need to take the next step.

Brought to you by the PRINT event and APTech
Check out current scholarships for Graphic Communications offered through the PGSF.

What Graphic Communications Students Need to Know

By Nick Gawreluk
Graduate of RIT and currently Product Manager with Hewlett-Packard
Editor’s Note: This article contains a young professional’s perspective on how to find a successful career in graphic communications. While it is directed at students, it is also an excellent piece that teachers and professors can use to inspire their students, and that parents can also use with their kids.
Whether you are in high school, college, or a recent graduate, I am here to pass along a few lessons and motivation that will help you navigate your way into the incredible world of Graphic Communications. Buckle up and take notes, because this industry is moving fast as it reinvents itself! I encourage all of the readers to jump in and share their most valuable pieces of advice in the comment section below.

What you know + who you know = greater career success

I believe that optimal career success is achieved through a balance of professional skillsets along with the ability to successfully network and gain strategic exposure. You could be doing amazing work, but if the exposure is not there then you are stuck in the dark. On the flip side, you may be well connected and have an opportunity open. But if you are unable to perform, then your time will be limited. Identify which side of the equation needs further development, and know that your efforts will better position you for overall success.

Career mentors are critical

The path to success is rarely easy or direct. One of the best things you can do while in school is to seek out someone with experience who will listen to your aspirations and help navigate toward the right path. A great place to start would be identifying people who are established in the areas in which you are interested. It can be intimidating reaching out to someone you barely know to ask for help, but something as simple as setting up a phone call or meeting for coffee can be a great place to start. I encourage you to attend industry conferences and trade shows in your area of interest as these are great places to network with like-minded people within the industry. Mentorship is very much “pay-it-forward” based, so don’t forget to give back and return the favor one day when you have the chance to help someone early in their career.

Internships are your early investment

Your goal early on should be obtaining as much diverse experience as possible to determine what you are truly passionate about. Knowing what you do not like is progress towards finding where your true interests are. Think of internships as an early investment that will help you in the long run. Be proactive in searching for companies that offer rotational internships and do not be afraid to contact companies that do not have formal internship programs. The industry desperately needs younger talent, and you bring a fresh perspective that companies are looking to capture.

Always keep an open mind

Blink an eye, and I guarantee you will miss something; because this industry moves extremely fast. With rapid transformation comes a lot of new opportunities which is why it is important to be open-minded. Recognize that early in your career is a unique time to easily pivot and take on new experiences. Stepping outside your comfort zone and conquering new challenges allows you to walk away with higher confidence, an expanded skill set, and a great opportunity to grow your network.

Take advantage of print scholarships

If you were not already aware, there are many incredible organizations dedicated to helping promote and financially support students in the printing industry. I suggest you apply for scholarships and build a relationship with the incredible people behind each organization. They work tirelessly to advocate for the future generation and we are lucky to have them! Here are a few to check out:

  • The Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation (PGSF)
  • Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute (TLMI)
  • Flexographic Technical Association (FFTA)
  • Printing Industry Midwest (PIM)

Knowing that you have an interest in Graphic Communications is a great step forward. Keep working hard and know that you’re entering into an industry that is full of opportunity. Feel free to contact me if I can be of any assistance at