Unlike other art disciplines at USC, the graphic design program requires students to go through a competitive application process before acceptance into the major. As a result, the graphic design program is small and focused. Fifteen seniors have been preparing to participate in the School of Visual Art and Design Senior Thesis Show, which is not only is a chance for the graduating class to display their work and progress, but also a way for the students to network within the community.
“Designers don’t traditionally do exhibitions. We don’t usually make work that’s meant to be hung in gallery walls,” associate professor Marius Valdes said.
However, at USC, the Senior Thesis Show is a required component of the graphic design major. This is because networking is a vital competent for designers, and the show will allow students to share their portfolio of work with the community.
Compared to other art fields, graphic design is less about personal expression and more about completing visual tasks for others. Valdes likes to make the distinction for his students by emphasizing this business aspect.
“In design, you are solving a problem visually for somebody else,” Valdes said. “Here at the design school we teach the kids the creative process to research that, conceptualize it and then actually make it.”
It is this balance of art and practicality that pulled Bleu Hedrick, fourth-year graphic design student, to the field. Hedrick has always had a natural inclination for visual art, but initially thought she would go into civil engineering. She attributes her transition into design to Valdes, who was her first graphic design professor.
“She is someone who sort of likes to go against the system, but then she ends up excelling and making really good work,” Valdes said of Hedrick. “Some of her personality really comes through in what she does, and I think that’s really important.”
Hedrick played an integral role in organizing the Senior Thesis Show, which will be held at Liberty Tap Room Thursday, Dec. 7 from 4-9:30 p.m. The show coincides with First Thursdays, which Hedrick explains will allow the public to interact with the graphic design students on a night that is already specialized to offer events and entertainment.
“The Senior Thesis Show is one way for my peers and me to exemplify the impact graphic design offers our community and the world at large,” Hedrick said.
The show will also be a platform for the graduating class to celebrate their accomplishments and progress. Super-senior graphic design student Zachary Frehse switched into design from a business major. The program has allowed him to pursue his interests in sports and art, while giving him a marketable skill set.
“This degree took a lot of late hours and a lot of all nighters,” he said. “I’m so happy and proud of the degree I’m earning.”
Valdes can attest to the amount of work the students have put in. He has taught each one at some point and recognizes their dedication to the field.
“By the time they’re seniors it’s like the best of them all get together, and they push each other, and we push them and all of the sudden it’s like they just exponentially grow.”
Isaac Udogwu, another fourth-year art studio student, echoed that the his classmates do push and inspire him, but they also form a supportive network.
“My peers in the program are my graphic design family. I feel safe and secure to express myself with them, whether it be design related or life related,” he said.
This group of seniors is also distinct in that they seem to have clear directions as to how they will reach their career goals in the future, and many already have a significant amount of work experience. Hedrick, for example, has three jobs; she works for Joe Henry Company, the University Advising Center and the School of Visual Art and Design. Frehse works for the creative branch of the USC football team. Udogwu has created his own magazine publication as a response to “a lack of representation for people of color when it came to art based magazines.”
The students’ creative growth from both the classroom and their work experiences will be apparent in the Senior Thesis Show, as they have portfolios they’ve collected during the time they spent studying graphic design.
“I’ve seen them when they were starting and now I'm seeing when they're finishing, and it’s really great to see how they figured out all these things we've been telling them over the years,” Valdes said. “That to me is sort of the joy of teaching, is just sort of watching someone … things click, and then all of a sudden the student has become the master.”