Spectrum Design Studio wins 10 national awards

Ten design concepts from USC’s Spectrum Design Studio were recognized in the national “Steal This Idea” competition.

The contest, which is put on by the Association of College Unions International, recognizes the best marketing and promotions work by colleges and universities. There are more than 40 categories in the competition, including brochure, postcard and T-shirt designs.

USC had 10 of its submitted designs chosen for the competition, including the USC “Fight On” spirit shirt — which won second place in the T-shirt category — and its Andrew Bird poster.

Creative juices · Natasha Wu, Lexi Markavage and Kristie Kam, all student workers for Spectrum Design Studio, work on designs. - Neha Jain | Daily Trojan

Spectrum Design Studio Director Dane Martens said he hopes the studio will gain recognition on campus in wake of its success in the competition.

“The design studio isn’t something that people are fully aware of,” Martens said. “The things that we do may not be huge, but they are things that the USC community sees and interacts with on the daily basis.”

The schools do not compete for cash or prizes but rather for bragging rights; chosen designs are featured in the July issue of ACUI’s magazine, The Bulletin.

“[The studio’s success] shows that Student Affairs has yet again developed a program — an idea — that nets national attention and provides a really great service to all the departments here on campus,” Martens said.

USC’s main competition for this year included CalPoly Pomona, Boise State University and CSU Sacramento, which won the Best in Show prize, he said.

“It’s encouraging [designers] to get inspiration from others in the field,” Martens said.

The Spectrum Design Studio is affiliated with USC Spectrum, a department within Student Affairs. Spectrum is responsible for putting on live performing arts events for the USC community through committees such as the Program Board.

The design studio is in charge of creating posters and other promotional materials for Spectrum events, though it also works with groups such as the Office of Religious Life, Undergraduate Student Government and the School of Theatre to provide promotional materials.

Examples of the design studio’s work include the Ronald Tutor Campus Center’s flower logo as well as Conquest, Homecoming and Welcome Week graphics. Designs created for projects are saved, and the best are entered in contests such as the “Steal This Idea” competition.

Both students and staff create designs often, but designers turn to their peers in the office for feedback.

Although a portfolio is required to work at the studio, the designers that work on the projects do not necessarily have previous design experience, Martens said. The students cover a broad range of majors, including fine arts, business administration and communication.

“The students aren’t necessarily graphic design majors … which is something I think is interesting and exciting about the program,” Martens said. “If we think they have the raw talent, we cultivate that and teach them and train them to the point where they are winning national competitions and are coming out with great portfolios.”

Kristie Kam, a junior majoring in graphic design, said she came into the studio as an undecided major without much design experience. After gaining experience working at the studio, she declared a graphic design minor.

“Working there helped me for my design classes,” Kam said. “My job helped my major, and my major helped my job.”

Studio alumni have gone to work for companies such as DC Shoes, Disney and DirecTV, among others.

The studio plans to continue entering the competition in the future and hopes to one day win the Best in Show category, Kam said.

“Now that we’re getting more press about our design abilities, people will think of USC differently, [as a] school that can do design, even though we aren’t [known as] an art school,” Kam said.