The man behind Graphic Design


Photo courtesy of John Schall

John Schall gives instructions to his photograph subject before taking a picture.

Atreyu Hinckley, Staff Writer

When it comes to learning more about graphic designing, there is no better person to go to in Los Medanos than John Schall.

 John was born on November 26th, 1967 in Ventura, California, and has been teaching at Los Medanos for over 14 years.  He began to discover his passion of being a graphic designer when he was in his 30s, after getting his first degree in photography. “I was originally having a hard time getting a job, and figuring out what I wanted to do. I knew photography was really important to me, but I didn’t know if that was a career, so I decided I needed to get a career, and so I took some classes in a community college and I took all 3 of the Adobe programs and one of my instructors was very inspiring and supportive. But I loved her class, and she sort of inspired me that design could be a thing, it could be a career, it could be a job, you can enjoy what you can do, and you can make money” he said.

After receiving his degree and discovering his liking for the classes he took, he decided to apply for an Art school and get a second degree in design. “I thought more that this would be a really good career, and art school fuels you, it fuels the flame and makes you more interested,” he said.

While the path to a career wasn’t the easiest for John, as he admits that college expenses played a part, his ambition helped drive him. “I was very driven to get a job. I was paying for school myself, it was very expensive, but I had to get a job, there was no screwing around,” he said.

Prior to working at Los Medanos, John worked multiple years as a designer in San Francisco, and even did work for big named companies. “I worked for a graphic design firm in San Francisco for 8 ½ years after art school, and I loved it. It was a great learning experience. I loved working with the high end clients, Nike and all those guys, that was super fun,” he said. 

In the middle of working at the firm, however, John talks about how shallow the job started to get. “All of a sudden it started to become shallow. I felt like I was designing another graphic, another banner, or poster for a new shoe that was being released, and I’ve been doing it for several years, and the shoes just kept coming, it just didn’t feel good to me,” he said.

Around 2008, after John was laid off by the firm, he decided to do volunteer work for non-profit companies. “I needed to find a job, and so I applied to some different firms, and a friend of my wife worked at Contra Costa college, and there was a post for graphic designer, and that I should apply for it,” said John.

John at first did not get the job, despite feeling good about the interview he had for it and coming second for the position. “The marketing director told me I didn’t get it, she thanked me for my time, and see ya” he joked. John was however rehired at the firm he previously worked in. 4 months later, however, he received a call back from the marketing director for the position he applied for, after the person who got the job before him left. “I started working here as a designer, and was working for the marketing department here at the college, and have worked there for 13 years” he said.

About 6 years ago, after multiple years of being graphic designer for Los Medanos, John began teaching part time. “The chair at the art department asked me then if I would be interested in teaching, and I did it and it was great,” he said. John was admittedly nervous his first few days of teaching. “My first day of my first class, I was nervous because I never taught before, and so I was kind of freaking out,” he said. But as more time went by, he began to enjoy teaching more and got better and comfortable at it. “I can teach things that I know how to do, but never had to explain to anyone before. But you get better at that, and it was great and I love the students,” he said. John was then offered a full time position last December, and he would go on to apply for it. “The whole process of the hiring was challenging,” he admitted, “but it went fine, and ended up getting hired.” 

When it comes to the highlights of working here at Los Medanos, John felt that LMC’s professional development was the highest. “If you were in a position and you wanted to learn something new, there are programs that will allow you to take classes and pay for it, and that is amazing. I’ve done several workshops while here, and learned a lot about video and video editing, and I really appreciated those opportunities. It made me a better designer, satisfied my need to do new things, push myself into different directions, and do those things in college with the skills that I’ve learned” he elaborated.

As for his work as a graphic designer, John highlighted his work for the gymnasium. “I did a bunch of graphics for the athletic complex, very large scale graphics, and that was pretty exciting, I never did anything that large, it pushed me as a designer when it came to trying new things” he said. John also highlighted teaching here at Los Medanos. “Teaching has taken my career into a whole new direction, and I think getting to know the students and learning about their lives and helping them with whatever they need help with, has been really satisfying, he said.

When it came to teaching during the beginning stages of the pandemic, John was admittedly scared of it. “I was really afraid that I wasn’t going to be as effective, and I felt like I would lose students, they might drop, and wasn’t sure how it was going to go,” he said. He also elaborated how teaching through the pandemic further helped him as a teacher. “Seeing what was and wasn’t working really helped a lot. The first class of the pandemic, I didn’t really know what I was doing to be perfectly honest,” he joked. “I think the next year that I taught that class, I was much better, because I knew what was and wasn’t working. I made it work, a lot of us did,” he said.

John felt that another important thing to him as a teacher during the pandemic was making individual Zoom meetings with his fellow students. “To continue having contact with students, even though it was through Zoom, having meetings, not only the class meetings, but individual meetings was really important for me to continue building relationships with students, and also help them one-on-one just to make sure they were up to speed, they were doing okay, and they knew that they had support. We all needed that, especially during the beginning during COVID,” he said.

This fall semester was John’s first semester back teaching in person since the start of the pandemic, and it took him a couple of classes to readjust to it. “It was weird being in front of students for the first time in 2 ½ years, but now it’s totally fine. I enjoy seeing their faces and their responses and how they’re doing as far as they are understanding the material, it’s a much easier environment,” he said.

John will be teaching Graphic Design, Advertising and Marketing, and Photography in the Spring semester, with the latter being asynchronous, and encourages any student who may find the interests that he developed throughout the years to take these classes.