Alumni Stories

Daniel Schlitzkus

Self-employed Art Director and Illustrator
The Art Institute of Seattle

Daniel Schlitzkus headshot

The Art Institute of Seattle connected me to working professionals in the industry. Daniel Schlitzkus , Self-employed Art Director and Illustrator 1999 , The Art Institute of Seattle

Associate of Applied Arts, Visual Communications, 1999

Runs Illustration and Design Studio, Has Had Work Shown on Times Square Digital Billboard

Daniel Schlitzkus runs his own illustration and design studio. His past experience includes work for Microsoft, Rust George Creative, Brandner Communications, AGS, Bethesda Softworks, and Humongous Entertainment. Daniel says that he enjoys the convenience of working from home. “I wake up and walk downstairs to my basement studio—and I work from Starbucks for a few hours while my kids are doing their activities.”

He explains that running a studio has taken years of commitment and planning. “When I started school, I wanted to draw comic books. I ended up going in a different direction—graphic design, but I really fell in love with it.” Daniel had a number of different jobs but none that he could call a “dream job.” He pushed forward and eventually got to where he wanted to be. He recommends that current students never settle and keep moving forward to achieve their goals. “It took 15 years to get to a place that is better that I could have imagined. A few years ago, I got to visit Times Square and see my work on a digital billboard. This was something I never set out to do, but it felt amazing and incredibly rewarding to be there. But I determined that that was just one great experience. Now I can set new goals.”

Learning on the job helped him to build a thick skin and fine-tune his communications skills. “I had my first client yell at me. I never had that experience before. I tried to stay calm and professional on the phone call and keep in mind that I still had a job to do. I learned a lot that day—keep a cool head when a client or art director is frustrated with you. They may be wrong (or right), but you need to stay professional.”

He adds that it’s very important to keep a balance between work and life. “I know of way too many professionals who say they missed birthday parties because they got to design a new Nike shoe. No Nike exec will replace family. Keep a real balance in your career and personal life. Know where to balance the two and communicate realistic expectations to your clients.”

Daniel, who in 1999 earned an Associate of Applied Arts in Visual Communications from The Art Institute of Seattle, says that his education connected him to working professionals in the industry. He advocates trying new things and having fun creatively. “I painted in oil and did some portraits and samurai paintings for a few years. Just for fun. Always take time to satisfy yourself with a fun and personal project.”