SIGD Alumna’s Times Square Billboard Design Wins National Award

Morgan Smith, a 2016 graduate of Auburn University’s School of Industrial and Graphic Design, recently received an award from Graphic Design USA for her work designing billboards in New York City’s Times Square that promoted Auburn Athletics’ Men’s Basketball Program. Smith’s billboard design was recognized in the Advertising and Ad Campaigns category as part of Graphic Design USA’s 59th annual showcase competition. More than 14,000 projects were entered in this year’s competition, which recognized 750 projects in 21 different categories.

Smith, who is Director of Graphic Design and Branding for Auburn Athletics, served as creative director and graphic designer for the project. The design featured images of Auburn Men’s Basketball Head Coach Bruce Pearl and basketball student-athletes Jabari Smith Jr. and Walker Kessler. The billboards appeared in Times Square last June and ran for an hour on the evening of the NBA draft. Wrapping around the side of a building near the intersection of Broadway and 46th Street, they celebrated the basketball program’s return to prominence under Coach Pearl and the history-making achievement of Smith and Kessler, the first Auburn teammates to be picked in the first round of the same NBA draft.

“This is by far the largest, most prominent project I have ever worked on,” Smith said. “It came with some unique challenges—one of which being that I only had 24 hours to produce it once we received specs from the advertising company. It was fast-paced and high-pressure, but we have built our Auburn Athletics visual identity in such a way that we can fall back on our strong branding assets to make projects like this possible. My goal was to create something simple and bold to set our campaign apart from the visual noise of Times Square. A 129-foot tall Power Stripe did the trick.”

According to Smith, the Auburn Men’s Basketball coaching staff were able to see the billboards in person while in New York City for the draft. The project was specifically kept secret from Pearl, so he was completely surprised when he saw it.

Smith has worked for Auburn Athletics for the past eight years, beginning as a student intern in 2015.

“As an Auburn grad, one of the things I love most about my job is that I get to promote programs, a University, and a brand I love dearly,” she said. “To be part of putting our brand on one of the busiest corners of the world was exciting to say the least. I didn’t get to see the boards in person, but I watched the live web cam. It is honestly a little emotional to see your work on display for thousands—something that started as a blank white canvas and came out of your own brain, now dazzling in 15,000 square feet of LED lights.”

Smith’s work will be featured in the Graphic Design USA Annual Showcase along with other well-known brands such as Anheuser-Busch, Doritos, General Motors, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, and WNBA among others.