It took years to complete, but the Penn State Dance Marathon Alumni Interest Group’s THON mosaic will finally hold a permanent spot on campus starting this Saturday. But how did the idea for the project become a reality? A group of Penn State alumni played a notable role in the design aspect of the mosaic.
A graphic design company called Picture Mosaics teamed up with DMAIG to assist with the development and layout plan of the mosaic. Former Penn Stater Tim Heffron, Picture Mosaic’s lead designer and animator, was responsible for designing the website for THON volunteers to upload and submit their own photos to be included in the mosaic. For him and the rest of the Penn Staters who work for Picture Mosaics, it was exciting to get to work so closely with a project dedicated to THON.
“The Picture Mosaics team includes a few Penn State alumni, so this project was very meaningful to us,” Heffron said. “Our team members contributed their donation and photos to be part of the mosaic mural as well.”
From the moment they began to brainstorm for the project, Heffron and the rest of the team knew they wanted to create something that would encourage volunteers to share their personal THON stories, as well as allow them to delve into others’ connections to the cause. In this case, a mosaic was the perfect way to represent the entire community leaving behind their differences and coming together to support the same cause. When volunteers uploaded their photos and donated to THON, they were able to use the online database to explore thousands of photos from volunteers of countless backgrounds. Anyone who uploaded a photo was also able to create their own personal mosaic for free on the site.
“We believe that a photo mosaic is both a literal and figurative representation of many parts coming together for a larger cause, i.e. the ‘big picture,”’ Heffron said. “The fact that DMAIG consistently rallies support from students and alumni in their fight against pediatric cancer only reinforces this notion. We’re proud to be a part of such an important campaign.”
Luckily for the company, the process of creating the actual mosaic was pretty smooth-sailing. Picture Mosaics and DMAIG shared the same fundamental goals for the project — the groups were instantly able to bounce ideas off each other, making the design process a lot easier. For Heffron, the most challenging part of a project like this was integrating a creative design that would make the mosaic unique from others of its kind.
One of the company’s main goals was also to make sure volunteers could easily share their photos and experiences with family and friends who might be inspired to follow suit. Because most of the money raised from the mosaic would go directly to THON, generating conversation through word of mouth was key. Creating a completely digital submission process made this goal a lot more realistic and fun for those who participated, and funds from the project eventually raised $47,000 for THON.
“In doing this, the mosaic took on a viral sharing life of its own, encouraging more people to donate and upload,” Heffron said. “In any campaign, spreading the word is a key factor. The mosaic and photos within the mosaic were shared thousands of times on Facebook and Twitter to help spread the word.”
For the Picture Mosaics team, working with DMAIG on the mosaic over the years has been nothing short of an incredible experience. For Heffron and anyone else who took part in the design process, the connection was personal — each person felt drawn to cause and motivated to help raise as much awareness for THON as possible. In fact, one of the company’s favorite parts of the process was witnessing the community’s reaction to the mosaic for themselves.
“During installation, a number of students and faculty would take pause to ask about the mural and express their excitement for the unveiling,” Heffron said. “The entire process has been positive and inspiring. We hope to work with DMAIG and Penn State again!”