Senior graphic design show features student solutions to real world problems


Courtresy to Instagram (@gvsuart)

Chavala Ymker

After a semester full of challenges and uncertainties, the Grand Valley State University Graphic Design class of Fall 2020 was able to hold their senior show. 

Entitled “Emerge: Designs of the Future,” the showcase spanned from Nov. 16-19 in the GVSU Art Gallery where students had the ability to display their work for visitors and family members. 

For the show, twelve students had to identify a real-world problem and use their design skills to provide a solution. Some of the themes the students had to focus their work around were individualism, hunting awareness, awareness about Celiac Disease and more. 

By the time the showcase rolled around, the gallery was filled to the brim with prototype coffee shops, apps and informational campaigns.

One student in particular, Erin Finholm, said she knew she wanted to focus on supporting local farms — especially during the pandemic. 

After interviewing local farmers, Finholm developed the idea of creating an app that allows customers to order food from local farms. The project involved developing examples of the app, creating a logo and designing promotional materials.

Finholm decided that she not only wanted to support farmers, but also encourage local, healthier eating. She designed the logo as both a heart and a piece of produce coming together. Her slogan was, “the heart of community lies in food.”

“I want to be seen as a designer emerging into the world and making a positive impact,” Finholm said.

Another senior, Paige Wilds, decided to use her passion for animals to create an alternative, positive advertisement campaign to the often downcast advertising style used by many animal protection organizations.

Called “Respet,” Wilds used pastel colors to create educational materials focused on cat declawing, shelter overflow and animal testing. She hopes visitors understood that “even the little choices we make, make a difference.”

Taylor VanDerLaan took a different route than the others, and after doing research, was struck by the fact that some people are more stressed by planning a party than they are going to a job interview. This inspired her to create a party planning kit, complete with materials she designed and all accompanied by a website. 

No matter how different their ideas were, thesis class professor Lindsey Peterson led each student through intensive work processes with the goal of helping them understand the entire design process more fully. 

“My hope is that each student sees the value and intentionally it takes to build out and apply a full design system,” Peterson said. 

VanderLaan feels that this, accompanied by the support of her classmates, made this experience one she will always remember. 

“It was a challenging semester and there were many obstacles but nothing could have prepared me more for a career,” VanderLaan said. 

Katie Pershon, Collections and Exhibition Technician for the gallery, worked with the students as well, but in the case of creating the exhibit. 

Pershon said this showcase was important because it will likely be the only exhibition experience the graphic design students have at GVSU. She said she hopes the showcase inspired them, preparing them for their future careers. 

“I want them to see their work for what it is: as works of art,” Pershon said. “I hope it encourages them in moving forward, especially in the world right now. I hope that they look at it as a moment of hope and happiness, as a light.”