On the evening of June 2, as Janira Ortiz stood next to her professor, Mary Malinconico, in front a packed auditorium at the Tri-State Human Resource Management Association (TSHRMA) conference, she still had not fully shaken her surprise. Ortiz won a logo design competition offered through one of Malinconico's computer graphic arts courses and was now standing in the spotlight to be recognized for her hard work and creativity.
“They presented us with certificates that had my logo on them," she recalls with a smile. “I've made stuff for fun before, but I've never made something for a company to actually use. It feels weird, but really nice. I was just, like: Wow."
It is creating “wow moments" like this for Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ) Computer Graphic Arts (CGA) students, that has pushed Professor Malinconico to seek out opportunities for her students to shine. Over the past 20 years, she has offered design competitions with real clients, including the Rowan College Foundation at Gloucester County and the Gloucester County Office of Consumer Affairs.
“There's a reason that the College's CGA program tagline is: Design 4 Real Life," said Malinconico. “Creating these opportunities makes all the difference for our students. It builds confidence along with a strong design portfolio that will grab the attention of future employers."
Ortiz was in the final semester of her associate degree in Computer Graphic Arts: Game and Interactive Design, in pursuit of her ultimate goal of becoming an animator, when Malinconico approached her class with an opportunity. After speaking with the Chair of the TSHRMA Workforce Readiness Committee, Maria Morales, and her Co-Chair, fellow RCSJ professor Danielle Morganti, Malinconico set up a design competition to create a new logo for the committee that would reflect their updated mission statement.
“Danielle is always offering the College's resources and Mary has been such an ambassador and an ally for us," Morales explains. “We talked to Mary and decided to make the project a little bit of a friendly competition and an opportunity for her students to showcase their work."
Ortiz and 15 other students opted to participate. They were provided with a video explaining how the Workforce Readiness Committee engages with employers, local agencies and community organizations to help provide support to local job seekers – especially those in underserved communities. The new mission statement was provided, along with some information on what the committee was looking for in a logo.
“I'm not trying to be self-deprecating, but my first thought was: There's a bunch of talented people here and I'm never going to win this, but I should still do it for the grade," Ortiz recounts. “After I did some research and gathered as much information as I could, I just started sketching."
Ortiz created multiple black and white logo sketches, before turning her focus to finding the perfect color balance. She sought out logos from similar organizations to ensure her design had the right feel for the sector and requested plenty of feedback from friends before submitting her design to the committee.
“The quality of the submissions that we received for this logo design contest speak to the culture at RCSJ and how the students are being taught," remarks Morales. “Janira's design stood out because it's such a clean, clear logo. The font is aesthetically pleasing. The way she incorporated the city and the people into the big “C" really, really popped. We liked all of the designs submitted; it was not an easy decision, but it was absolutely unanimous."
Ortiz received an email from Malinconico congratulating her and passing on a few final changes from the Workforce Readiness Committee. It was important for the organization to reflect the diversity of the population which they serve, and they provided a few suggestions on what they would like to see.
“It was good because that's what happens with a real client. You give them the main sketch and then they ask for additional changes," Ortiz explains. “So, they asked for bolder lettering and to make the people more inclusive with a wheelchair and a dress. I made those changes and afterwards I thought it did look a lot better."
The Workforce Readiness Committee unveiled their new logo at TSHRMA's June conference. Morales spoke to Ortiz's talents and Malinconico's many contributions to the committee, before each was presented with a certificate of recognition featuring Ortiz's new logo design.
“It was so important to us that the first official use of our new logo was on the certificate presented to the student who created it," emphasizes Morales. “I only had a few minutes to speak, but it gave me an opportunity to talk about how much creativity and insight Janira showed during this process. She worked so hard to come up with a fantastic logo that really embodies our mission statement. We also wanted to recognize Mary the many times she has unselfishly supported us."
For Ortiz, the process has been a huge learning experience that taught her the importance of clear communication and to push past her nervousness about asking “too many" questions. It also helped to convince her of the quality of her own designs.
“It definitely left me feeling more confident about my work," Ortiz reflects. “I didn't make it expecting that I would get picked; I was just going to try my best to make something that they liked. When I talked to Danielle, the first thing she said was: 'We loved it! As soon as we saw yours, we knew it was the one we had to use!' That feels amazing."
For Morales' part, she expresses a whole lot of enthusiasm and zero regrets when it comes to her first experience working with a classroom of RCSJ students.
“If your organization is smart enough to approach RCSJ and ask to work with their students, this is definitely the way to go," she insists. “You're going to get top-quality, whatever it is you're looking for, and you can help someone new to their field build a winning portfolio in the process."
The Workforce Readiness Committee – true to its mission – does indeed intend to help. In addition to recognizing Ortiz at the conference and gifting her a student-membership to TSHRMA, they plan to spread the word on Ortiz and her talents.
“Oh, we're going to take her under our wing and make sure she's good! We plan to promote her work on our social media pages and LinkedIn to make sure that everyone knows who created our new logo and we hope to see her feature it in her own portfolio of work." Morales paused, before emphasizing again: “It's a fantastic logo. I mean, we're just so pleased with this whole experience and especially the outcome! I'm so impressed."
Find out how you can prepare to “Design 4 Real Life" with Rowan College South Jersey's Computer Graphic Arts degree and certificate programs at RCSJ.edu/Business.