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Three Penn State Graphic Design Students Win AIGA Design Competition

Penn State is home to many award-winning students who are successful in their respective fields, ranging from meteorology to music. Three graphic design students continued that tradition of excellence and received awards in AIGA Blue Ridge’s annual Flux Student Design Competition last month.

AIGA, the professional association for designers, honored Emily Burns, Sabrina Hecht, and Nyomi Warren for their graphic design work. The national competition awards students who create exceptional work in the categories of identity, publication, poster, packaging, and Web/interactive.


Burns, a graduate student studying graphic design, earned awards for publication and packaging for the design of an album (pictured below) titled “Into The Woods” by local musician Philip Masorti.


Burns made the photo for the cover with antique wooden and brass type to spell out the album title. After obtaining her masters degree, Burns plans on teaching art and design.
Hecht, a sophomore majoring in graphic design, received an award in the poster category for her theater piece featuring Shakespeare’s Macbeth.


Hecht was inspired to enter the competition by her professor, Peter Lusch, who encouraged her class to take every opportunity to enter their work into competitions.

“I’ve been interested in the arts ever since I was little, although I never thought I would end up pursuing design in school,” Hecht said. “When I first discovered that graphic design existed as a field of study, I had no idea what it entailed. Now I have learned about so many ways I can apply graphic design to things and I’m loving every bit of it.”

Hecht isn’t set on a specific career yet, but she is confident in her love of the arts. “All I know right now is that I love design, creative thinking, and problem-solving, so I would say wherever that takes me is where I want to be. Ideas in design constantly branch off of each other and those ideas can be inspired by pretty much anything. It is so cool knowing that anything I learn in my life could potentially be applied to design.”


Warren, a sophomore majoring in graphic design, was also honored in the poster category for a theater piece based on Macbeth. “I wasn’t expecting to receive recognition for any work I had completed thus far. On a whim, I applied on my own accord to the AIGA Blue Ridge Annual Flux Student design competition when my professor mentioned it during studio.”


The approach was to use photography to capture the concept of the feminine hand of a witch, manipulating the King, a common theme within the play.

“I believe my piece stood out due to the modern take on an old Shakespearian play, along with the graphic, stark image,” Warren said.

Warren’s passion for graphic design began in high school and she plans to pursue it as a career after graduation. She noted that graphic design is never boring and always high pressure, which allows her to be constantly surprised with what she comes up with.

Her professor, Ryan Russel, supported one of the pieces she submitted, encouraging Warren to get her work out there. “His competitive, but personable attitude always pushed the class forward,” Warren said. “His biggest passion is to see his students succeed, and it’s a touching battle to complete a course with him. All the design faculty strive to give us the opportunity to ‘pop up.’ There is so much out there, and here and Penn State we are getting the tools and opportunities to stand out.”

Warren was notified Thursday afternoon her piece was also selected as the recipient of the MVP Visual Scholarship.


2015 was a competitive year for the AGIA Blue Ridge contest, considering graphic design professionals awarded only 173 art projects out of 800 submissions.

“As a design educator, there are few accomplishments more exciting than when students are recognized by the profession for their hard work and outstanding design,” said Keith Cummings, the head of Penn State’s graphic design program. “When our students place in competitions, that tells us that we are doing our job — preparing students for a fruitful and rewarding career in graphic design.”

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About the Author

Claire Going

Claire is a freshman broadcast journalism major and writer for Onward State. She enjoys reading, running, and a good cup of tea. She's from Emmaus, Pennsylvania and is a dual citizen. (Go Ireland!) You can contact her via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @claire_going.

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