Oliver Uberti reviews my portfolio.
Oliver Uberti reviews my portfolio. Photo credit: Hoffer Photography.

Living Like a Snail: Learning from Oliver Uberti

I’ve been challenged to live like a snail—and I’m pretty excited about it.

I’m so pleased the weather finally permitted visual journalist Oliver Uberti to give his long-anticipated lecture, “Snails Are Actually Pretty Good Role Models: Perhaps a New Way of Looking at Life After Art School,” at Arcadia. Uberti was originally scheduled to visit in February, but due to extraordinarily snowy conditions, the lecture was canceled. Thankfully, the lecture was rescheduled. I’m so grateful Uberti finally made it to campus because, otherwise, how would I have ever known I should be living like a snail?

In his lecture, Uberti recounted some of his experiences working for National Geographic and The Museum of Unnatural History alongside tales from his travels climbing mountains with “sketchbook in hand.” Stunning illustrations and magazine spreads flashed on the screen behind him as he spoke in the Commons Great Room, a large meeting space on campus. His work as a visual journalist, graphic designer, and illustrator is inspiring for its intuitive communication while his career journey is notable for his malleability. He moved from National Geographic to help create the Museum of Unnatural History in an effort to inspire children to write. He abandoned drawing by hand and, in its place, took up line drawing and watercolor washes to more authentically capture his travels. He lived purposefully enough to change his plans.

His advice to college students? The same advice his Sherpa gave him while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro: “slowly.” If he had quickly ascended the mountain, his body wouldn’t have acclimated to the altitude. In the same way, quickly moving toward one singular goal (the top of the mountain) without assessing how you’re feeling and understanding the motivation behind your actions may leave you in a less-than-ideal life situation. Living like a snail means moving slowly enough to deliberate. It also means living mindfully enough to make brave choices.

During his visit, I was thrilled to have Uberti review my portfolio. His feedback was invaluable in helping me gain perspective on my work. He shared his expertise on tracking text, how folios should function in a magazine, and the interplay between image and text in a publication. After looking at a menu I had designed for a logo systems class, for example, he remarked that the headings could be made smaller. Scaling them down made the menu look more refined and ultimately better fit the vibe of the restaurant brand. He gave similar advice for a magazine spread I had created. The smaller the type, the more images are allowed to bleed off of the page, and the more image-driven a spread, the more expressive and ultimately effective it may be. Hearing his comments gave me more to consider, more ways to improve, and therefore, more reason to live like a snail… slowly.

Photo by Hoffer Photography

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