SNAPSHOT | DECEMBER 7, 2020
Grey Eckert (’20) created a graphic design capstone project in her senior year that earned her membership to a world-renowned professional organization. Perhaps even more importantly, though, she developed ties with a faculty member that has impacted her life and will far outlast her years at CCU. Eckert is the first CCU student to earn membership in the International Society of Typographic Designers (ISTD), a prestigious group that includes some of the most accomplished typographers and graphic designers in the world. Her project, titled “(No) Vacancy,” involved the creation of a new type style and a neon sign reflective of that style, complete with the related research, background justification, and documentation of her process.
Leigh Hughes, assistant professor of graphic design in the Department of Visual Arts, joined CCU in Fall 2017 and taught Eckert in an entry-level class; this was the student’s first course after changing her major from biology.
“I was scared, very scared, to take any kind of art class,” said Eckert, who graduated with a double major in graphic design and studio art, as well as double minors in photography and art history. She is currently pursuing her MFA in photography at the University of South Carolina. “I’d always liked art growing up, but I thought for some reason there would be people in the hallways throwing tomatoes and eggs at my face if I couldn’t perfectly render a figure in life drawing. Not the case.”
Eckert credits Hughes with not only encouraging her and bolstering her confidence, but for the authentic attention and patience the professor displayed.
“If it hadn’t been for how kind and encouraging she was in that class, I probably would have dropped the course and the program.”
“If it hadn’t been for how kind and encouraging she was in that class, I probably would have dropped the course and the program,” said Eckert.
Since Hughes and Eckert joined CCU at the same time, they and other graphic design majors developed a bond through their progressive journey. When the students’ senior year rolled around, Hughes decided to top off their undergraduate experience with a particularly challenging project in her Graphic Design 497 capstone course.
Hughes has long been active in the ISTD annual student assessment, which involves a standardized set of briefings.
“An esteemed group of ISTD professionals write these briefs every year. Their goal is to get students to raise their typography game,” said Hughes. “They want to see what students are capable of achieving.”
Hughes believed her crop of students were up to the challenge and wanted to offer an authentic assignment to them.
“This would help to prepare [the students] to present work to a client. It allows them to brainstorm, collaborate, and expand their research methods,” said Eckert. “It prepares them for real-world situations where they’re being forced to think beyond the obvious.”
In her project, Eckert chose the theme of migration to represent both her family’s mid-1900’s migration to the Myrtle Beach area and also the current lack of migration to the Myrtle Beach downtown space in regard to the tourist industry. Eckert worked to interpret the theme in a creative manifestation of the idea, selecting photography and neon as media to incorporate with type.
“I had to consider, ‘How do I speak to this abstract thing, which is migration, and how do I make it into an actual physical thing?’ For me, it was the experience of combining type with a new material, being neon, learning how to work with neon and glass and then also how to fuse concept with type to make a piece that was more reminiscent of something along the lines of fine art,” said Eckert. “That was a real mind-bender -- something I hadn’t had to think about before.”
Eckert’s acceptance into ISTD pleases Hughes but does not surprise her.
“There’s definitely a sense of pride there, because I know she’s an exceptional student, and I know she’s going to do great things moving forward.”
“There’s definitely a sense of pride there, because I know she’s an exceptional student, and I know she’s going to do great things moving forward,” said Hughes. “She’s like a little train.”
Eckert visualizes a career that blends elements of studio art and graphic design, and she doesn’t rule out the possibility of work as an educator.
“I do plan to go back to graphic design because of instructors like [Hughes], who saw the potential in me when my work didn’t show it,” said Eckert. ”I want to teach because of professors like her.”