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Athletics 2020 Program Blog

Sarah Behm, a senior graphic design major, was tasked with being the lead designer for the 2020 Kent State Athletics program. This is one of Ideabase's biggest projects each year. Sarah reflects on the project, how she felt about it, and describes her design process from start to finish.

This project is a very unique one here at IdeaBase. Every year, the Department of Athletics Advancement teams up with IdeaBase and designs this unique piece to be sent out to donors and alumni, and every year this program blows the team and the client out of the water.

Initially, when I was asked to design the program this year, I was ecstatic! The designer who created the piece last year, Jason, was an incredibly gifted designer who I looked up to and admired and I knew how much of an honor it was to be asked to be the lead designer on a piece like this. And that’s about when I started to panic.

I never considered myself top tier at anything. Sure, I’m good at things, I manage to make it work — but here I am: some random girl who stumbled into graphic design and barely passed Intro to Typography being asked to design this crucial piece for a well renowned agency. It was imposter syndrome at its finest. I took a step backwards and really thought about who I was as a designer and really dug for the answer to the question: “how did I make it here?”

I am a hard worker. I have a good eye for compositions and have always been good at creating visual contrast but it hasn’t always manifested itself as “good design.” It was good photography, “good eye Sarah!”, and good people skills, so much hard work, and even more sleepless nights. It was seeing things that not a lot of people see and a whole lot of optimism.

There was just something about being surrounded by creatives and creating solutions to problems that I was so drawn to and I decided to just invest every ounce of myself into growing as a designer and in IdeaBase. I just worked hard. Really.

Kristin is always saying that you get out of IdeaBase what you put into it and I can sit here and honestly say that is entirely true. I worked my ass off. I put in the time, I wanted to compete with these designers like Jason. This is finally something I wholly wanted to love.

So I worked for it and sure enough I made it. I’m sitting in Jason’s seat and I don’t see it as black and white as I used to. It used to be good design/bad design. You either have it or you don’t. And that just isn’t right; it’s how hard you are willing to work for it.

Anyway, I started designing this program and the concepts and just did what I usually do. I thought about them, I worked hard at them and I provided the client with options. Mahlon, our old Creative Director, always said when you present concepts to provide the client with one concept they expect, one concept that is WAY out there and one that is kind of middle of the road. So that’s what I did and we found a concept we liked and built it up from there. I wanted each spread to feel like a poster with big chunky elements and tiny little details. As with any project there were compromises, but unlike any other project, the compromises significantly improved the design.

The next big hurdle was looking at the sheer amount of information I had to design. It was broken up nicely by the client and made easy for me to digest, but there were still 36 pages. Keeping the concept consistent throughout the book was challenging, especially over the months this project spanned, but I just put my head down and did it. I took advice, I asked for help, really I had no shame with this — I just wanted it to turn out okay.

The client would come in and help me interpret edits they had while I fixed them with her right there, the other designers would give me honest feedback as I worked, and Kristin helped immensely with the extra pieces we had in mind.

I’m not sure whose idea it was initially, but we had a new printer this year and wanted to fully just knock this piece out of the ballpark. We wanted a poster the end user could rip out and hang on their wall or fridge or whatever with the important dates on it. So we started brainstorming ways this could seamlessly fit into the book.

Many mock-ups later Kristin (credit where credit is due), figured out how this piece could be put in the book without adding or removing a spread and the printer figured out a way it could be perforated so the user could easily remove it.

This project had its highs and lows. A lot happened personally over the past couple months, but as I go through my old posts of my work for IdeaBase I can honestly see a significant change in quality and that I am very excited with the direction I am headed.

Graphic design is hard. There’s a lot of elitist attitudes, there’s a lot of comparison, and there is a lot of negativity, I won’t lie. I didn’t even know what graphic design was when I came to college — I was just lucky enough to find it. I still have so much to learn but I think that the hardest lesson is over: that no matter who you are, no matter where you came from, no matter how good or bad you think your work is, if you work hard and take criticisms not as a personal attack but as a learning experience — you will grow.

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