Robert "Rob" Cofield
Graphic & Web Design
Web & Graphic Designer, Hampton Roads Planning Commission/Hampton Road Transportation Planning Organization
The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta
“It was good to be in a place that was solely focused on my degree field.” Robert "Rob" Cofield , Web & Graphic Designer, Hampton Roads Planning Commission/Hampton Road Transportation Planning Organization Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic & Web Design, 2016 , The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta
Navy Veteran Battled Homelessness to Graduate with Design Degree
Robert “Rob” Cofield has been defying expectations from the start. As a newborn, he required the prayers and support of family to survive a harrowing birth. When he immediately gravitated toward his “aunt”, Cofield’s birth mother knew what she had to do. She allowed his new mother to raise him. He lived with her and her husband until she passed away. Cofield was 10, and while he was aware of the gang scene in Chicago, he managed to avoid the worst of it.
Cofield says that music saved him from the streets. His group of friends focused on music—he even learned music production and went into the studio to record. As he grew older, he chose to join the U.S. Navy to ensure that his path continued moving forward.
While in the Navy, stationed on the Harry S. Truman off of the coast of Virginia, Cofield found that he enjoyed the peacefulness of a completely different environment than he’d experienced in Chicago. He signed with an independent record label but soon found that he needed to be very careful about the label’s business dealings. Working as his own representative helped him to build the valuable business management skills that continue to benefit him in his current career.
After leaving the Navy, Cofield remained in Virginia—but didn’t know what his next step should be. After talking with people he trusted, he decided to learn a skill that would add to his expertise in the music business—and cut down on the costs he was paying to others. “I found The Art Institute of Virginia Beach and I knew that Graphic & Web Design was something I could use [in my music business].” He quickly fell in love with design—as well as the school’s atmosphere and teachers.
Cofield adds that his teachers really understood him and helped him to feel completely comfortable in school for the first time. “Coming from the military and being older, I didn’t connect with the younger students.” He also has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a condition on the Autism spectrum. “The Art Institute of Virginia Beach was the first place where my autism wasn’t holding me back. It was good to be in a place that was solely focused on my degree field.”
Today, he’s working as a Web & Graphic Designer for Hampton Roads Planning Commission and Hampton Road Transportation Planning Organization. The government organizations oversee everything from water conservation and flood insurance to transportation plans. Cofield is a member of the community affairs and civil rights team, working to create compelling videos, photography, marketing materials, and social media campaigns that draw in an audience.
He mentions that he applied for the position at the same time that The Art Institute of Virginia Beach forwarded his resume to the same job. His current supervisor was so impressed with his work, she hired him on the spot. She’s gone on to become a valued mentor to Cofield, helping him to grow within his job and within his music career. “When I’m at a venue, I’m not just there to perform, I am there to network and push my brand.”
He makes a point of giving back to the community and the school, which is especially important given the challenges he faced as a student. For much of his time at The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, Cofield was homeless. He met his future wife during that time, and together they faced the difficulties of trying to pay for a hotel and complete Cofield’s education. He relied on his faith and his music to make it through. “Every time I heard someone say that my music had inspired them, I’d look in the mirror and say [to myself] ‘how dare you try and quit?’”To assist current students, Cofield returns to his alma mater and works to get student art placed in the Hampton Roads municipal buildings. He also lets students know that it’s important to remain open to possibilities. “[Everything you learn] is important in its own way. Set yourself up for success,” he says, mentioning that knowing about all parts of the design process makes a job candidate more marketable to a potential employer.