When students enter Borlaug Hall on the St. Paul campus, three simple cream and green banners welcome them to the naturalistic building.
But for Christine Kirsch, a senior design communications major in the Department of Design, Housing and Apparel, the banners represent more than simply markers.
“There’s nothing more exciting than seeing one of your projects out there,” Kirsch said.
Kirsch is one of three design students flexing her creative muscles as part of By Design, a student-run design studio nestled in a small office in McNeal Hall. Embarking on its second full quarter after opening last winter, the studio provides a unique opportunity for design students to coordinate a design business from within the school.
Department heads chose three students from seven applicants to form the first staff for By Design. Staff member Adam Turman, a design communications junior and Daily employee, said he appreciated undergoing the entire hiring process.
“It wasn’t exactly like it was handed to you,” he said.
Exclusively catering to clients within the University, By Design officials hope the studio can become one of the school’s primary design outlets. The students are paid, and they charge for their work, similar to a traditionally run studio.
“We see ourselves as a full-service design service,” said the studio’s faculty adviser Maria Mazzara. “We’re actually forming our own working community.”
A 30-year graphics design veteran, Mazzara said she enjoys the mentor role she plays within By Design. With industry trends constantly evolving and technical aspects such as software always updating, she said she is more than willing to help keep the staff focused and informed.
Her experience helped contribute to a successful first job.
The updated entrance banners in Borlaug Hall comprised the studio’s first project. The building underwent a paint job last month, and a name change in the Department of Soil, Water and Climate required a change in the 15-year-old banner design.
Marjorie Smith, assistant administrator in the newly named department, said By Design’s professionalism and knowledge of the University helped to create a smooth working relationship. Its location didn’t hurt either.
“I really like the convenience of having them right in the University,” Smith said.
With 550 undergraduates and 300 design communication majors, the design department receives many calls from outside clients interested in freelance work, said department head Becky Yust.
Clothing design students have worked on staff uniforms at the Mall of America, and aspiring interior designers have also had opportunities to commission their work.
But By Design offers a blend of in-house convenience and internship opportunities that provide applicable, real-world experience.
“One of the most interesting things I heard from the students is that the real draw is being able to follow a design all the way through the process,” Yust said.
Kirsch and her two co-workers collaborate with clients from initial brainstorming sessions to a design’s final production. Throughout the process, essential communication skills are developed.
Although some clients have a clear picture of what they need, others are less specific and knowledgeable. Learning how to foster professional relationships and coax clients in addition to giving suggestions and advice is important, Kirsch said.
By Design is working on several new projects, including a brochure for the Goldstein Gallery and promotions for the design department. The studio also has plans to expand into Web site designing soon.
“The University has a design program,” Yust said. “It should be more evident on campus.”