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Students enter NISOD graphic design contest
FTCC students unveiled their submissions to the NISOD Student Graphic Design Contest on March 14, 2022. [Photo by Brad Losh]
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Jennifer Fisher, department chair of FTCC’s Advertising and Graphic Design, is always on the lookout for real-world learning opportunities for her students.

The National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development’s (NISOD) annual student graphic design contest, which challenges participants to design the program cover artwork for the organization’s 2023 International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence, was a prime opportunity.

“Designing the cover of a publication, whether it’s for an event or conference or any other material, is something that graphic designers are asked to do all the time,” Fisher said. “And it was good for the students to have to dig and do a little research and go look at what this organization does.”

Contest rules provided guidelines and requirements, but Fisher said it was up to the students to create an image that would resonate with the conference’s primary attendees — educators.

“As instructors, we’re the target audience for this,” Fisher said. “So this taught the students to look at something from a perspective other than their own, which is an important skill for graphic designers. You can’t design for yourself. You have to design for the client and the audience.”

Seven students entered nine submissions for the contest, revealing their pieces Monday, March 14. The posters are displayed in the hallway outside room 122 in the Harry F. Shaw Virtual College Center.

FTCC President Dr. J. Larry Keen and Senior Vice President for Academic & Student Services attended Monday’s unveiling.

“It takes creative people to take ideas and put them into a form that people can understand, be stimulated by and then put into action,” Keen said. “That’s what you all do. You have the ability and the knack and bringing them to a point that people can understand and respond to. The training that you get here and the work that you do here really does matter.”

Rather than assign students to create and submit a design, Fisher and fellow instructor Danielle Fennern incentivized the contest at the college level. The department held two design “jams” to help students workshop their entries and provided feedback on design creation and progress, and it entered students who submitted to the contest into a drawing for Amazon gift cards.

NISOD will announce the contest winner March 25. The winner will receive a $1,000 prize and a trip to the 2023 International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence in Austin, Texas.


Taylor Benson

Taylor Benson, a High School Connections student enrolled through Jack Britt High School, is one of two students who entered two submissions.
“I really focused on typography. I’m not really as good at drawing, so I wanted to use big, bold fonts and minimalist styling.”

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Joshua Hartley

Joshua Hartley, a High School Connection student enrolled through Pine Forest High School, said his process involved “a lot of trial and error.”
“Finding the right typography I wanted to use, finding the designs I wanted to use, deciding on the background — it was difficult, but it was a learning experience.”

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Kyasi Ross

Kyasi Ross said he’s proud of his design.
“I wanted to make a poster that really grabbed someone’s attention, but not make it too complicated. To make it as engaging as possible within the restrictions of the NISOD contest. I emphasized the type of Teaching and Leadership excellence to make it pop, using a drop shadow.”

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Sarah Smith, Heather Spexarth and Dr. Larry Keen

Heather Spexarth entered both the design contest and the essay contest, focusing on the impact of Advertising and Graphic Design instructor Sarah Smith on her experience at FTCC.
“I love to write. I always have. And when I saw the essay contest, I just immediately thought of Ms. Smith. She truly changed the whole direction of where I was going.”