Stephen Mercer - Student Success

Graceland graphic arts student Stephen Mercer

Stephen Mercer

Graceland has been a great force in my life, as it is a great force in the community. My family moved to Lamoni when my dad accepted a position as a chemistry professor at Graceland. I was, to a degree, raised by a community of professors, administrators and alumni of Graceland. Some graduates, friends of the family, have even become my best friends and role models.

I’m going into my junior year of college, majoring in visual communication and web design. The curriculum teaches the fundamentals and complexities of design: what people like to see, how people look at things, how to use technology and how to work with design elements to create a compelling piece. With this knowledge I’ve acquired an ability to look at my surroundings for the subtle (and not so subtle) designs around me, like event posters, street signs, marketing materials, etc.

Early last school year, I was offered a position as a design assistant for the Creative Media Center (CMC) on campus that deals with all of Graceland’s promotional, marketing and miscellaneous design needs. During the summer I continued my position there, and I had the chance to work alongside professional designers to create materials for Graceland, ranging from the various designs for admissions’ activities at the Iowa State Fair to postcards for upcoming shows in Graceland’s Constance Gallery.

Working in the CMC has taught me a great deal about my desired profession: learning the subtleties of a good design, how to design to particular tastes, prepare documents for printing and how to work alongside a team. What has been especially interesting is being able to see (and even produce) many of the materials I’ve seen around campus for so long, and to understand all of the work that goes into those pieces.

This summer I was assigned a design job for Financial Services. They needed a postcard to send out to certain new and returning students that would get them to start working on their financial aid materials. The postcard listed multiple reasons why being financially clear early would help the students in the long run. It was my job to design it in a way that was convincing and would motivate the students to get what they needed to do done. After finishing the project, going through the approval process, sending it off to the printer and moving on to my next job, I received a very familiar looking postcard in the mail. It turns out the entire time I was designing this postcard, I was actually designing it for myself! I needed to finish my financial aid materials.

My graphic design internship has taught me a lot, from being able to see the work that goes into every facet of Graceland’s operations to customer service specifics. It has been an eye-opening experience not only for a design student but for a longtime community member.