Graphic Design grad Jessica Newton finds her treasure chest at Treasure Island
In a sense, Jessica Newton, a 2000 graduate of the DCTC Graphic Design Technology program, was following a treasure map marked with an X when she landed a job as a graphic designer at Treasure Island Resort & Casino in Welch, Minn. Today, Newton is a senior graphic designer at TI, doing what she loves most in a close-knit department filled with people she considers family.
Newton’s story begins thirty-four years ago in Waterloo, Iowa, where she lived until age 18, graduating from Columbus High School in 1995. Her first experience with graphic design was using paste up, a pre-computer layout method, to create her high school yearbook.
Newton moved to Hastings, Minn., with her parents after graduating and studied pre-med at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. For a time, she even worked as a DJ for the campus radio station, WRFW, playing punk and ska, but she found she couldn’t relate to the campus environment.
“I never really felt at home there,” Newton said. “I never felt like I connected with my professors or my advisor. I felt like I was going through the motions.”
Because she had always been interested in art, she eventually considered enrolling at the University of Minnesota to pursue her new dream, but during the drive over to the U, she changed her mind and turned around, realizing that life on a huge campus was not for her.
“So I came home and my mom said, ‘What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be registering for classes,’” Newton recalled. “I told her, ‘I think I’m going to DCTC to check out the Graphic Design Technology program.’”
As it turned out, Newton’s younger brother, Adam, was a PSEO student at DCTC studying print technology. (Adam Newton ultimately graduated from DCTC to become a press operator at Graphic Design, Inc., a print shop in Hastings.) The fact that her brother really liked DCTC inspired Newton to rethink attending a technical college, an academic path she had never taken seriously.
“I was terrified of going to DCTC,” she admitted. “I had very little computer experience and that had me really concerned. How was I ever going to draw on a computer? I felt held back by my lack of computer skills.”
Connie Larson, a Graphic Design Technology instructor, remembers Jessica Newton as a competent and determined student. For her part, Jessica Newton has a fond memory of Larson that recurs regularly during a typical workweek.
“One day, Connie was telling our class about Command Z (the Undo command in numerous computer programs),” Newton said. “She told us a story about driving in her car on an icy road and going in the ditch. She thought to herself over and over, ‘Command Z! Command Z! Command Z! I just need to get out of this ditch!’ I remember that almost every time I hit Command Z.”
Newton met with Bruce Huff, a former VCOM instructor and dean at the college, who reassured her, explaining that the program was designed to teach her how to use a computer. She would be up to speed in no time. In fact, after only one week, Newton felt right at home on the college’s comfortably sized, student-friendly campus and was convinced she had made the “completely right decision.”
“I remember trying to persuade my parents to get me a Mac at home so I didn’t have to spend so much time in the lab,” said Newton, who would bring her graphic work home and hang it on the fridge to show off. But her dad wasn’t sold on the idea.
Treasure Island Resort & Casino opened in 1984 as a one-room bingo hall. Today, Treasure Island is considered Minnesota’s favorite Caribbean getaway. Set amidst lush prairie lands and the towering limestone bluffs of the Mississippi River Valley, Treasure Island features a marina, golf course and 120-passenger cruise ship. With a workforce approaching 1,500 people, Treasure Island Resort & Casino ranks as the largest employer in Goodhue County.
“Finally, what really impressed my dad was that I could take photos and change peoples’ heads around. He thought that was quite hilarious.” With Photoshopping family photos now one of her informal assignments, Newton got her new Mac near the end of her first semester.
After graduating from DCTC with her A.A.S. degree and a sound foundation in graphic design, Newton enrolled at St. Cloud State University and earned a BFA in studio art with an emphasis in printmaking and a minor in graphic design, graduating in 2004. She served as Art Student Union president during her senior year.
“At a four-year university, they focus on the conceptual part a lot more,” said Newton, who credits her DCTC hands-on training with giving her real-world tech savvy. She routinely had to show her fellow SCSU students and even her professors how to use computer programs in the labs. “At DCTC, you learn the technical skills you need to know on the job.”
Every year at Treasure Island, Jessica Newton lives for one project as a designer: Creating the invitation for the New Year’s Celebration for the top-tier of the TI’s Passport Club. “You get to be really creative,” she said. “You get to try so many things. You get to do dye cuts and foils and all kinds of fancy papers. You always end up with a really cool style piece.” Royal Bash “Good times are in the cards,” a New Year’s piece, won a Printing Industry of Minnesota (PIM) Star of Excellence Award.
Newton started at Treasure Island in 2004, right after graduating from SCSU. Her first task as a graphic designer was to create a billboard for the dance troupe, Chippendales. She was promoted to senior graphic designer in 2008. She covers a full array of duties related to advertising, entertainment and promotions, overseeing virtually all TI’s printed materials, including billboards and posters, brochures, invitations, menus, coupons, vouchers, gift certificates, and property collateral such as casino and gaming guides. She also delves into Web design and even interior design.
“My schooling at DCTC was so helpful in my career path,” Newton said. “I could never had gotten over the technology hurdle without it.”