When Mercyhurst University alumna Kaitlin Badger was assigned to design a snowboard graphic last year as part of her senior portfolio development class, she knew she’d have to shred the boundaries of her comfort zone.
Typically hers is a clean, simplistic style but after studying the trend reports, which look ahead 12 to 18 months, and hearing what the focus groups had to say, she knew she’d have to change it up to win the favor of this youthful, high-octane demographic.
“I ended up blending geometric shapes and plaid using bright colors that I thought would be popular with the target audience,” said the 22-year-old New Wilmington native who graduated from Mercyhurst last spring with a degree in graphic design and is currently working in her field at Noresco in Pittsburgh.
Despite being pleased with the end result, Badger was stunned to learn that her design had been accepted by Target. Seeing her art work on Target's website and knowing that her snowboard is being sold in stores nationwide represents the high point of her Mercyhurst career.
“It’s been so exciting,” said Badger, who actually purchased the snowboard of her own design just last week at Target.
But if Badger is excited, that goes double for graphic design assistant professor Jodi Staniunas-Hopper, who orchestrated the creative opportunity for Badger and seven other students with the help of another Mercyhurst graduate, Larry Simmons, president of Core Creative in Erie.
Core Creative has been designing snowboard graphics for a client for nearly 15 years. Typically, Core produces the designs internally but it has used a stable of designers from local to international. At Staniunas-Hopper’s request, Simmons agreed to engage her graphic design class in the process.
“A lot of them did very good work,” he said.
After developing hundreds of designs, including those of Mercyhurst students, Core Creative submitted approximately 25 to their client, of which Target ultimately bought three, Badger’s among them.
“It was great to experience firsthand how design companies perform, from the trend research to the focus groups; it was really involved,” Badger said. “Then being able to talk about that process in a job interview was very helpful.”
“It feels fantastic,” Staniunas-Hopper added. “You spend four years working with a student and trying to bring out the best in what they do. Then to have Kaitlin go through the rigors of the ad agency, the industrial client and Target’s own marketing group and have her work be embraced is exciting.”