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From left to right, FTCC President Dr. J. Larry Keen, students Jose Aguilar-Lopez and Micah Goslee, Dogwood Festival Executive Director Malia Allen, and FTCC President Senior Vice President for Academic & Student Services Dr. Mark Sorrells. [Brad Losh]

Two students from Fayetteville Technical Community College’s Advertising & Graphic Design Program claimed the 1st place and runner-up positions in the Dogwood Festival’s annual poster competition. The festival is an annual four-day event across downtown Fayetteville, which includes cultural entertainment, concerts, arts and crafts, food and more for visitors of all ages to enjoy.

The festival’s Board of Directors named Jose Aguilar-Lopez, 39, the first-place winner. Voters selected Micah Goslee, 21, as the runner-up; both are enrolled in the Graphic Design IV (GRD 242) class. Aguilar-Lopez is originally from Mexico and Goslee, from Fayetteville. Both will graduate with associate’s degrees in advertising and graphic design this May.

The Dogwood Festival unveiled the winning posters at its Media Day event held at the Cape Fear Botanical Garden in February. This year’s poster competition was only open to FTCC students in the course; previous years, the contest was open to the public. Malia Allen, the executive director of the Dogwood Festival, approved the competition. The contest received 40 submissions from students. Allen said the board searched for a piece “that encompassed the idea of the festival the most…. in a thoughtful or creative way not used before.”

“It definitely had a lot of balance,” Allen said about Aguilar-Lopez’s winning poster. “You can feel the creativity of it. It wasn’t overdone. It was very well planned out.”

Aguilar-Lopez and Goslee received $350 and $150 for their submissions, respectively. FTCC President Dr. J. Larry Keen and FTCC’s Senior Vice President for Academic & Student Services Dr. Mark Sorrells congratulated the winners on their accomplishments. At the time, both students were in a graphic design class inside the Harry F. Shaw Virtual College Center on FTCC’s Fayetteville campus.

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From left to right, student Jose Aguilar-Lopez holds up his winning poster design next to Malia Allen, the executive director of the Dogwood Festival. [Brad Losh]

“These two young members were recognized for one of the most important events of the year,” Keen said. “That’s a big deal. You work to the highest quality level you can, and enjoy the results of it.”

Aguilar-Lopez’s creation will be seen on printed and digital advertisements, social media, apparel and more around the community leading up to the festival’s 39th year. Winning the contest reminded Aguilar-Lopez why he returned to school. It has been 15 years since he graduated from San Fernando Senior High School in its namesake city in California.

For his family

After graduating from high school, Aguilar-Lopez joined the U.S. Army, serving for four years. His time as a soldier included tours to Afghanistan and Iraq. One of his interests has always been graphic design. It’s the ones who call him “dad” that inspired the Army veteran to pursue his associate’s degree.

He and his wife share six children, ages 10 to 21. All boys. His eldest son also is a FTCC student, studying to become an English teacher.

“Nowadays, I feel with the younger generation, their values on education is lowered,” Aguilar-Lopez said. “When I grew up, I was the first one in my family to graduate from high school, and the first one to join the military. I want to be the first one to graduate from college and get a degree.”

Aguilar-Lopez said he also wants to show his sons it’s never too late to learn. The style he used to create the winning poster is known as “low poly.” The technique uses simple geometric shapes, placed side-by-side, to create angular – often minimalist – compositions. The term comes from the word “polygon” describing the shape used to make digital images, according to a 2015 article published by the Sessions College for Professional Design. Aguilar-Lopez worked in Adobe’s inDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop programs to create the poster. The project took six hours to create.

Aguilar-Lopez learned about low poly design in a FTCC class.


Jose Aguilar-Lopez’s winning design.

“That was one of the classes I really liked because every little detail is a figure,” he said, further explaining why he chose the technique for the competition. “I saw everyone going in one direction, and I wanted to go in a different one.”

He submitted three posters for the competition. He was surprised the low poly design won. Allen said his design was chosen as the winner by the festival’s board – unanimously. She added, Aguilar-Lopez’s design “felt like it was the winner.”

“My wife and kids are proud,” Aguilar-Lopez said about winning the competition. “My wife is Colombian, so I had family calling me from there [when I won].”

He also credits his win to his instructors such as Sara Smith, Victor Forrester, and Advertising & Graphic Design Department Chair Jennifer Fisher. He thanked them for their support and putting “a lot of heart into their students.”

Finding what fits

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From left to right, Dogwood Festival Executive Director Malia Allen stands with poster competition second-place winner and FTCC student Micah Goslee as he holds his winning design. [Brad Losh]

Micah Goslee started attending classes at FTCC four years ago. He was studying a different major, but his interest in drawing couldn’t be ignored.

“When I was younger and in third grade, I liked drawing a lot and creating stuff,” he said. “As I got older, I honed my drawing skills a little bit and figured I’d use it.”

The Seventy-First High School graduate spent three days creating his poster. He used a gradient tool to color the dogwood flower, which fades from a darker to a lighter shade of pink. He also added a glow to the background of the signature flower, in Goslee’s words, “to make it pop more.”

Just like Aguilar-Lopez, Goslee was surprised his submission placed high in the competition results. He said he saw the works of fellow classmates, noting their pieces were good.

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Micah Goslee’s second place winning design for the Dogwood Festival’s annual poster competition.

“I’m saving my prize money for now as spending it is what gets me in trouble most of the time,” he said with a laugh. “I was grateful for winning and everything.”

Allen said Goslee’s poster was a close second in the contest, even though his style of choice was different. Students had roughly two and a half weeks to create the posters. The contest wasn’t a part of required classwork.

“This was something they did as an extra,” Allen added. “They went above and beyond. I already knew there was a lot of talent here. It’s where I learned design from. FTCC students are determined to get it done.”

Allen said in the future, she wants to explore the option of getting more FTCC students involved in the annual poster competition. She also expressed interest in the community voting on the submissions, too, noting the Dogwood Festival has and always will be a “community event.”

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From left to right, FTCC President Dr. J. Larry Keen, Advertising & Graphic Design Department Chair Jennifer Fisher, Instructor Sara Smith, students Jose Aguilar-Lopez and Micah Goslee, Dogwood Festival Executive Director Malia Allen, and FTCC President Senior Vice President for Academic & Student Services Dr. Mark Sorrells.