Marketing & Communications  


December 14, 2010 - “There are opportunities for writers,” states Curt Wozniak '97, currently a writer and editor at the local design firm, Peopledesign. Although the industry constantly changes due to advances in technology and economic woes, he notes, the occupation of a writer does yield many prospects – for those with tenacity. Now a full-time writer, Wozniak recalls his unconventional journey through college transfers, major doubts, and career guidance. Though his education did not begin in the field of writing, or even at Aquinas, his passion for the written word led to a fulfilling career which revealed the importance of a liberal arts education and the ability to adapt to a variety of opportunities.

At eighteen, after one semester at Alma College, Wozniak discovered that he had made a wrong turn. Following his gut feeling yet unsure of his next move, he quickly transferred to Delta Community College and finished his freshman year in hopes of finding a new direction for his education. Wozniak then transferred for the University of Dayton, Ohio but soon found, after 10 days no less, that his third chosen college proved unfitting, uncomfortable, and just plain wrong. With one year of higher education and three schools under his belt, Wozniak stumbled upon a small, private Catholic college that would provide both the community and direction for which he had been desperately searching. Aquinas, allowing for a slightly smoother transition due to its late fall start date, became Wozniak’s new home.

After Wozniak's first week of phone calls to his new professors explaining his three day tardiness (of which he recalls Professor Mike Williams, who was “so gracious on the phone” and made Wozniak realize he had made the right choice), he was ready to begin his studies in secondary education. However, Wozniak’s journey in the field of teaching was not meant to be. As an education major, he was required to participate in observational study of teachers in the field. Quickly discovering his lack of passion for teaching under the weight of grading papers and uninspiring high school teachers, he decided to change direction, again. He recalls this change of heart with a sense of humor, stating, "Those who can't teach, do. At least in my case."

Luckily, his interest in an English certification enabled Wozniak to easily continue his education as an English Literature major. Finally, he had found his niche and quickly took initiative. Noticing the somewhat poor quality of the Aquinas newspaper, then the Aquinas Times, Wozniak wrote a letter to the editor expressing his negative sentiment. The editor, clearly attune to constructive criticism, challenged this newly adjusting English major to become part of the staff of the publication and added, to the delight of Wozniak, “If you can do any better.” And he did.

Wozniak graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature in 1997 after serving as the editor of the Aquinas Times his senior year and went on to write freelance pieces for the Grand Rapids Press for the next five years. In addition to his freelance writing, he also worked as a copywriter for the internal advertising department at Meijer and eventually obtained a position at Grand Rapids Magazine. There, Wozniak “fell in love with design as a process” and aided in the development of the designer section of the magazine which reflected a vital industry in the area.

His long-cultivated writing talents and newly found interest in design led him to Kevin Budelmann, co-owner of Peopledesign and then part of the design advisory panel for the Grand Rapids Magazine. Budelmann and Wozniak quickly became friends in addition to colleagues and, upon a request for career advice, Wozniak was offered a position to succeed the principle editor at Peopledesign.

"Curt’s been one of the best hires we’ve ever had,” notes Budelmann, and co-owner Yang Kim adds, “Curt fit right away.” Wozniak became part of the team at Peopledesign in 2008, and was immediately put to work writing ad copy, editing, and developing the firm's new project, Brand Identity Essentials. The book, a collaborative effort by Wozniak, Budelmann, and Kim, is part of The Essentials Series by Rockport Publishing, and involves a structure of 100 basic principles of marketing and design. Although Wozniak served as the editor for the publication, he also contributed his own ideas about design based on his experience in the field.

“Curt added a huge amount of value,” states Budelmann and added to the book’s “Why?” factor, guiding the purpose of each topic.

The book includes original work from the team at Peopledesign, and also features designers from around the world who competed for a spot among its pages. Wozniak, Budelmann, and Kim chose from over 5,000 pieces of art in order to align each brand identity essential with an accurate visual piece. In essence, the final publication is designed to bridge the gap between logos and brands and thus clarify this sometimes confusing topic in the marketing industry. The intended audience for ‘Brand Identity Essentials’ includes marketing and design students, buyers, and professionals. “It’s like a secret handbook,” adds Budelmann, as the book teaches much of the practical uses of design that are not taught within the classroom.

For Wozniak’s success after a non-traditional path, he points to his education at Aquinas. He recalls that although the private college has a similar amount of opportunities in relation to other institutions, the smaller community and guidance from professors enabled those prospects to yield positive results. Wozniak notes that he was “encouraged in a nurturing way to take advantage of them,” and that “teachers would always be encouraging my writing.”

Budelmann and Kim also agree that an ability to quickly adapt to a changing industry is vital is a professional setting and is grounded in a liberal arts education. Despite the notion that one must choose a fixed career, Budelmann argues that the “world is evolving very rapidly” and one must be flexible in order to succeed.

Writing, in essence, continues to play a vital role even in a struggling economy. “Everyone needs a story-teller,” states Wozniak, and has demonstrated this through his success in a variety of industries. “People have a hard time visualizing their thoughts,” adds Kim, as she notes the importance of writers in every line of work.

Though the path for a writer or English major may seem uncertain, the need for the wordsmith is ever prevalent. With initiative, diligence, and a few tough choices, Wozniak experienced, one can compose a successful career between the lines of breaking news or the stubborn margins of ad copy.