News | January 03, 2020

College of Arts and SciencesCollege of Arts and SciencesCultureFeaturedNews

Digital media students have designs on a creative future

New major focuses on what it means to be a designer in the 21st century

Associate Professor Mike Salmond works with student Justin McDowell in FGCU’s new digital media design program.

When the Naples Design District marketing committee wanted a logo to brand its new flagship building and lifestyle-concept center, The Collective, construction hadn’t been completed and committee members had only a vague idea of what they wanted.

But the committee knew who they wanted to work with – FGCU’s digital media design program.

The marketing committee at The Collective chose FGCU students to design their logo to underscore their tagline — “A catalyst for design inspiration” — and to showcase the young talent in our region.

Mike Salmond, associate professor and coordinator for the DMD program, selected five seniors for the logo design project who were available during the summer and had a demonstrated record of rising to the challenge inside and outside the classroom. The students’ previous industry experience through internships or personal outreach provided different approaches and styles to the project, resulting in five widely different variations of The Collective logo.

Photo shows FGCU student with award
A logo designed by Haley Levy, a student in the FGCU digital media design program, will be used for The Collective, the flagship building of the Naples Design District.

“This project is a testament to the digital media design program and these students’ work ethic – that they would rather work on an exciting design project than take time off to relax after the semester,” said Salmond, who teaches most of the courses in the program.

“We’ve been involved with the FGCU art program for a number of years and are always looking for ways to help enrich the students’ experience,” said Chad Jensen, a furniture designer and member of The Collective’s marketing committee who had previously worked with Salmond and FGCU students on a 3D-design project. “When the opportunity arose to design a new logo for The Collective, there was an obvious connection to digital media design, and I knew they were interested in community engagement. With such a small creative industry in Southwest Florida, these types of opportunities can be very profound for young students, so we do our best to challenge them.”

Designers often compete for jobs, and Salmond knew that turning the experience into a contest would provide real-world experience for the students. It also helped that the Naples Design District didn’t have a logo in mind, which allowed the students to showcase their own personal styles.

Photo shows students looking at a video game on a screen.
Video game design is one of the areas of study in FGCU’s new digital media design program.

The Bachelor of Arts in digital media design officially launched Sept. 16, 2019, and in just three days, 13 students had declared the new major. For the past two years, digital media design had been offered only as a concentration under the BA in art.

The DMD program has worked with many Southwest Florida companies, including ParrMoto, Method & Concept, HelloSWFL (Scripps Media), Wayne Anderson Studio (SFX Artist, Hollywood), BeBrilliant Marketing, LeeTran and B3 Marketing.

Haley Levy, the student whose logo design won the contest, said the DMD program does a great job of preparing students and helping them find internships. “You learn so much from doing an internship,” she said. “You learn how real people do work in the real world.”

Many of the DMD students are already working in design, including all five who participated in the contest. Marjorie Johnston is a design intern with TheHomeMag in Cape Coral. Meg Brunner is a social media marketing design intern for B3 Marketing in Naples. Davina Angstenberger is a marketing intern at PartsVu in Naples, where Izzy Baquerizo – the contest runner-up — also works as a graphic designer. Levy works in FGCU’s Office of Housing and Residence Life as the in-house designer and previously worked as a designer in another university department, Campus Recreation.

The digital media design major focuses on innovative technologies, including virtual and augmented reality.

Levy is very proud of her design work in the classroom, around campus and now in Naples. She gives a lot of the credit to FGCU and the DMD program. “We’re an affordable state school and you can go your own way in the DMD program,” she said. “It’s still a small design program and you get to try everything – video, photography, motion graphics, web, code, graphic design. You get to test the waters.”

Salmond said the DMD program is now focused on expansion. “We are planning more programs, fundraising and funding, getting other design students on board as well as working with marketing and design firms to increase internships, and internationalizing our program,” he said. Addressing the latter goal, Salmon said he would like to connect FGCU’s program to the interactive media design program at Northumbria University in the U.K., which he also designed while working there as a program leader and senior lecturer from 2009-11.