Designing Swat with Steve Sekula

Photo by Noah Morrison '17
Photo by Noah Morrison ’17

The spirit of the liberal arts rests upon the integration of various disciplines. For Steve Sekula ’17, this spirit permeates past classes and into the extracurricular realm. Sekula is spearheading a revamping of Swarthmore Graphic Design, a club that combines technology and art to create logos and posters for members of our community.

One of Sekula’s largest ambitions was to expand membership in the club. “When I came last year, I noticed that SGD was lacking on campus. It turns out the two seniors who led it were graduating last year. They had a little graphic design club with just the two of them really. My friend Christina Hui and I went, and it was kinda lame … They were surprised anyone came!” This left leadership positions for Sekula and his counterpart, Christina Hui. Sekula laughs affectionately about SGD’s humble origins. Today, SGD boasts a recruitment of a number of first-years who signed up at the activities fair and around 20 members who showed up to the interest meeting.

In addition to expanding membership, Sekula has helped increase visibility on campus through engagement with other offices. Last year, SGD “didn’t have any real jobs or anything.” Sekula conferred with his friend, a student at Princeton University, to learn about their Student Design Agency. “They get paid to do designs, so I was hoping to do something like that here on campus. Second semester, I wrote up a charter for the group and talked to Student Council, and then [I was] directed to Mike Elias, who was actually starting to think he wanted to have some sort of graphic design position. Things just worked out.” Sekula has still been working in close conjunction with Elias to help students get paid for working as graphic designers for campus groups. The collaboration with the office of Student Engagement, and specifically Elias, has helped establish SGD as the new go-to group for clubs looking to get professional-looking, appropriate logos and posters.

Previous projects have included sophisticated logos for the Student Employment Office, the Intercultural Center and the Social Affairs Committee. Recently, Sekula designed a logo for the Earthworms Ultimate Frisbee Team, which took him around ten days to brainstorm. Future potential projects include creating logos for Earthworms and Offbeat. Sekula hopes that before any of the new projects, the hiring process will be complete so that students can actually be paid for their time.

Sekula cites that a typical project varies in the number of hours it takes. His projects have ranged from two hours to up to ten hours, most of which are spent working with the various graphic design softwares.

Sekula uses mostly Adobe Illustrator in addition to Adobe Photoshop. Coming from his hometown in Pennsylvania, he wasn’t offered any graphic design classes at his high school, so he had to teach himself how to use the software. For interested students, Sekula recommends using YouTube videos or specifically, Ask Lynda, offered by the college’s libraries. On the SGD website, Sekula has also linked some helpful graphic design websites for inspiration.

As a computer science major, Sekula finds it comes naturally to him to sit at a computer for the number of hours required for designing logos. “It helps being comfortable with computers; it’s easier as a computer science major; you may not get as intimidated when you look at the initial screen in the software.”

However, graphic design is not just for the tech-savvy. Sekula, also involved in the Studio Arts department on campus, finds parallels to designing logos. “Posters are kind of like doing a painting. They are more design-oriented [than logos].” Sekula hopes that at meetings, the paid graphic designers will be able to have critiques of each others’ work, much like the art critiques that take place in his landscape painting class. A visionary eye for design helps Sekula with the aesthetics of his logos and posters.

Adding to Sekula’s wide range of commitments is his involvement in Student Council, which he claims also helps him with SGD. “I think my position there, basically with student life, is related because it’s about just getting news out there,” which is essentially what graphic design is about. Similar to Student Council, “it’s really cool because doing the designs allows me to meet leaders across campus,” Sekula stated.

You would think that Sekula wouldn’t have any time left, between his new ambitions for SGD, heavy involvement in two academic departments and Student Council. Somehow, though, he manages to also be a full-time varsity athlete. His heavy involvement with extracurriculars makes his upcoming projects for SGD even more impressive.

One of his plans for the future of SGD, in addition to getting students paid, is to host workshops that are open to all members on campus. At these workshops, Sekula hopes to expose even those with no artistic or technological background to the tools he will use to create the logos that will be all around campus this coming year. “I think graphic design is for people who want to learn. There’s so much that I don’t know about and there’s always stuff to learn. Every tool is used by everyone in different ways.”

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