Lizann Stauber ’13 a Chapman University alumna with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and a cluster in leadership and communication, has built a career as a graphic designer. She has been working at Vans as a footwear designer for the last three years.
Stauber is passionate about shoe design, and she has eagerly embraced the opportunity to collaborate with her team at Vans. We asked about her experiences at Chapman and insight she has for students pursuing a similar career.
When you were a student, could you have foreseen that you would work with such powerhouse companies?
The potential of pursuing a field in design was always on my radar. I was always torn between fashion, design or fine arts. So I wanted to try to incorporate them somehow. When I had enough experience under my belt, I discovered the world of graphic design in fashion, a eureka moment for me. But that wasn’t until a year or two after I graduated from Chapman. So, my advice to students is to use experiences gained from internships, jobs, professors and classes to their advantage.
What’s it like working for Vans, which is a perennial brand with such enduring cultural impact?
I think it’s what I expected, in a good way. The culture is indeed very strong and I work with a lot of really talented and driven people. What I love a lot about my specific branch of work is being part of this surf and action sports section because not only do we all share a love for design and footwear, but we also share a love for snowboarding and surf culture. So being able to do what I love at a company that I’ve also been a customer of since childhood is really special.
Tell me more about your current creative process? Do you have a lot of creative freedom?
I’m a color and trend designer for women’s surf and women’s snow in the footwear department. So in short, others are in charge of product design and once that’s finished it is passed on to choosing the materials and colors to complete the design. Designing shoes at Vans comes with a lot of creative freedom. The designs can be anything from seasonal colorways to graphic art and material plays. We do a lot of trend research because each design needs to have specific intent.
What piece of work are you most proud of?
In the work I do now, one of my favorite designs was a ’70s themed floral design. The collection was very well received and even represented on social media by others. A customer created a Tik Tok of the classic California Dream with the shoes and it went viral. To see such a positive response from a collection that was so close to my heart and my own personal style was really cool.
You did a cluster in Leadership Studies. How has that played a role in your career?
Understanding your audience plays a huge role in how you design for them, especially in something as personal and self expressive as footwear can be. I think being curious about people and what motivates them can serve you really well when you’re designing pretty much anything.
The most valuable lesson I got from Leadership Studies was team building. The work I do now involves a lot of team collaboration. Learning to balance when to go with your gut or take a step back and support someone else’s ideas is important. Overall, I think being humble and how you show up for your team is a really strong example of leadership to me.
What were some of your favorite classes at Chapman?
One of my favorite classes was perspective and rendering. It was really helpful as I shifted from fine art to graphic design, because it kind of made me rethink how to approach design. It provided a method to the madness and allowed me to conceptualize the design and art aspect. I found art history and the history of graphic design to also be fascinating because design is often influenced by art movements of the past. Having that knowledge can inspire reason and storytelling for the design that you’re working on.
Did any of your professors give you advice that has served you all these years?
One of the most important things I learned was about presenting personal design work and being able to speak about it clearly. This can be kind of intimidating in large meetings or if you’re just starting out, but it’s very important. So, public speaking is an incredibly helpful skill that I was lucky enough to polish up at Chapman before going into the professional design world.
Chapman taught me how to do thumbnails, how to draw in perspective among other things. The biggest lesson I took from my classes was the importance of being intentional about your design from start to finish. Having a reason for everything you choose is crucial. This will become important when presenting designs to potential clients.
What advice would you give to Chapman students looking to pursue a career in the field of design?
It can be difficult to give advice because I feel like I’m always still taking advice and learning from others. But my number one tip is to get a taste of everything. Especially early on, try and challenge yourself. Definitely keep learning and stay curious, especially in the constantly evolving world of design. And then don’t hesitate to lean on other people in your personal or professional life. As a designer you should also not be scared to put your work out there. It can be a very vulnerable experience but it gets easier and feedback becomes greatly appreciated.
Learn more about Chapman’s BFA in Graphic Design and link to the program.