I've always liked drawing. It is an important piece of life where you lose track of time. You never know what's going work. You always have to improvise and there are always things you don't expect - - Matt Kroeger
“If you look at my old notes, just everything is filled with drawings on the side,” says Matt Kroeger, a 2003 Sycamore graduate and now a visual design manager for Bottom-Line Performance. “A teacher once caught me doodling and said, ‘Well, that helps people learn.’”
As you listen to Kroeger talk, two things are evident: he’s passionate about what he does; and he seemingly has always known that he was going to be an artist.
“In high school, when I was starting to really embrace art, we were making movies and that's when I started to get on the computer and start working in Photoshop for the first time. I knew I wanted to do something a little more practical, so I chose graphic design when I went to college. I just kept trying to get better and learning all the new stuff. That’s really helped along the way.”
During his Talon TED Talk at Sycamore, he showed some of the the early movies that he was making with friends. Even while he was still learning the craft of telling a story and making the images engaging, there was a spark, a palpable sense that this was a person who had a gift. It was similar to watching a young moviemaker, like a Spielberg or George Lucas, give you a peek into what the early rough brilliance was for someone who was 15 or 16 years old.
“It really came back to the people I was with in the projects and ideas,” he says of his formative years, when he first started to put his ideas onto video. “Seeing the translation of those ideas showed me I could actually do it rather than a hypothetical. If I just keep working at it, then I'll get better.”
Matt is a graduate of Xavier University, where he was a part of the University Scholars program. Matt graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor's in Fine Arts for Graphic Design. At Bottom-Line Performance in New Palestine, he was named their Visual Design Manager in 2018 after working as a multimedia developer. Matt also has side projects, notably his comics work, #DoGood social media posts, and Spark of Madness podcast.
“Sycamore really prepared me for critical thinking and not just remembering,” he says. “It's understanding what you think about something, and then how to pursue it. I loved art class and having a different project every couple weeks and trying something different. Even classes like our history class were so different than anyone's ever heard of. We were encouraged to do critical, deeper thinking and have your own opinions about something and how you might verify them. That's something I don't think other places did. At Xavier University, I knew how to take notes - that's like one of them smallest things - but you're surprised that some of the simplest organizational things people don't come into high school or college knowing how to do.”
By the time he hit college, Matt was in the fast lane in his pursuit of finding a way to make his love of being creative fit into a place that allowed him to do what he love, and to make a living from it. He has found the answer as visual designer and through his side projects
“I got set up with not just critical thinking, but being able to jump in headfirst to ideas and then at every step along the way I've been encouraged and motivated by just an amazing support system,” he says. “I'm just very driven. And I also know how fortunate I am to have had the opportunities and experiences.”
As he has found a niche for his talents, Kroeger has also discovered a need to return some favors. “At every stop, there are creatively talented people that I learned from,” he says. “In a lot of ways, you are the people you are around, so I've been very lucky to be surrounded by such inspiring people. At Sycamore, the teachers really pulled for you and wanted you to get better and be a good student, not just for high school, but beyond, and I always thought they cared about you as a person. It was a special place. To me, it almost would be wrong of me not to try and give back in other ways or not to keep trying to do the next thing or get better, given all the support I have gotten up to this point in.”
“It all comes back to that idea if you can help one person then it's worth it to me. I think of that with just about anything. It's all about trying to make your mark in the world in different ways, and if I can do that, even in a small way, then I'm going to try.”