Everyone comes to understand their life's calling in different ways and at different times. Some seem to have been born with a single-minded vision of what was meant for them; others have to try their hand at several endeavors to discover their talents; and still others are guided toward their futures by faithfully following their interests and intuition. Recent CLAS graduate Duy "Andy" Le followed an interest in art and a deep desire to better understand his own mind to their logical conclusions this winter when he completed a BA in Psychology and went to work as a graphic designer for Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE).
KSE is a Denver-based company that owns and operates several world-class sports arenas, like the Pepsi Center and Dick's Sporting Goods Park, as well as a number of professional sports teams, including the Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Mammoth, and Colorado Rapids. Le began working for KSE in February and is very enthusiastic about the work he is doing there now and the outlook for a future career. He notes, "It doesn't get tedious, because you're working for the different teams and every day it's something different. It's fun, never a dull moment." During a typical workday Le will get multiple assignments for a web banner, a social media image, or an advertising graphic for anyone of the four major teams that KSE represents. He admits, "I never expected that I would work here at the Pepsi Center. Working with the sports teams is definitely a perk."
Le grew up in Denver, and like many he wanted to get away from his hometown and try something new when it came time to enter university. He headed as far away as practicality allowed and attended University of Northern Colorado in Greeley for his first two years of college. But Greeley didn't take. He felt a lack of connection and support on that campus. Denver called Le back and he listened, enrolling at CU Denver for the remainder of his undergraduate degree. Signing on to work at the University's Career Center as a graphic designer helped him quickly integrate into the campus community at Auraria in a way that he had not been able to in Greeley. "Changing schools is like starting over, but working at the Career Center helped me get back on my feet. That office helped me so much, especially toward the end."
While completing his degree, Le also gained experience doing photography work for the Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC). Visitors to campus can see some of the fruits of this labor hanging in the Career Center and in the new Starbucks in the Tivoli. The photographic prints hanging in Starbucks reflect Le's connection to campus and an affinity for black and white photography. The photos are artistic architectural images of the historic Tivoli building shot from various angles, all with a certain somber quality about them befitting the studious calm of a campus coffee joint.
One way that Le makes a connection between his artistic interest in photography and academic interest in psychology is in the exploration of conveying emotion and various states of mind with his photographs, particularly in his portraits. He uses lighting and composition to draw emotions out of portrait subjects and to help express specific mind states, like anxiety and depression, that are often difficult to describe with words. He prefers black and white photography for this type of work, and says, "For me, black and white can express emotion better than color. Using contrast can really change the overall message." He fell in love with black and white photography while taking a film photography course at CU Denver.
Le sites a course in psychophysics as a big influence on his approach to photography and design. Psychophysics studies the relationship between physical stimuli and our sensations and perceptions of those stimuli. The class enriched Le's understanding of important aspects of art, such as color, lighting, composition, and the complex body/mind interaction that takes place when art is experienced.
Another favorite class may eventually lead him back to school and back to psychology. He really enjoyed Industrial Organizational Psychology (the study of workplace environment and behavior) and says he could see himself returning to school to study that branch of psychology someday. For now, he applies what he learned in that class to his new job: "I like observing the leadership and everyone's role in the company."
Attention to the details of running a company is not wholly new to Le. Last year, he kept himself busy working on a startup fashion design company with a friend, learning by trial the challenges of launching a small business. He has since left the company to focus on his current job and other creative endeavors, though he notes, it was not an easy decision. "The company truly gave me a look into what it was like to bring together a team and how we could all work together to build a vision. I left learning from the hurdles and struggles we had to endure as a startup.
Eventually he dreams of owning his own graphic design and marketing company where he could offer design, photography, marketing and branding to potential clients, but says he still has a lot to learn. In the meantime he continues to pursue his passion for photography on the side of his full-time job as a graphic designer. He is currently working on developing a series of photos depicting a city in transformation. "I live in Denver, all of my photos are of Denver. When I go out and wander, it ends up being in sketchy areas," he says of his photographic adventures. "Denver is growing really, really rapidly. I'm kind of hoping to get into these run down areas and see how they change. Everything is being rebuilt, revitalized. I want to try and capture that." With all of the melding and clashing of new and old on the streets of Denver, Le should have plenty of artistic inspiration to keep him busy for years to come.
Rianna Riegelman is a CU Denver and CLAS alumna (1999) with a BA in English Writing. She works as a writer, editor, and graphic designer in Denver and Boulder.