Advanced graphic design students at Lynchburg are making real-world experience for themselves by running their own, in-class design agency.
Throughout the semester, they have reached out to clients in the greater-Lynchburg community to offer creative services at no charge. They named themselves the Elite 8 Design Group, referring to the seven students plus graphic design professor Ursula Bryant.
Their work went into overdrive on Friday, October 26, when the students spent 12 hours in a graphic design lab working on projects for nearly two dozen local businesses, nonprofits, and campus groups.
In the early afternoon, Brooke Kowalski ’19 was testing different ways to arrange text in a logo for Fare Share, a program that University of Lynchburg residence life staff member Terry Bodine plans to launch at local coffee shops. The logo would be displayed in the windows of participating shops — something that made Kowalski think more deeply about every design choice.
“It adds a little extra pressure, because it’s not just for a grade,” she said. “It’s good pressure, because it makes you want to make the perfect design and please not just the client, but also people who are passing by and seeing it.”
The group received more than 40 applications for design work during the event, which they called a “design-a-thon.” Applicants included campus groups, local nonprofits, and small businesses, and projects included website mockups, logos, and flyers. After choosing which projects to work on, the students worked as a team to divide and conquer.
“Since we are using this class as an agency environment,we’re able to divide the projects up based on everybody’s talents and skill sets,” Kowalski said. “It’s really good, and it helps for real-world experience.”
Lauren Bodamer ’19 said there’s a big difference between working on a class assignment and designing a project for a real client, whose wishes play into the final product. “It’s a running joke that the real world never goes as smoothly as a class does,” she said.
The Elite 8 projects provide the students with more experience dealing with the expectations of a real-world project, she added.
In all, the group completed marketing and design materials for more than 20 non-profits, small local businesses, and campus community organizations during the design-a-thon. “The students’ energy was motivating and the work produced was highly professional,” Bryant said. “It was a rewarding day.”
Outside of the blitz day, students have been working on projects for the Claytor Nature Center and the local Presbyterian Cemetery. One student, Sarah Barnes ’20, suggested they do work for MayLynn’s Creamery, an ice cream shop in downtown Lynchburg.
The students recently visited the shop to take photos and start making plans for a redesigned website.
Bodamer said the owner was incredibly grateful and posted about the group’s help on his Facebook page. This led to the local ABC affiliate WSET stopping by for a story about the project.
The design-a-thon also caught the attention of two media outlets based in Roanoke, WDBJ7 and WFXR. “It’s been an overwhelming positive response within the community,” Bodamer said, adding that the response reinforces the value of and appreciation for their volunteer work.“Any way you can give back, I think you should.”