Disney Imagineer perfects craftsmanship with an online graphic design program
Ben Van Beusekom has made a career as an artist – working with Disney Imagineering to design some of the company’s famous park attractions – but his passion lies in storytelling.
It was this passion, said Van Beusekom, that inspired him to return to school 20 years after he started working for Disney to study online graphic design with a focus on 3D modeling and animation at home. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).
“I knew that if I developed my technical knowledge, it could only make me a stronger performer in whatever I do,” Van Beusekom said. “When you have this technical knowledge, you can see things differently and understand things differently. It’s important when telling a story to be able to look at things from different points of view.
Van Beusekom said he was looking forward to completing his online graphic design degree and advancing his artistic career with Disney and his personal projects.
Building a portfolio
He started working at Disney in 1998, when his college roommate found a job on the entertainment side of the park and suggested he join her. At the suggestion of a colleague who saw Van Beusekom’s drawings of park scenes, he took examples of his work to the art department and applied for a job. He was told that his work had potential, but that he should continue to work on his craft and build his portfolio.
This is exactly what Beusekom did. For the next four years, he continued to work to improve his artistic and technical skills, checking in with the Disney art department every few months. This perseverance paid off in 2002, when he received a call informing him that there was a job for him.
In the 20 years since he started working for Disney in the entertainment business, Van Beusekom has become an important member of the company’s art department and now works as a Disney Imagineer in charge of painting. and character finishing for some of the park’s biggest attractions.
In this role, Van Beusekom is responsible for the overall appearance of park attractions and hotels, designing and selecting the best colors and textures for everything from building walls and park benches to walkways and shingles. Van Beusekom has also created concept drawings for future attractions and destinations, and works with suppliers around the world to bring these designs to life.
“When we design an attraction, someone has to do the research and make sure that if the theme is 1920s France, everything matches that theme,” Van Beusekom said. “I choose colors and develop and design faux finishes to tell the most detailed and accurate story.”
He worked on the 2010 expansion of Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland, for Disney’s Hawaii resort, Aulani, and even, during a short break from working for Disney, the village of Hogsmeade at Universal Studio’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Throughout his time at Disney, he has also made it a priority to continue to develop his personal artistic style and works on a unique blend of couture fashion, textile sculpture, handbags and paintings. Much like her work with Disney, her personal work is inspired by color and aims to evoke a sense of fantasy, from ornate gas masks covered in beads and feathers to brightly colored paintings showcasing the beauty of the outside world.
Keep learning with online graphic design
Despite his professional and personal success, Van Beusekom said he believed artists should never stop learning and perfecting their craft. It was this belief that prompted him to return to school. And it was the flexibility of SNHU’s online graphic design degree program that led him to enroll in college.
“Like any field, art changes and evolves as the process evolves and the material evolves,” he said. “You want to be relevant and still be able to attract a large audience. I want to continue to develop my art. I want to continue my personal work and push it to find a happy mix where we don’t lose the importance of the traditional medium, but where we can enrich the narrative with graphics and with the digital side.
Studying graphic design online, he said, made it possible to continue his studies while working full time and traveling abroad for professional projects.
“You can fly around the world and take your computer with you,” he said. “SNHU gives you that ability to forge the best education for yourself, to draw on all of your experiences, to apply it to your homework, and to do it at your own pace. For me, that was a big deal. »
Use new skills to tell stories
Van Beusekom has been enrolled in the graphic design program for a year and said he has already seen the impact his learning has had on his daily work. His role at Disney has increasingly involved the use of various graphic design technologies, a field in which he is primarily self-taught. His curriculum’s emphasis on 3D modeling has given him a head start when using these new and ever-changing design programs.
“I’m learning to use this technology in a different way and it allows me to be more efficient and streamline the way I design,” he said. “It allows me to design stronger stories.”
This ability to be a better storyteller, Van Beusekom said, is priceless.
“It’s about being able to create pockets of happiness for people,” he said. “The world is a tough place every year. Everyone has problems – divorce, student loans, whatever weighs on you. But nothing is better than the moment you see a family in the park and realize they are lost in their laughter.
“Right now they’re just happy, and that’s what you’re trying to accomplish.”
Danielle Gagnon is a freelance writer and marketer focused on higher education. Connect with her on LinkedIn.