HERRON: You began working as a graphic design intern for the IUPUI Division of Undergraduate Education's Office of Communications in September 2019 and are the longest-serving student employee. What about this internship piques your interest amid all your other academic obligations and co-curricular activities?

ADAM: When I first applied for this internship, I didn't know what to expect. I needed a job to continue building my experience in the design field. I realized later that it was the best decision I've ever made.

The Office of Communications, I'd say, is the best place to work on campus. It's flourishing with opportunities to help grow my professionalism and skill set as a designer and in other roles. I'm not only the senior graphic designer but also the photography team lead and assistant project coordinator. I've expanded my career options by learning about project management and leadership, and I've designed projects for many IUPUI campaigns and student events. It's been a great privilege.

HERRON: Tell us about the data visualization you created for a Ph.D. Nursing research project at IUPUI to explain U.S. Medicaid Waiver Programs. What did you learn from this project?

ADAM: Lately, I've been pushing the boundaries and challenging my design abilities with my senior classes. Design has become something much more than a logo, brochure, or website; it's the visual approach to communication. I've learned that design can be incorporated into anything. You just need to think outside the box and be up for the challenge.

I was given strict guidelines from the American Academy of Nursing to create the visual. I had to design all the graphics on one 8.5-by-11-inch page, showing a side-by-side comparison of each state and in-depth data visual of the eight Medicaid Waiver Program categories. The data visualization needed to support the information shared in the journal article.

It was an eye-opening experience diving into a unique design field, impacting my career in ways I didn't expect. I'm now able to take big chunks of data and lay it out in a way that's appealing and informative. And I can understand and create designs that communicate more effectively for the health care industry or related areas.

HERRON: You've also worked on service design projects for Herron's "Designing for People-Centered Experiences" course (HER-V 400), a requirement for VCD seniors. Is this something you'd like to do more of as a designer in the future?

ADAM: Absolutely! Designing for people-centered experiences is a huge challenge that not every designer can successfully do and is not always the most fun project. There's a ton of research and data involved to solve problems and provide the best possible solution. I really enjoy figuring out how to make service experiences better and more accessible to all audiences.

Many key components go into a successful service, and since our community is driven by serving others, it's essential to communicate it right. A cool part of this design field is that there's no limit to the type of items I can create. I can go from simple deliverables like print and digital to physical spaces like an interior or exterior. I am able to do a wide range of projects while serving others. It's the perfect combo.

HERRON: Your capstone project, according to Aaron Ganci, is a typography-based educational intervention to help preschoolers learn the alphabet. Tell us more about this project, how it came about, and what you hope to accomplish with it.

ADAM: Back in the fall semester, I attended a virtual Adobe MAX Conference, which sparked the idea for my capstone project. There was a talk about how typography and letter and word spacing affect students' reading comprehension. I started doing some research on early childhood education issues and how they affect students. According to my research, the percentage of students struggling with English literacy, such as reading, comprehension, and writing, has risen and continues to rise. I dug deeper and discovered the source of the problem: learning the alphabet.

The English alphabet, particularly phonetics, is one of the most difficult languages to learn. The ability to distinguish sound segments between words while also decoding individual letters and groups of letters is referred to as phonetics. If a student doesn't learn the alphabet correctly from the start, everything else, such as spelling, speaking, and writing, will be difficult. It's a domino effect.

I came up with "alphabeta," an intervention strategy for early education, specifically for preschool to kindergarten students. It is a method of learning the alphabet by abstracting the involves visually abstracting the phonetic sounds. The issue with general education curricula is that they teach the alphabet through objects or activities rather than by learning each letter as a symbol. Because the English alphabet contains multiple sounds within each letter, a student cannot learn just one sound. Learning the alphabet letters as symbols has been shown to be most effective. My goal is to provide educators with a new approach to teaching the complex English alphabet and help students succeed in foundational literacy skills.

HERRON: What has been one of your most memorable moments while studying at Herron?

ADAM: One of the most memorable moments was when Paula Scher, one of the most influential graphic designers in the world, came to Herron to speak about her work. I've never been so excited to attend Scher's talk and meet her. She's a major inspiration of mine both as a graphic designer and artist. She has an amazing gift for design and has gone above and beyond what design can do.

The Basile Auditorium was so jam-packed that I had to stand in the back outside the doorway. I had to somehow squeeze through everyone to get a good view of the stage. It was an hour-and-a-half-long presentation. I remember standing in awe and my jaw dropping every time Scher scrolled to the next slide. It was great seeing her work and hearing her talk about the design process.

The talk happened when I still was an early undergraduate at Herron and taking general prerequisite courses. However, I was excited and anxious to start designing in my higher-level courses afterward. This was definitely one of my highlight moments, and the only thing I regret was not getting a picture with Paula Scher. Herron is such an incredible school, providing exceptional opportunities that I can't pass up.

HERRON: What does being a Top 100 student mean to you?

ADAM: I am humbled and honored to be a 2022 Top 100 honoree. All my hard work and dedication can't be recognized without my amazing supporters. Being a Top 100 student means I am a role model for my peers, demonstrating what hard work can accomplish. It's not always easy or enjoyable, but it's necessary if you want to be a better version of yourself.

HERRON: Is there anything else that you'd like to share?

ADAM: I just want to share with all my fellow Herron and IUPUI peers that passion is the greatest and most important ability we carry. Passion creates purpose. There must be motivation and the ability to overcome obstacles to keep moving forward. All knowledge, skills, and dispositions people gain over time have a purpose; our job is to find the right path toward success. I found my purpose at IUPUI, and you can too.

Olivia Adam's work can be found on her online portfolio or Instagram account, and she can also be found on LinkedIn.