STUDENT WHO HELPED FIRE VICTIMS NOW HEADING OBAMA DESIGN TEAM

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 By Ray M. Wong

November 9, 2011 (El Cajon) -- Imagine working for the President of the United States, consulting with him personally and being responsible for the artwork and design of his whole reelection campaign. Josh Higgins doesn’t have to pinch himself awake from the dream. He’s living it.

Higgins studied graphic design at San Diego City College from 1999 to 2002. He has done design work for Fender Guitars, Hewlett Packard and Perry Ellis International. His artwork has helped San Diego County fire victims. Now he’s the Design Director for Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign.    

The position is demanding. “It’s the most intense job I’ve ever been in,” Higgins said. He oversees all the marketing for the reelection effort with the exception of video and writing. He puts in 12-hour days and works from home on weekends. He is hiring project managers, designers and copy writers and will supervise 29 people for the design team by the start of 2012.

 It is the experience of a lifetime. “My first week, I was on the phone with the President,” Higgins said. “To hear that voice on the other end of the phone is so surreal.” Higgins is consulting with Obama’s advising team to develop the branding strategy for the President’s reelection. He is also working on the design of the White House Christmas cards that will be sent to the most influential leaders of the world.
 
Higgins owes much of his success to Candice Lopez, the faculty member who developed the award-winning graphic design program at City College. In the 1990s, Higgins was playing bass in a rock band called Fluf and created promotional flyers for his group. His friend, Jill Bartolo, had taken graphic design at City and suggested Higgins try it. He enrolled in a typography class taught by Lopez and was hooked the first day. “Candice was so inspirational,” Higgins conveyed. “I never had a teacher who inspired me the way she did, the way she talked about design. She has so much passion that it radiates; it’s intoxicating.”
 
The admiration is mutual. “Josh, from the time he was a student, I could see a very unique blend of qualities.” Lopez related. “He has a genuine authenticity, a persona. He has a tremendous social consciousness. He appeals to people to get involved. He’s a brilliant conceptual thinker (and) knows how to craft a message that people can identify with. He believes that design makes a difference.”
 
Higgins has used his design and organizational skills to help raise $60,000 dollars for Hurricane Katrina victims, to aid people devastated by the 2007 San Diego wildfires and for earthquake relief in Haiti.
 
It’s ironic that Higgins never liked high school and went into music, because his music career exposed him to the basic elements of visual design. Then the graphic design program at City launched him into a new career. Now, he hopes others will look at community college in a different way. “If you have the passion and drive and an instructor like Candice, there’s no limit,” he said.
 
Ray M. Wong is a freelance writer in El Cajon. His articles and stories have appeared in “USA Today,” “San Diego Family” magazine and “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. His memoir, “Chinese-American: A Journey of Discovery,” will be published by Kitsune Books in 2013. E-mail him at ray@raywong.info or contact him through his website: www.raywong.info.