Success by Design: Internship Adds to Graphic Communication Repertoire for New WIU Alumna

Mariah Bartz, a brand new alumna of Western Illinois University, with the Pokémon Go map she designed for WIU's Macomb campus.

Mariah Bartz, a brand new alumna of Western Illinois University, with the Pokémon Go map she designed for WIU’s Macomb campus.

What experiences in an internship can help make it “awesome” for a college student?

Just ask Macomb native and brand new Western Illinois University alumna Mariah Bartz. This summer, those of us who work in University Relations had the great pleasure of working with Mariah—she has been in our office every morning since May 24 working to complete a design internship, the final requirement for her bachelor’s degree in graphic communication.

“Working with University Relations allowed me to utilize my skills in a real-world setting. I had to apply many things I had learned in my courses, and this served as both continued practice and as a reminder for the tips and tricks I needed to make something look the way I imagined it to be,” Mariah noted. “During this internship, I designed posters, postcards, birthday cards, advertisements, booklet pages, maps, and a social media directory webpage and a blog directory webpage for Western’s website. I was fortunate to be given such a wide variety of projects during my time there, and it was particularly awesome to get to work both with page layout and web design.”

Throughout much of her time at Western, Mariah has truly embraced the University’s core values of educational opportunity and personal growth and has the projects/creations now under her belt to prove it. Not only has she created a number of real-world projects this summer we’re using in University Relations—e.g., the Pokémon Go map for campus and she completed a much-needed update to our social media directory—but she also has been doing so since at least 2015 as a Western student.

Mariah with the Rocky statue she was selected to paint the 2015 edition of the Rocky on Parade campaign.

Mariah with the Rocky statue she was selected to paint the 2015 edition of the Rocky on Parade campaign.

In the fall last year, Mariah was selected to design the 2015 holiday card, which features an original watercolor lithograph of Sherman Hall. The card was sent to more than 750 friends of the WIU Foundation. Also in 2015, Mariah was chosen to design and paint the Foundation’s Rocky statue as a part of the 2015 Rocky on Parade campaign. Bartz’s “Molecule Dog,” featuring the chemical symbols for love and happiness, is now situated by the flagpole north of the University Union.

Mariah, who has also had her artwork featured at the Juried Student Exhibition at WIU, the Evanston Art Center (Evanston, IL), and the Figge Art Museum (Davenport, IA), shared a bit more about her background and her experiences at Western below…

Q. Where did you grow up? What are your interests outside of work/school?

Mariah: I grew up here in Macomb, so WIU has been a part of my life for a long time. Outside of work or school, my interests include doing small art projects, playing video games, and watching movies. I am very much a homebody.

Q. What have been some of your most memorable experiences as a student at WIU?

Rocky on Parade statue painted by WIU alumna Mariah Bartz (pictured here with Mariah's aunt, grandmother, and mother) on the north side of the Western Illinois University Union.

The 2015 Rocky on Parade statue painted by WIU alumna Mariah Bartz (pictured here with Mariah’s aunt, grandmother, and mother). The statue is located on the north side of the Western Illinois University Union.

Mariah: The most memorable experience was getting drafted by the WIU Foundation to paint their Rocky sculpture for Rocky on Parade in 2015. It was fun for me to paint it, and now that my “molecule dog” is under the flag post by the Union, it’s fun to see people interact with the dog and take photos of it.

Q. What are your career plans?

Mariah: For the future, I plan to move into a city to get a broader use for my degree, with either printed media or web design. I may also consider continuing my education—if I later feel that it would be a good direction for me to go.

Q. How do you think your studies have prepared you for your career?

Mariah: I feel like many of the courses I took benefitted me greatly, and I had some excellent instruction from a few teachers along the way. There are some good habits I have formed through my advanced design classes that have made me prepared to handle a variety of professional circumstances.

Q. What advice do you have for current and future WIU students?

Mariah: Between my sophomore and junior year, I ended up taking some time off from school. For me, this was a benefit, because I needed to sort of recharge my batteries. When I returned to WIU, I was more motivated and dedicated, and it absolutely paid off then.

If you are a student who feels stressed or pressured, please understand that everyone’s life is different, and that if you want to progress somewhere, you can do so when the time is right for you.

•••••••••

Although we’re proud that Mariah seemed to enjoy and benefit immensely her time with us here in University Relations this summer, we’re even more proud that she chose Western and she will go forth and represent her alma mater well… yet another WIU Success Story!

Advertisements

Student’s design talent lands him summer TV gig

WIU Student Chris Taylor "Duct Tape" Design Segment on KHQA-TV

Chris Taylor, a senior fashion merchandising major in Western Illinois University’s Department of Dietetics, Fashion Merchandising and Hospitality, is bringing his creativity and love of design to the viewers of KHQA-TV (Channel 7) every Friday morning through this August.

For Chris Taylor, his love of fashion and design began at the early age of “6 or 7,” he says, with an auspicious task (assigned by his mom) that involved a stack of old clothes and some Barbie dolls.

Today, at 26, Taylor, a senior fashion merchandising major in Western Illinois University’s Department of Dietetics, Fashion Merchandising and Hospitality (DFMH), is bringing his creativity and love of design to the viewers of KHQA-TV, a Quincy (IL)-based station, every Friday morning through this August.

Taylor—whose designs are frequently based on using “reconsumed” (used), common household, and/or vintage materials (check out his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ReConsumed4U)—has been appearing on the station’s 5-7 a.m. news show since mid-May in a segment that focuses on “saving on style.” (Taylor said his segments typically air in three segments from 5:30-7 a.m.).

Videos of Taylors segments (so far) can be viewed on KHQA-TV’s YouTube channel.

Taylor took some time out of his busy summer designing schedule to answer a few questions about his background and his love of design, fashion, and making “old” things “new” again.

Q). What interested you in fashion and design before you started attending WIU and majoring in fashion merchandising?

I think it all started when I was about 6 or 7. We had a neighbor with a little girl that was a good friend of my parents. Our moms would take turns watching each of us, and she would tote around all her Barbies back and forth to our house. One day my mom needed a project to keep us busy. She gave us a stack of old clothes, and we decided to make clothes for her Barbies.

While I was in high school I took a job working for the Gap. I realized that I had a passion for fashion—working in fashion retail was more fun than work. I took a few years after high school to work and realized that I had hit a ceiling in my career and felt that I needed to do something different. I packed up and moved from Southern California to Quincy. My mother had shared the cost of living with me here, and it was a no-brainer. I didn’t quite know what I would do when I got here, but I soon decided. I earned my associates in science from JWCC [John Wood Community College]. I decided to continue and earn my bachelor’s degree. Knowing my background, my counselor suggested the fashion merchandising program at WIU.

Q). What kinds of projects do you produce/have you produced as a student in the DFMH dept. at WIU? Any favorites?

Every class has required a project. Each class’s projects vary in form, but all focus on topics related to fashion. Some of my favorites include: creating a trend board, creating a business plan, researching a fashion mart, analyzing the quality aspects of a textile product, constructing a garment, and building multiple visual displays.

Q). Where you do you draw your inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from everywhere, but most of it comes from being CHEAP! I have always loved thrifting because it’s unpredictable; you never know what you are going to find. I refuse to pay full price for anything, and that has driven me to be creative in all aspects of interior furnishings and apparel.

Taylor’s Facebook page, “Reconsumed4U by Chris Taylor,” features photos of the design projects he undertakes, and he provides instructions about how to create similar designs. This t-shirt design project has a custom logo that Taylor applied with a stencil and spray paint.

Q). What interested you in working with “reconsumed” materials?

I have always loved repurposing things and updating them. Since I was young we have shopped thrift stores. I suffered a back injury last year and had some time on my hands, but little extra money. I really needed a creative outlet that would allow me to be product but that cost little-to-no money.

Q). You seem to like to work with a variety of materials and work on a variety of different types of projects. What is your favorite medium?

I can’t say that I have one “favorite” medium. To narrow it down, I will say that with paint or fabric can change anything! Mastering the use of the tools (sewing machines, staple guns, brushes, etc.) that manipulate different media can really encourage creativity.

Q). How did you first appear on KHQA’s morning show (how did the opportunity come about)?

In my visual merchandising class, we were put into groups to construct displays created out of recycled material. Because of some injury-related things, I could not be in class the week of creating the project. I volunteered to work from home and create our outfit and left everyone else to create the background display. After putting our components together I shared a photo with KHQA on Facebook. About a month later, a newscaster emailed me and asked to talk with the creator of the dress. She also wanted to see any other projects that I had made. After my first appearance, I was asked to come back again.

I have always been someone who has taken every opportunity by the horns and guided it in my direction. I talked with a few people and worked out a trial segment that focuses on saving on style that will air during every Friday’s broadcast through August.

Q). What do you hope to do when you graduate?

I had always hoped that upon graduation I would become a visual merchandiser for a large retailer. After my injury, this does not look like it will be a possibility. I am staying positive and researching other options within my field.

Q). Anything else you’d like to highlight (that I didn’t ask you about above)?

The most important thing you can do in school is to really try at every project you are asked to complete, even if you aren’t particularly enthusiastic about. These projects will teach you interpersonal skills that are irreplaceable!

Alum designs 2nd album cover for popular hip hop/rock group, Gym Class Heroes

WIU alum Evan Leake's album cover designs for Gym Class Heroes

Evan Leake's designs for Gym Class Heroes' debut album, "The Papercut Chronicles" (left) and the band's sequel "The Papercut Chronicles II"

When Evan Leake designed his first album cover for Gym Class Heroes‘ debut album “The Papercut Chronicles” back in 2005, he said the Geneva, NY-based rock/hip hop group had “just been freshly signed” to its label, Decaydance Records. Six years and a few albums later, Gym Class Heroes’ sequel to its debut album is number 10 on Billboard’s Rap Album chart (week ending December 3, 2011), and Leake has yet another dynamic cover design to his credit.

Recently, Leake—who earned his bachelor of fine arts from Western Illinois University’s Department of Art in 2006—was tapped to produce an album cover for Gym Class Heroes’ sequel to its debut album, “The Papercut Chronicles II.” According to Leake, he designed this second album cover so that “the artwork flowed seamlessly between the two albums, side by side.”

Charles Wright, art department chair at WIU, and I sent Evan some questions about his latest vision and creation for Gym Class Heroes. Following are Evan’s answers he sent to us via email.

Pale Bird Design Studio | Evan Leake

Pale Bird Design Studio | You can see more of Evan's work at http://www.facebook.com/palebird

Q: How did you first come to be involved with the album cover project for Gym Class Heroes?

Leake: I did the original “The Papercut Chronicles” album back in 2005, when Gym Class Heroes had just been freshly signed to their label. I had worked my way up to getting gigs with major and large independent record labels, and this project was given to me randomly. When the latest album, “The Papercut Chonricles II” came around, they contacted me to do the artwork once again.

Q: How did you conceptualize the first album cover for the band? Can you explain how the creative process works, between you and the band members?

Leake: I usually send artwork to the management and label people, who then, in turn, send the art to the band, so I don’t always get in touch with the band members themselves. This time around we had a couple phone conferences with Travie McCoy [lead vocals] up front to talk about art and photography before we began to get everyone on the same page. After that, we collaborated through management.

I don’t think the band had much in mind when we developed the original artwork. I know we wanted something brightly colored but “urban” and interesting. I took some of the standard iconography of hip hop culture, street art, etc., and made art that resembled stencil graffiti or something to that effect. We also incorporated photos of the band into a sort of collage.

For this most recent album, it was very important to the band’s lead Travie McCoy that the artwork for both albums fit together side by side, like puzzle pieces. I created the new artwork with similar, yet refined techniques and developed the cover for the album to match up directly next to the original.

We then fleshed out the inside of the booklet using portraits of the band again, but this time we gave each member a “totem,” featuring photos of them through childhood, a picture of them from the era of the original album, and then a modern portrait, stacked up to represent growth and reflection.

I was also able to create three single covers for songs that should be hitting the airwaves soon. These covers are designed so that they fit side by side with the cover and match up seamlessly as well. I am very excited for the success of this album, more than anything else I’ve worked on yet and am grateful for the opportunity to work with such talented musicians.

Q: Does the creative work (music) of the band influence your album cover design(s)? If so, how?

Leake: I always consider the band’s music when developing artwork for the band. I like to try new techniques for each CD I do. Sometimes bands will request a style similar to what I’ve done in the past, but I usually try to differentiate each layout so each CD has its own tone that suits the music. I usually like to listen to the record while working on the artwork, but sometimes it’s not so easy. It took a while for me to get a few watermarked MP3s for this latest release, and I didn’t hear the full album until it was released, but when I was working on the original, I had the full album 6 months or more before it came out. But that was a while ago, before the all the early leaks and filesharing.

Q: How did you create the album cover designs?

Leake: I used Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator to create the artwork. The original “Papercut” layout was entirely created in Photoshop, but this time I created the artwork as a 100 percent vector graphic, so that it could be easily adapted to other kinds of merchandise and stage backdrops, etc.

I feel like I was able to create a more interesting layout this time around, using photo collage based on photos the band provided me. I feel like the newest package is much more intentional than the original release. We were kind of just messing around back then, and so was the band. So I think the growth musically and visually really go hand in hand.

………

Evan is the owner and lead designer of Pale Bird Design Studios. He is a native of Macomb and lives in Macomb. For more about Evan and his work for other bands, like Fallout Boy, Alkaline Trio, Atreyu, The Academy Is and Trapt, check out, “Local artist designs hit album covers,” which appeared in the Nov. 29 issue of the McDonough County Voice.

Bruce Walters, professor of art at WIU, contributed to this post