Alum Returns to Share Real-World Knowledge with USC Upstate Students

October 23, 2017 at 7:36 am

  • What: Meet Andrew Barton
  • When: 6-7 p.m. Nov. 1
  • Where: J.M. Smith Boardroom, Health Education Complex
  • Cost: Free

Andrew Barton says that when he graduated from the University of South Carolina Upstate in 2004, his portfolio was almost as thin as his resume and he really didn’t feel ready for “the real world.”

When Barton returns to his alma mater as a part of the In the Real World Speaker Series, he plans to tell students that they shouldn’t let perceived hurdles keep them from their goals.

“I’m going to talk about what it took to get my first job, what it took to get my second job, and what that looked like,” he said. “Kind of expectations versus where I landed.”

Where he landed was in the Charleston area, where, six years ago, he founded Andrew Barton Design. Since that day, Barton has found success working in graphic design, website design, digital marketing, 2D animation and illustrations.

But when the ink was still barely dry on his degree, Barton had other designs for his life.

“I went to Japan and taught English for a year and a half, because I didn’t think I wanted to be a designer,” he explained. “I was young and idealistic. … I wanted some adventure.”

While he enjoyed the experience of Japan, Barton said he decided to return to the United States and find work here. “Eventually, I decided that working for myself was going to be my best option for me,” he said.

Barton’s current list of clients features several well-known Charleston brands, including the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, the town of Mount Pleasant, Patriots Point, the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, and the South Carolina Aquarium. But his business wasn’t built in a day, and Barton said he wants aspiring designers to understand that the qualities that contribute to success aren’t always learned in the classroom.

“I want students to know it’s more about your attitude and how hard you work and your character than it is about the technical skills and your portfolio when you get out of school,” he explained. “That sounds a little cliché, but in a lot of ways, a new employee in many circumstances provides very little [immediate] value to the employer, so they’re kind of taking a chance on you. If you’re willing to work hard and do what you say you’re going to do, you’ll be just fine.”

Now in its fourth year, the In the Real World Speaker Series gives design students valuable access to accomplished designers. Past presenters include Tom Radom, whose designs for major league sports teams include the current logos for the Washington Nationals and the Anaheim Angels; and Geno Church, the word of mouth inspiration officer for the highly respected Brains on Fire creative company.

“These events give USC Upstate’s art, graphic design and marketing students exposure to the top visual artists, designers and entrepreneurs in the Southeast,” said Bridget Kirkland, assistant professor of graphic design. “The students have many opportunities to share their work and get feedback from all of the speakers. They always conduct portfolio reviews and offer student workshops the following day.”

Kirkland said the twice-a-year event is open not only to USC Upstate design and marketing students, but also to students at other schools in the Upstate.

For more information, please contact Bridget Kirkland, assistant professor of graphic design, at or (864) 503-5824.