Six Students of Professor Devon Ward Honored by Graphic Design USA

Graphic Design Student Ethan Shapiro, GDUSA Award Winner

In its 59th Design Showcase, Graphic Design USA (GDUSA) honored six Auburn students in the student category of the competition. Not only are all six graphic design majors in the School of Industrial and Graphic Design (SIGD), but they are also all students of Assistant Professor Devon Ward.

Students Ethan Shapiro and Anna Louise Lane were enrolled in Ward’s Advanced Interactive Media class last fall when he assigned them to create the branding for a cultural festival or event as well along with a mobile app. Lane’s project, entitled “Natural Indigo Clothing Exchange,” was inspired by the idea of thrifting as a more sustainable way of purchasing clothes. She created a clothing swap app focused on the history of denim. Shapiro’s piece, entitled “Arte de la Calle,” was inspired by the culture of Chicano Mexican Americans. “The vibrancy of the colors in their clothing, meals and music gave me a wide variety of colors to use throughout the design system,” Shapiro stated. “I particularly found ancient Meso-American symbols and carvings to be extremely interesting and influential.”

Students Deborah Yeseul Choi, Kacee Bridgman, Katherine Torkkola and Erika Donley were all enrolled in Ward’s Introduction to Graphic Design class last fall. He asked students to design album packaging for an artist from the non-profit Smithsonian Folkways record label. Torkkola selected the Entourage Music and Theater Ensemble, a group that that features a variety of instruments and musical influences to create “an experimental-spiritualistic environment.” Choi selected classical and electronic composer J.D. Robb, an arts educator and folk song collector and preservationist. Robb’s songs are composed of natural sounds that highlight electronic instruments including a Moog synthesizer, a modular synthesizer that alters sound through patch cords. “The design includes collages of historic photos and handmade typography,” Choi stated. “The overall concept for my album cover was inspired by the intensity of black-and-white punk zines and emphasizes the wires of the Moog synthesizer.” Bridgman titled her project “Lonely Winter EP” and worked to use design techniques and color language as well as photography to create a vision of a cold and lonely winter. Donley’s work was an album featuring LaVergne Smith, a popular jazz vocalist and pianist who performed in New Orleans’ French Quarter in the 1950s. “The story this album cover tells is the heartbreak and distress between a couple and their failing relationship through the lyrics and imagery,” Donley explained. “For the design, elements of nightlife scenes were incorporated into a deep, darker, more moody composition.”

All of the students said that Professor Ward pushed them out of their comfort zone in terms of both their work in class and their decisions to submit their projects for the competition. Shapiro said that Ward’s guidance and attention to every detail throughout the process helped him to think outside the box. “His immense knowledge of design, design history and just the art space in general is so helpful when looking for inspiration.” Donley said she had never even considered entering a competition before but that Ward’s encouragement was what she needed to grow as a designer. “During the course of the project, Professor Ward continued to push me to develop my art style and refine my design. When he reached out to me to submit my work, it felt like such an honor,” she stated. Choi was also very grateful for Ward’s encouragement. “Professor Ward helped me a lot, giving me much feedback, confidence and a sober perspective on design,” Choi said. “Even though I have confidence in my work, I almost freaked out because I was so surprised to be chosen!” Ward is glad the students’ hard work has paid off and he is looking forward to seeing what they do next.  “One of the most exciting parts of teaching is to see students grow as designers and individuals in such a short amount of time,” he stated. “They are so talented and they’re just getting started.”

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Devon Ward