Award-winning designer-developer Laura Garcia has an artistic spirit. She was determined to ‘make it’ as a creative.
Her determination transformed her art into application—and now she’s contributing to the future of digital.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m from New Caledonia. My parents wanted me to study medicine or engineering, but apparently, I am stubborn. Since I've been able to hold a pencil, I’ve loved drawing. And I would draw on the walls, or on my sister’s face!
When I finished high school, I decided to follow my passion for illustration. I studied in Singapore for a year, freelanced in New Caledonia for a year, and did an internship with a design company. But I wanted to dive deeper into design.
So, I started studying at Te Wāhanga Waihanga-Hoahoa—Wellington Faculty of Architecture and Design Innovation.
During my studies, I was working part time at Psychoactive Studios. It was nice to be able to control my hours. I would go to work in the morning, come home for University work, then go back to work afterwards. During busy times at University I could focus on coursework Monday to Friday, and catch up on Psychoactive work on the weekends. It was very flexible.
Why did you choose to study at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington?
I wanted to stay in Wellington, everyone is so friendly here! What the other universities in the area were missing was the ability to allow me to do a one-year Bachelor. But Wellingtons University was helpful with the application process. I was able to do everything in one year. That was great.
Why did you choose your degree?
Easy! I've always been doing illustration, concept art, and graphic design. With the Bachelor of Design Innovation, I could expand my knowledge. Photography, illustration, creative coding, game design, wearable technology... these are things I knew about vaguely but wanted to truly understand. At Wellington’s University, I gained deeper skills I can apply in the real world.
I loved how hands-on it is at the University. It was fun to go beyond purely digital and combine ‘virtual’ with physical, in Wearable Technology.
What’s your strongest memory at the University?
When I won a Wellington Faculty of Architecture and Design Innovation Excellence Award, for Media Design. Throughout the year, I put everything I could into University. But I didn’t think I was that good!
I worked on a Creative Coding project, where I built a Zoom background out of p5.js. I spent all my time creating a vibrant lake scene with birds flying and leaves falling.
At the Awards, I was saying to a friend, “Oh wow, these people are impressive!” So, when they announced “Laura Garcia”, I blanked. I was frozen in awe. I must have cried for like an hour. My classmates were all very talented — I was surprised and so happy when I won the award.
As an alumna, I feel proud to be a part of a community of passionate people.
What advice would you give the prospective students today?
Go for it! Apply yourself, even if you don’t feel “good enough”. Being the “best” is not why you’re going to university—you’re there to learn from your mistakes and grow.
Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. The teachers are approachable. Honestly, just open up to the teachers, and get to know them.
And never do all-nighters! It’s about quality over quantity, and working overtime is not sustainable. You should prioritise sleep and exercise. Even when I was studying and working, I got nine hours of sleep every night.
Tell us about your memorable lecturers?
Lots of them! Anne Niemetz for Wearable Tech. Tom White for Creative Coding. Leon Gurevitch for photography. My favourite is Walter Langelaar, and I had him every single trimester. They are all talented, and their passion is contagious. Plus, they’re so nice. If I want to talk, I can easily go see them.
What do you wish you had known before applying for your first job?
Be brave! Don’t be afraid to apply, even if you don’t fit every single criteria. You need to fit a few key criteria, for sure. But be open to learning. Show in any interview that you are confident in your skills. Express your passion. And have a deep drive for upskilling. Communicate how you want to grow with the business.
Also, it’s important to do research into the company—really do your homework. When you know what a company is doing, and you know the culture, then you know why you want to work there.
What is the best thing about working at Psychoactive Studios?
I’m not restricted to one role. There’s space to grow, in any subject that interests me. I'm doing web design and Webflow development and studying to being a full-stack developer. I’m also learning 3D animation with Blender. Plus, I’m the project owner of one of our biggest projects, which involves improving team communication, and ensuring all tasks are covered. I feel great that I’ve been trusted to carry out these actions.
Thanks Laura, it was a pleasure hearing about your journey as a designer-developer, and we are proud to have you as an alumna of Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.