If you asked Midori Saito, former Art + Design student, what she had been up to since graduating in 2018, she would reply, “Lots of things!” This is a bit of an understatement coming from the graphic designer.
For starters, Midori moved to Kansas City to continue her creative pursuits, but encountered some career shifts before getting where she is today. “Right now, I have a pretty routine schedule,” shares Midori, “I make my way to my 8-5, working as a graphic designer for an outdoor products company here in town. After that, I go home, workout/eat dinner, and then hop in my little happy place.” This happy place she speaks of is her home studio; there, Midori can be found working on freelance projects or social media for Babes Helpin’ Babes, a nonprofit where she volunteers. Midori especially loves “doodling, experimenting, and creating random stuff that makes [her] happy.” Creating personal art—without contractual or work constraints—is something that she values.
Prior to her current role, Midori lost her job due to COVID. Though overcome with self-doubt and worry, Midori was able to slowly get back on her feet with the help of friends, family, and colleagues—and her desire to create. “I’m the person who always had a plan, so when COVID shook that plan, I was stuck and sad,” she says, “But in all of that, I was incredibly fortunate to have such a strong support system; in fact, I felt so loved and taken care of, I started to slowly get back to my feet again.” Taking advantage of this pause, Midori began freelancing more often, and after months of applying, she got the job she has today. “In the wise words of our very own department head, Vonda Yarberry, ‘Tough times have transformative powers,’” shares Midori, “Even though last year was rough, I came out much stronger than I had ever been.” The unexpected consequences of COVID brought Midori unexpected growth, providing her with the time to self-reflect. “I learned so much about who I am and the kind of person I want to be,” she says.
Apart from those external and internal accomplishments, following her time at MSU, Midori has helped design an award show, attended multiple workshops and conferences—and even made a mural with her best friend. “Three years doesn’t seem like a long time,” she says, “but you’d be amazed at how many things actually happened that impact your current day-to-day and overall outlook on life.” Although contrary to her original plan, Midori feels that she is right where she needs to be. “I’m going at my own pace, but it definitely feels like I’m on the right track,” she says.
Although the future can seem intimidating for students to think about—and deciding on the track they want to pursue—Midori’s experience further encourages that what is to come can’t be planned for and that the unplanned produces some of the best moments. “I can only imagine how it would feel to be a student now; [the uncertainty of what] life is going to look like after graduation is scary to think about—let alone being in a pandemic,” she shares, “But, you don’t have to have it all figured out. You’re not alone; there is absolutely no rush.”
It is easy to get caught up in everyone else’s narratives, prompting comparison and insecurity. Midori recommends that students focus on their own path, determining what they want to accomplish without considering societal expectations, or allowing what other’s think to change their goals and how they define success. “I know as a young designer, you may not feel adequate all the time, or imposter syndrome starts creeping in, or you start to compare yourself to other people,” she says, “Just focus on what’s best for YOU, because that’s what you’ve got and that’s what’s most important.”
She imparts some useful advice for students who are both in school and about to graduate. “I know things can get crazy in school, you’re trying to juggle so many things at once like jobs, assignments, internships, etc., and it can be pretty mentally and physically exhausting,” she shares, “But try to remember why you chose this field in the first place—because you love being creative!” Midori encourages students to make art for themselves, and to not lose sight of “being creative for the sake of being creative.” She recommends that students stay curious and never stop learning, especially by taking initiative outside of class. “I loved my classes, and I learned so much from them,” Midori shares, “But remember that leaning doesn’t just stop when class is over—or even after graduation.”
Midori recommends students to take advantage of the community surrounding them, both in the Art + Design Department faculty and their fellow classmates. “Make friends and hang out/work on stuff together, talk about it, research designers or illustrators you admire, learn some of their processes, ask industry professionals about what they do, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on your portfolio, and try to get an internship so you can get a taste of what life is like in the workplace,” shares Midori, “There’s a world of resources at your fingertips; you just have to find them and learn how to finesse them!” What she has learned from her professors has been invaluable as she continues down her career path. “They taught me how to push the envelope and take my concepts further, how to set boundaries and limits to take care of my own mental health, and lastly, showed me what a supportive community looks and feels like,” she shares, “I’m so grateful; I miss them so much.”
To those about to graduate, Midori wants you to know that everything is going to be okay, even if your plan feels a little blurry. “Going through what you’ve had to go through last and this past year; your resilience is unmatched,” she says, “There’s so many that applaud and admire you. You’re doing just fine.”