Megan Forbes ’20 has a design on life that combines creativity and blue-sky thinking to play an influential role in people’s lives. As a graduate of the communications design program in Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, Forbes wants to be involved in projects that make a difference. “I believe designers have an opportunity to make a positive impact,” says Forbes, who lives in Manhattan Beach, California. “They’re able to persuade a large audience, especially if they have the right outlook and the right way to disperse their view. I plan to use my abilities to bring insights to important causes and create ways to help others. I want to make an impact.”
Learning from Personal Experience
Forbes speaks from a personal perspective. When she lost her grandmother, then her grandfather to lung cancer, she and her mother decided to establish Gone with the Wigs, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to raising cancer awareness and encouraging patients going through chemotherapy to abandon their wigs. The idea, Forbes says, is to empower the patients by focusing not on their outward appearance but their inner beauty—a characteristic that her grandmother embraced.
For a fundraiser, they organized a fashion show, which featured cancer patients and survivors as models, people shaving their heads in solidarity with cancer patients, and an auction that raised money for cancer patients and their families. Along with turning a devastating personal time into a positive outcome that benefited others, the event gave Forbes the opportunity to put her creative skills to work planning the event, designing the website and logo, and filming the models. “Gone with the Wigs really kept me centered through an extremely difficult time,” she says.
Forbes traces her passion for creativity to her childhood. Whether taking art classes, shooting photography, or making films (she’s produced several for her mother’s real estate business), Forbes enjoys expressing herself. She cites her communications design classes for expanding her knowledge and says working independently on class projects—such as creating logos, advertisements and 3D models for a fictional restaurant in her sophomore year—helped build her confidence. “I’ve always had an eye for design,” she says. “These projects inspired me for years to come.”
I was given a lot of creative freedom and encouraged to explore. I learned every day and gained a clearer view of what I wanted to do post-graduation, like what type of company I could see myself working at.—Megan Forbes ’20
Internships and student activities also made a difference for Forbes. She did design work for a few campus magazines, served as a social media coordinator for her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, and created the 2018 Mayfest poster as a member of the University Union design team. “I was constantly working on it,” she says. “It felt like a real job, and it was really cool to see the designs all over campus.” She held internships with a production company—which included going on a shoot for an Apple commercial—and with Los Angeles fashion company James Perse, where she assisted the head of branding, learned about furniture, and gained insights into promoting new products and business ventures. She also interned with the Executionists, a design firm in Marina del Rey, handling tasks in web design, branding and graphic design. “There were countless projects going on all at once,” she says. “I was given a lot of creative freedom and encouraged to explore. I learned every day and gained a clearer view of what I wanted to do post-graduation, like what type of company I could see myself working at.”
Embracing the Orange Spirit
So what attracted someone from the beaches of the West Coast to Syracuse? Forbes says she fell in love with campus on a gorgeous fall-day visit and also credits a close family friend, Bob Gautieri ’76, whom she describes as a “diehard, bleed Orange guy,” for his persuasive input. “I realized Syracuse had everything I could have wanted in a school,” she says. “It has the rah-rah spirit, the sports, the great academics, a beautiful campus, and different weather obviously from L.A., which was something I wanted to experience.”
Forbes was particularly excited to return to campus for the Fall 2018 semester because she was joined by her brother, Logan ’22, who is now a senior majoring in real estate in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. She enjoyed showing him around campus and learning what he’d discovered on his own. She sees Syracuse as a place with endless opportunities to try new things and believes it’s important to enjoy the experiences, meet people and make friendships. “It’s important to have a huge open mind,” she says. “It was amazing and eye-opening to meet people from different places around the world with unique perspectives. All my friendships I made I know I’ll keep for a lifetime.”
Syracuse had everything I could have wanted in a school. It has the rah-rah spirit, the sports, the great academics, a beautiful campus, and different weather obviously from L.A., which was something I wanted to experience.—Megan Forbes ’20
A Love for Creating and Learning
Now back on the West Coast, Forbes is a graphic designer at HERE Studio, a branding agency in L.A. that collaborates with a diverse range of clients, helps bring brands to market, and owns and operates its own consumer brands. Forbes has added her creative touch to a number of projects, including Sprinkles Cupcakes and De La Calle, a “HERE Original” product that offers new takes on the Mexican sparkling fermented beverage Tepache. “I’m doing branding and packaging and loving every second!” she says. “I honestly love working on all types of projects because you never know what you might learn!”
My design courses were pretty much what I now do every day in the real world. I feel so lucky that I found my path and learned so much at Syracuse University.—Megan Forbes ’20
And what Forbes learned at Syracuse University has proven invaluable. She likens her day-to-day work to her design classes. “My design courses were pretty much what I now do every day in the real world,” says Forbes, who looks forward to attending her 2020 Commencement this month. “I feel so lucky that I found my path and learned so much at Syracuse University.”
This story was updated on September 7, 2021.