As Elizabeth Cornen, a professor in the School of Media Arts and Design (SMAD) and Emily Meyer, a senior fellow at SMAD, explain: Everyone knows that the secret to success in business, school, and life is clear communication and strong collaboration. This semester, SMAD’s partnership with the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship was no exception.
Beginning in mid-October, SMAD students in Kvernen’s SMAD 332: Visual Communication Design class created a logo and other branding for businesses and products created by three different students at the Gilliam Center.
Cornen first designed the collaboration in Spring 2021. She said she was inspired by Jennifer Peeks Mays, a former College of Arts and Letters liaison who worked to connect classes with community partners. In the past, students in this class have worked with nonprofits to create their own logos, but Kvernen looked at the Gilliam Center — there were only so many brands other organizations could use.
“You have these students who are creating new products and services, and we have these other students who want to create a brand and a logo. So, it’s kind of like an ongoing need for both sides,” Cornen said. , so it’s very appropriate.”
Susan Bergmeister, director of the Gilliam Center, helped recruit Gilliam students. Bergmeister said in an email that he is working with his leadership team at the center to determine which student entrepreneurs would benefit most from the branding guide that SMAD students are developing. The students were then informed of the partnership opportunity and, if interested, filled out a Google form specifying the product, its history and mission, what they already had, and what they were looking for from the partnership.
Kvernen echoed Bergmeister, saying that collaboration is a key component of the project’s entire process, from selecting entrepreneurs to developing student branding.
I’m just working with the Gilliam Center, Susan and some of the staff to — because I know the students — who are the right fit for this, who are really serious about pursuing this product and really … at the point where they can use it. I work. Kvernen said.
Julian Pullela, a junior industrial design major, was selected for his product, Tongo: Pullela, a 7-foot-long open-ended plush toy designed to help children express their creativity and use it in an occupational therapy setting.
In addition to Tongo, SMAD students this semester collaborated with RTS Outfitters, a type of warm vest, and Umberledge Games, a card game.
From mid-October until Thanksgiving, Polla and other student entrepreneurs met with SMAD students to work on the project. When they first came in, they explained their work and what they wanted.
“Some people wanted branding, or a website or an Instagram handle and things like that,” Pollella says. “I just wanted to give whatever they wanted — mostly the logo.”
From there, SMAD students chose which product or business they were most interested in and wanted to work with. Mayer, along with his partner Nick Love, designed the Polla logo. Love is a former opinion writer for The Breeze. To create the logo and brand, Meyer said he and Lau first researched Tongo’s target audience of middle-class families and occupational therapists to come up with a brand guide.
Mayer said a brand guide includes any and all information a company needs for where and how to use the logo and its various iterations, as well as other brand components such as fonts and colors that ensure consistency.
Meyer and Love also received criticism from Pulla along the way. They also made a business card and made a toy packaging mockup that had a hole so kids could touch and feel the product. Mayer said he drew inspiration from other cloth and wooden toys for the logo design.
We wanted the logo to be whimsical to reflect the toy but simple enough for kids to understand, but [also] “Simple in an aesthetically pleasing way,” Meyer said.
Meier said he found the overall process of keeping the toy unique while keeping it simple challenging, but he said it was useful for future work that might come up later in his career.
“Working for a client is very interesting and teaches you a lot,” Meyer said. “[By] Having a real person giving you feedback makes it more real because it’s like a real person and their brand that you control. So, you learn how to communicate with them so that you can understand what they want and meet their needs, but still be successful in what you are trying to do. “I think having a real client instead of just being in a class for a fake client changes your perspective on what you’re building.”
Myer and other SMAD students presented their logo and brand guide to student entrepreneurs the week before Thanksgiving. Polla received three different versions of the logo and brand from SMAD students. He said he hopes to use some of them in the future, perhaps in future competitions or promotions for his product.
“I’ve learned how good it is to rely on other people with different skill sets because … everything for my business has come out of my brain up to this point,” Pollella said. “It was fun to give them my idea and see where they ran with it. “It was really interesting to see their interpretation.”
Cornen said the experiences gained from working for a client and developing real projects create a valuable learning opportunity for all students involved.
“I think it motivates SMAD students to do this because they can meet these students. [entrepreneurs who] “They have these great ideas and they pursue them independently of a class,” Cornen said. “It’s inspiring because they come and talk about their product and show it, so people are really into it.”
Kvernen also emphasized that he encourages his students and entrepreneurs to think beyond the level of preferred styles and focus more on how design communicates the company’s mission and values.
Thanks to this project, Meyer said he was able to think about design work more deeply and from a new perspective because he was working with a client who was physically present.
“SMAD can only learn so much in the classroom, and having a real person you’re building a product for gives a whole new meaning to your design work,” said Meyer. “I think when you graduate you should have as much experience as you can. People want to see you as creative, and I think this is a very unique way to do that.”
Michael Russo contributed to this report.