USC Aiken Student’s Design Selected for Aiken Corp’s New Look

June 23, 2017

A University of South Carolina Aiken students’ classwork has translated to real-world experience she can claim on her resume. 

Aiken Corporation -- a community-based, private non-profit that helps breathe life into Aiken’s Strategic Plan -- chose Haley Dixon’s design as their new logo.  Her design was part of ART 145 course work, taught by Dr. Michael Fowler. 

As part of the class, students, like Dixon, meet with a "client" at least three times during a 2-4-week period, with the ultimate goal of producing logos and other promotional materials for their organizations or businesses.  During the initial meeting, students learn what the client needs – a website, a brochure, a logo – who the key audience is; the colors or themes involved; the nature of the organization or event; and the preferred medium.  Some clients want t-shirt designs, so students have to know the ultimate use for their final products from the start.

Students then choose to work solo or in pairs to research and create designs that fit the client’s desires and demands.  Before they meet with the clients the second time, students gather approximately a dozen existing designs they believe reflect the client’s preferences.

"This way, clients can see if the students interpreted them correctly and can get a feel if [the students] are on the right track," Fowler said.

"It also gives the client something to look at and respond to so the students don’t have to start all over from scratch mid-stream if they didn’t understand the client correctly."

After that second meeting, students then get to work creating their own original designs for the client.  Then, they meet with the client a third time, sharing their "final" proposed designs.

During the presentation to the client, students unveil their work to the client and their peers.  At that time, students, Fowler, and the clients give designers feedback. 

"Designing is a process,” Fowler says.  “This ‘final’ meeting reminds us of that."

He says it also give students a chance to learn how to observe their clients, critique fellow  presenters, and think on their feet when they have to answer questions, explain their design or, in some cases, defend it.

"Some clients may bring others with them.  This allows for more feedback, more exchange of ideas, which is beneficial for the students."

After that final presentation, students will make amendments and clients will select from among the students’ designs which one they may ultimately use.

This ongoing dialogue and collaboration among the professor, the students, and the client guided Dixon -- and ultimately led to her design being chosen by Aiken Corporation. 

"Slowly, the overall layout formed, with the happy accident that it almost formed an arrow moving forward, something one of the clients really liked," said Dixon, a Class of 2019 communication major.

"Then, I added the small graphics in the boxes -- inspired by what the clients seemed to like, namely the plant for growth and the drafting tools for building."

Look around the city, the region – even parts of Washington, D.C. – for more evidence of USC Aiken’s graphic design students’ creativity.    The Aiken County Government logo, that’s one of Fowler’s student’s.  The Historic Aiken Foundation logo, that’s one of his student’s.  The Aiken Arts Center’s 2016 summer camp logo, that’s one of his student’s. 

"This is something each of these students can put on their resumes, even if theirs is not the chosen design.  These are real projects for a real client that reflects a student’s experience with the back and forth that needs to happen in graphics," Fowler said.

This invaluable, collaborative experience not only benefits the students and fosters their academic and professional growth but also provides a real service – and no cost – to the clients.  Fowler says that in the graphic design and advertising industries, the services his students provide could cost from a couple of hundred to millions of dollars.

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USC Aiken, a comprehensive university in the University of South Carolina system, offers undergraduate and master’s degrees to more than 3,500 students in 50 programs of study. USC Aiken is ranked the #1 public regional college in the South by U.S. News & World Report’s guide "America’s Best Colleges." The 2017 distinction marks USC Aiken’s 19th consecutive ranking among the top three in this category and its 12th time in first place.