October 30, 2023 Tennessee Teams Receive Top Awards at Regional Design It Forward Competition

Four teams from the UT School of Design traveled to Louisville to compete in the sixth annual Design It Forward Kentucky. The one-day competition challenged graphic design students to create a visual solution for Sisters Road to Freedom Inc., a non-profit dedicated to empowering women and teen girls. 

In under 12 hours, twenty-seven teams from nine institutions were briefed on their assignment, conducted research, designed, and presented a new logo, two postcards, and four banners to design professionals. UT teams received first and second place awards for their rebranded designs. 

Jaiden Kasaval, Evans Baird, and Jake Robinette with their first place trophy.
Kasaval, Baird, and Robinette.

Seniors Evans Baird, Jaiden Kasaval, and Jake Robinette received first place for their design’s reimagined vision and mission statement and technical skills. 

“The caliber of work I witnessed at Design It Forward Kentucky was nothing short of incredible,” said Keith LaRue, judge for the competition and graphic designer at Rev-A-Shelf. “During the judging process, I couldn’t stop ‘ahhing’ and ‘oohing’ at all the incredibly inspiring work coming from these student groups. What I was looking for was consistency, balance and a nod to the original identity.” 

LaRue described the first-place team’s work as a cohesive product that incorporated elements of the original logo while re-envisioning the identity. 

“The nod to the original purple being used as the color of the ‘road leading upward’ so smart,” he said.
“The branding was modern, corporate, and was something that I could see being implemented in real life.” 

In addition to their submissions, Baird developed an animation utilizing the group’s reinvented logo. 

“In the moment, it was stressful and worrying because we went pretty early in the presenting order,” said Baird. “One thing that really stood out for us was when we showed our logo, you could hear an audible gasp, which gave us confidence through the rest of the presentation.” 

Lily Caldwell and Ella Hosse with their second place trophy.
Caldwell and Hosse.

Second place was awarded to seniors Lily Caldwell and Ella Hosse. LaRue praised the pair’s submissions as distinctive branding that captivated the judges with its lively and dynamic appeal. 

Caldwell and Hosse conducted remarkable research within a limited timeframe. A standout aspect of their rebranding involved target personas for the nonprofit’s services, as well as a deep dive into typefaces, ultimately selecting one designed by a black-owned type foundry, which was seamlessly integrated into the narrative of their logo. 

Assistant Professor Kimberly Mitchell, who leads their advanced graphic design course and accompanied the students, assisted the teams in their preparations for the competition and emphasized the significance of their presentations. 

“They can create a great design, but if they can’t sell it or present it professionally, then it won’t stand out,” said Mitchell. “At the end of the day, one of the judges inquired about the courses our students had taken, expressing profound admiration for their presentations as a whole. He commended their strong writing skills, solid research capabilities, and excellent technical expertise.” 

While Mitchell was present with her students, she was only able to observe their work. The teams received feedback throughout the competition from young professionals in the design industry who served as mentors. For the UT students, viewing designs from other teams was a valuable experience in identifying areas for improvement in their own submissions. 

“Other schools proved their design skills were there, but I think what made us stand out was the substance, research, and writing behind our designs,” said Kasaval. 

Mitchell views the competition’s outcome as the culmination of everything the students have learned in the graphic design program. 

“It was clear that they took everything they’ve learned in every single class and applied that during the presentations. I am so proud of their success, they worked hard and showed off their skills.”