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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Santa Fe College students show off their graphic design skills

Students gained professional advice and recognition during the virtual 2021 Student Exhibition

Graphic by Shelby Cotta
Graphic by Shelby Cotta

A blue-skinned beauty in a white and orange ombre dress designed to advertise an energy lemonade drink. Fresh vegetables cut by hand to create a visual feast and festive font for a poster campaign. A man in orange pants caught in suspension above a pink and black skateboard in a photograph.

These are some of the graphic design submissions that won awards in their categories during Santa Fe College’s virtual 2021 Student Exhibition April 29. Students in the graphic design technology program had the chance to show off their work during the annual exhibition.

Instead of shaking hands and saying farewell to graduating students face-to-face, attendees gazed at glowing computer screens and false backgrounds during the exhibition.

Nicole De Los Reyes’ “Essential” digital zine, which is like a small magazine, won as the best submission in the competition.  

She created “Essential” as a way to express her frustrations with customers who didn’t follow COVID-19 guidelines in her previous job working as a barista, the 25-year-old graduating graphic design student said.

“It just became very frustrating and very disheartening,” De Los Reyes said. “It almost made me feel inhuman. And so, I decided to express my frustration through my digital zine and try to spread a message letting other essential workers know they’re not alone in this.”

Her zine contained images, text and a video where she explained how to wear a face mask. Some images were of flying red coronavirus particles and bouncing hands with the middle finger raised.

“This last year wasn’t easy, but we did it, and we’re through it,” De Los Reyes said. “I see the light.”

She raised a white and light blue tissue box in her hands to symbolize a trophy during the awards ceremony. The box bumped her yellow headphones as she shifted the improvised award from one side of her face to the other.

“It was such an honor,” De Los Reyes said. “I put so much of myself in everything that I make. I do hours of research for every project. I do a lot of introspection, a lot of fine-tuning to get my projects to where they’re supposed to be. And to have that validated — such an amazing feeling.”

Even though Santa Fe College’s 2021 Student Exhibition was held online, participants were in high spirits.

“It’s something really special for our students that brings a sense of completion and closure and achievement for them,” program coordinator Eric Flagg said.

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The event was in two parts: a portfolio review and an exhibition and awards ceremony.

The portfolio review gave students a chance to talk to professionals and potential recruiters in the industry, Shawna Mansfield, event coordinator and lead instructor for Santa Fe College’s graphic design technology program, said. 

Eight professionals from organizations like Disney’s Yellow Shoes, the University of Florida and Tarrant County College in Texas were on the portfolio review panel to review student works during the event, Flagg wrote in an email. 

De Los Reyes said the review helped her understand how to improve her projects and look at fine details in her work as she moves forward into her professional career.

“It was very in-depth, but it went so fast,” De Los Reyes said. “It was really fun.”

The exhibition and awards ceremony began at 6 p.m.

Students submitted 169 entries for the competition, and 112 submissions were accepted, Flagg said. He said there were 11 categories and 22 awards.


Over 60 participants attended the exhibition and awards ceremony. 

“It’s been a tough year,” Flagg said during the online event. “But nothing was as tough as trying to pick winners for this year’s submissions.”

A video reel with all accepted submissions played at the beginning of the event. Recorded speeches from some graduating students followed.

“We are all together because we are connected by one passion,” Mary Roa, a graduating student from Venezuela, said in a recorded speech. “The program is amazing. I believe it’s one of the best experiences of my education.”

Tears and tissues flashed on the screen as students and staff shared their appreciation for the college’s graphic design technology program and each other during the awards ceremony.

“I’m just incredibly proud of our program and our students,” event coordinator Shawna Mansfield said.

Contact Antonia LaRocca at Follow her on Twitter at @AntoniarLaRocca.

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Antonia LaRocca

Antonia LaRocca is a staff writer at The Alligator.

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