Designing A New Career

FEATURE PIC JOHNATHANK O'KELLEYJohnathan O’Kelley’s internship is doing exactly what he hoped it would. “It’s really rounding out my education. I’m working on a lot of things I’m not exposed to in the classroom. It’s been a great experience.”

O’Kelley is an Art major with a specialization in Multimedia Design at OCC interning with the Syracuse Poster Project. It’s an effort which brings together local poets and Syracuse University artists to create an annual series of posters for the city’s sidewalk kisoks.

Jim Emmons (left) and Johnathan O'Kelley (right) at the Syracuse Poster Project headquarters in the Warehouse on West Fayette Street.
Jim Emmons (left) and Johnathan O’Kelley (right) in the Syracuse Poster Project headquarters in the Warehouse on West Fayette Street.

The project is the brainchild of Jim Emmons. He created it in 2001 in an effort to enliven the city and build a sense of community. Every April the Project releases a new set of 16 posters which feature an illustrated poem about downtown, the city or the nearby countryside. The illustrations can be purchased as posters, note cards, postcards or haiku booklets.

The Syracuse Poster Project is headquartered in the Warehouse at 350 West Fayette Street in downtown Syracuse. That’s where O’Kelley spends nine hours a week focusing on supplemental design work necessary for marketing and promoting the posters.

One of his duties requires him to create a map showing the locations of places and landmarks that have given rise to posters over the years. A person would submit a haiku about a specific place and the haiku would inspire a poster. O’Kelley puts information in an Excel Spreadsheet where it is uploaded into a Google Maps Engine to generate the map. The map also has a street view function which allows users to look at actual streetscapes.

“Johnathan is extraordinarily dependable,” said Emmons. “He follows through on tasks. When he starts something he finishes it. He’s very good at diving into new software, figuring out how it works and making it do what we need it to do. He’s great at paying attention to details.”

O’Kelley is on a much different career path than what he had planned for himself. Five years ago the Long Island native earned a biology degree from Syracuse University. After working in the industry for a year he decided it wasn’t for him. “I was always interested in graphics. I got interested in looking at concept art for video games. There’s a show on the Syfy channel called ‘Face Off’ where they do makeup for the movie industry. Part of the show focuses on character design and I got interested in that. I started examining what I could do in that field and it led me to the multimedia program at OCC.”

O’Kelley said his transition into a new major at a new college was made much easier thanks to the faculty. “The professors are very encouraging and work with you to make you think of different ways of doing things. Their professional experience creates a level of credibility so you believe what they are teaching you.”

O’Kelley is on track to graduate in May 2015. His goal is to work in the New York City/New Jersey area or in San Francisco.