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Creative force: GIT Awards motivate students to make an impact with messaging, design

Close-up of a GIT Award, featuring an illustration of the ASU water tower and mountain scenery in the background.

GIT Awards are designed by students and manufactured by Christina Carrasquilla, senior lecturer in the graphic information technology program, at the Innovation Hub on the ASU Polytechnic campus. In recent years, awards have been laser engraved, screen printed and 3D printed. Photo courtesy Christina Carrasquilla

June 27, 2022

Visual communicators almost always work in the background as they employ a variety of technologies to generate awareness and interest, evoke emotion and inspire change or action. But while we see the results of their efforts almost everywhere, all the skills and labor that go into the work are rarely apparent.

Tech-savvy students in the Graphic Information Technology (GIT) program at The Polytechnic School, one of the seven Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, hone their creativity in conveying messages in impactful ways through various mediums such as photography, videography, graphic and web design, illustration, animation and user experience, to name a few.

Each semester, about 1,000 of those students — of whom a quarter study on campus and three quarters online — major in or take courses in the program. GIT majors choose two focus areas. One must be within the GIT program, which includes photo and video, print and digital design, motion graphics, front-end web development and user experience. The second focus area can be in any other ASU degree program. Recent graduates, for example, have chosen a second focus area in engineering, business and fashion.

The GIT program offers various opportunities that enable students to become competitive in the field and ready for industry. Peers, faculty and local design leaders recognize student excellence in design with GIT Awards.

7 years of celebrating GIT creativity

With the intention of celebrating student creativity at a culmination-style event, the GIT Creative Awards were launched in 2015 by Principal Lecturer Laurie Ralston, who is now the program chair. Since then, it has evolved into the GIT Awards, an event that has been growing in scale and quality every semester. It is sponsored by ASU’s student chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design. Known as AIGA Poly, the group is made up of dozens of on-campus and online students studying in various design disciplines.

“This event is a great example of students supporting students and industry supporting students,” says Christina Carrasquilla, a senior lecturer in the GIT program. “AIGA Poly coordinates the entire event, and the local and national AIGA chapters made up of educators and industry members from around the country are highly involved in voting and honoring our talented students.”

The event is livestreamed, allowing on-campus and online students to participate in the festivities.

“Online students are able to join us live, regardless of time zone or location,” says Lecturer ​​Prescott Perez-Fox. “It’s great to be able to open up the event to them as well as on-campus students.”

Amy Hector recently graduated with an undergraduate degree in GIT and will pursue a graduate degree in the GIT 4+1 accelerated master’s degree program at ASU this fall. She was recognized at the spring 2022 GIT Awards and says the ceremony “allowed me to share my work and see the work of my peers. It’s a great way to celebrate the diverse creativity and ingenuity within our community.”

Faculty members encourage GIT majors and all students taking GIT courses to submit exceptional academic, professional or personal projects for the opportunity to win a GIT Award. Each semester, projects that get the highest number of votes from among faculty members, educators and industry members are awarded.

“Everyone is heads down during the last two weeks of the semester. No one really gets to see each other’s finished projects until the ceremony,” Perez-Fox says. “It’s refreshing to know the hard work was all pointing somewhere.”

Using design to reinforce a message

Submissions to the GIT Awards range from print, digital composition and branding projects to motion graphics visual effects, illustrations and composites works, among many others.

Mya Scott, a fourth-year GIT student, won the Outstanding Photo and Video Award and was an industry favorite in the video category at the spring 2022 GIT Awards for her mini-documentary titled “Our Foundation.” The video is a window into Scott’s Navajo culture and its emphasis on family and tradition. She also incorporated footage of a teepee assembly, mirroring the stability of family.

“The weekend the project was assigned to us, a lot of my family members were coming together to celebrate my aunt’s birthday, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share a little about how life is on ‘the rez,’” Scott says. “I am happy I got to share a little about my Navajo culture and the importance of family. I am truly appreciative for the feedback and recognition it has received.”

Screenshot of ASU students working together in a virtual meeting space on a video project.

August Johnson (top), a graphic information technology graduate student; Kayla Gardner (middle), a graphic information technology alum; and Cameron Tompkins (bottom), a fourth-year graphic information technology student, collaborate remotely on a video project to support the i.d.e.a. Museum in Mesa, Arizona. Their final product was presented at the spring 2022 GIT Awards. Screenshot courtesy GIT Creative Agency

Hector, a spring 2022 Fulton Schools Outstanding Graduate, was recognized on multiple occasions for her photography, branding and print design work during her time in the program. At the GIT Awards, she was awarded Outstanding GIT Graduating Senior and was an industry favorite in the branding systems and campaigns category and the photography category, especially for her Zenith Wines & Spirits project.

“My photo series was my senior project, so it did fulfill an academic purpose, but it was inspired by my drive to work on larger-scale photography projects and develop my commercial photography portfolio,” Hector says.

Many other students were recognized at the event for their creative storytelling: Khai Nguyen, a spring 2022 GIT graduate, for a 2D motion graphic video on his immigration from Vietnam; Marissa Turnage, a spring 2022 GIT graduate, for a website design for a group of Kenyan acrobats; Andrea D’Souza, a user experience graduate student, for her mental wellness print booklet; and many more.

For the full list of awardees visit the GIT Awards website.

Community impact

During the fall 2021 semester, a group of graphic information technology students worked with a local nonprofit organization to amplify its web presence. The project was for the GIT Creative Agency — a course led by lecturers Perez-Fox and Kassidy Breaux in which students take on real projects for real clients with the goal of serving the community.

It was one example of the hands-on GIT experiences provided for industry-bound students.

“A team of students is selected through an application process to run a fully operational design agency,” Perez-Fox says. “From client brief and scope to design and delivery, students gain real-world experience designing for cross-media solutions in an academic setting. Together, we aim to model the best practices of the design profession and emulate the work of our counterparts in industry.”

Hector, GIT graduate student John Blair, third-year GIT student Lauryn Armstrong and GIT alum Sarah Huffman were selected for the fall 2021 Creative Agency course and were tasked with re-strategizing branding for the Si Se Puede Foundation, a local nonprofit organization that provides STEM education in underserved communities.

Along with designing a new concept for the foundation’s website, the students developed a cohesive branding strategy for the community partner, including a new logo system, icon system, social media strategy and print design elements.

“It was, by far, the largest scope of project we’ve taken on within the GIT Creative Agency,” Perez-Fox says.

The foundation’s leaders saw value in the design concepts that the team produced and were eager to see the new site built and launched. Hector took on the development of the redesigned site while the other students focused on the brand and print aspects of the project.

“This was the first time I got to take on a large-scale web design project and see it develop from start to finish,” Hector says. “Being able to design with the user in mind, take client feedback into consideration and iterate on my designs in an efficient manner gave me a huge appreciation for the design process. It helped me feel prepared for the possibility of taking on more large-scale projects in the future.”

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