Graphic Design - A Family Affair

Graduation Caps

Unlike other professions, graphic design isn’t one that you can really “turn off” even when you’re punched out. On the clock or off, everywhere you turn, there’s a symbol, sign, publication, poster or digital interface that communicates with us visually and/or with text. As a professional graphic designer, I’m particularly aware of these messages and oftentimes involved in the creation of them, but this past weekend, it was a family affair.

You see, my niece graduated from high school and we all flew out to cheer her on. We were super excited to see her walk across the stage and accept her diploma and wanted to make sure we would be ready for our photo ops. Knowing we’d have to a hard time spotting her within a sea of black and green gowns, we needed a strategy.

After graduation she will be headed off to college and is already sporting all the University swag, so what better way to find her in the crowd of mortar boards than to adorn her cap with her college bound logo? We all agreed that was a good idea, but figuring out how to get it on her cap was another story, and everyone had an opinion. Here’s a snapshot of the conversation:

“Let’s download a logo from the Internet.”

“Well, it might not be crisp enough since we have to make it so big. How ‘bout we scan it in from her acceptance folder?”

“After we get the logo, how are we going to get it on her cap?”

“We could print it out on label paper and cut it out and slap it on there.”

“I’m afraid it won’t stay put all night long. Maybe we sew it on?”

“We can’t really sew through paper. How about some double stick tape?”

“That’s a good idea, but maybe we use that and also laminate the paper and then sew it down in a few places too, just to make sure it doesn’t come off.”

“OK, but we have the tassel button to contend with and it’s smack dab in the middle of the logo.”

“Well, instead of centering the logo on the cap, let’s place it off to one side and align the black cap button with the black area of the logo. We can just cut an “X” in the paper and slide it over the button and trim it up afterward.”

“Now it’s asymmetrical, so let’s add her name to it as well to balance it out more.”

After a five-person collaboration, we finally had our game plan and the design process began. After a little trial and error and resizing, we got it figured out and sure enough, we could easily spot her and her cap from across a crowded auditorium.

As it turned out, my niece wasn’t the only one who had spent time transforming her simple black cap into a personalized billboard. Many of her classmates had also beaded, bedazzled and designed their caps. Some took a similar route as my niece, using brand elements from their college of choice, while others looked more like a disco dance floor, shimmering from afar. Others used it to thank their family or honor a friend.

Although some designs worked better than others because of the size, scale, color and/or contrast of the elements, graphic design critique aside, no one can deny that it was a fun way to commemorate a special occasion, and a functional way to ensure those of us in the audience didn’t miss a moment. And after it went flying up in the air in a ceremonial toss, our distinct design made it that much easier to find too.

It just goes to show you that graphic design isn’t just for brochures and magazines. No matter where you look or where you find yourself — even in a gymnasium of 200 graduates — you can be certain to find graphic design working its magic all around you.

Congrats to all of the 2017 graduates and kudos on your cap creations!