March 29, 2019 Graphic Design Students Design for Big Ears Festival

Seniors in the Graphic Design program partnered with AC Entertainment to design posters for Big Ears Festival 2019, and one student’s design was printed as a limited-edition poster sold only at the festival.

Led by Professor Emeritus Deb Shmerler, Graphic Design students have designed posters for the festival since 2015. In 2017, alumna Anna Woodard (BFA, ’12), Christina Persico and her Partnerships team at AC Entertainment learned of the students’ project and worked to find a way to commemorate their stellar designs.

Alexa's Final Design of Big Ears Poster

In preparation for the 2019 festival, which was held March 21-24, Woodard and others from AC Entertainment reviewed the students’ designs and chose senior Alexa Pavon’s poster to be printed as a limited-edition poster. Copies of her poster were sold during the festival to attendees from around the world. In addition, all of the students’ posters were displayed in The Standard, one the main venues for the festival.

Pavon’s poster, inspired by the uniqueness of the festival, features colorful patterns of movement, symbolizing the movement in music and art. “This festival is the only one of its kind in the world, and I wanted to show that through my design,” explains Pavon. “I wanted to design something unique and outgoing—something that would represent Big Ears and the festival attendees.”

Woodard commends Shmerler’s teaching process with the students. “[Professor Shmerler] encouraged such a thoughtful exploration of the visualization of sound, patterns and narratives within the branding process,” says Woodard. “Everyone’s unique perspectives made for such an inspiring collection of posters.”

Shmerler explained that she and her colleagues in the Graphic Design program are dedicated to providing diverse experiential learning experiences for students, like the Big Ears Festival project.

“Through this culturally-based project, students are given the opportunity to work with a wonderfully open client to develop strategic documents and visual brand systems for this avant-garde, world-renowned music festival,” Shmerler says.

Pavon stated that Shmerler’s class contributed to her overall success as a future professional because of their ability to work with a client. “It’s important for design students to experience working with a real client prior to graduating,” says Pavon. “It’s easy to create to be graded for a class, but it’s completely different to create work for people to see in a real-life setting.”

For 10 years, Big Ears has brought thousands of musicians and artists from across the world to Knoxville for a festival experience that celebrates the intersection of arts. Performances are held across the city, from Knoxville’s historic theaters to churches, museums and outdoor spaces. Annually, the festival supports more than 100 performances and 50 panels of art, film and music across four days.

Other students whose designs were featured at the festival include Elisa Razak, Jennifer Bondarenko, Vadim Bondarenko, Cassidy Bruninga, Haley Carter, Tiara Householder, Jordan Hubbard, Parker Jenkins, Alaysia Jetter, Dominic Karr, Justin Keyes, Wenxi Lyu, Tyler McCammon, Hannah Mcmillen, Madison Moody, Ryan Murr, Emma Russell, and Joanthan Young.

Beginning Fall 2019, Graphic Design will move from the School of Art into our college to better serve students across UT’s design disciplines who share the same objective of human-centered processes.  Read more about the move and the Graphic Design program.

Want to read more about Graphic Design’s recent projects? Check out their passport designs.