You’ve probably seen Rita’s work if you’ve attended an event at the high school auditorium. The 2006 SASHS graduate's colored pencil drawing won the Tom Colley Art Award and is displayed in the auditorium lobby. Her self-portrait peers out from a leafy hiding place, a knocked arrow pointing right at the viewer. It’s a surprising and striking image. It’s even more striking if you’ve ever met the artist. Yu has a quiet and humble, almost shy, personality. She’s more likely to let you run a conversation than not and is definitely not about bragging or getting in someone’s face.
Not that she couldn’t brag a little, if she wanted…
Yu graduated from James Madison University’s Art Department with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design. While there, she racked up a serious list of awards and scholarships including a student Addy award. As impressive as was her work at JMU, it was in graduate school that she really took flight.
Yu earned a graduate scholarship to the world-renowned Rochester Institute of Technology to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. While there she studied everything from typography to digital user interface design. She worked on interfaces for iOS apps, designed motion graphics, developed branding, and designed jewelry. She won several awards including the Lella and Massimo Vignelli Award, an award endowed by and named for the legendary designer, Massimo Vignelli, responsible for the classic American Airlines logo, the New York Subway signage system, and other important works. As her graduate thesis, Yu developedTailored Type, a web-based application. An experiment, the concept of Tailored Type was an application to help clothing designers choose type based upon a target audience’s age, gender, and other factors (see it here).
With her graduation from R.I.T. looming, Yu began the interview process, hoping to land a job in the highly competitive design industry. In the late spring, she interviewed with several firms, but had no luck. Then she received the call that changed her world. Microsoft was interested in interviewing her for their Interactive Entertainment Business Unit, the division that controls the development of the X-Box. Yu traveled to the company’s Washington state headquarters and underwent a grueling and stressful interview.
“It is a little weird to stand up and talk about your work to a bunch of strangers, but I’d been doing it for a long time through school,” she said in a visit to a high school design class in June. “That definitely helped me.”
Yu landed the job and moved to Washington in July to start work on the UX (or “user experience) for the new X-Box One system. In an email discussing her upcoming work, she reflected on her parents, who were very worried about her career choice when she first told them about her aspirations.
“…My parents are happy with my decision now, thank goodness. They're not too happy that I'll be across the country and are worried that I'll be under a lot of stress, but that's life being a designer almost anywhere.”
UPDATE: "Work has been crazy busy and I've been pulling 60–80 hr weeks... but other than that I enjoy it..." wrote Yu in a recent email.
Click here to see Rita Yu’s portfolio!