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July 9, 2020

The collaborative effort behind taking a showcase online

Graphic design showcases are a special moment for JCCC’s graduating students. Each spring, students have the opportunity to show their portfolios at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Mo., to industry professionals from all over the metro seeking talent for potential job matches. Students also display their hard work for parents and family members.

With recent events, the graphic design department decided to move this year’s showcase online. Their next challenge was to take an in-person showcase and translate it to the virtual screen.

Making the Move to Online

As graphic design faculty realized a virtual option for this year’s showcase was needed, a collaborative effort began … literally. Shawn Smith, Director of the Collaboration Center (CoLab), and assistant professors of graphic design Ryan Jones and Terri Nemer started determining the process. Soon, it was all hands on deck.

Smith said the showcase involved everyone from video services, IT and educational technology, plus six of her staff at the CoLab. From mid-March to June, everyone was focused on giving these students the best virtual showcase possible.

Jones and Nemer held several Zoom meetings with students to get their input, and also sat in on other virtual industry events to get insights into what did and did not work.

They determined the best course of action would be an online mini-conference. This would consist of a panel discussion by local industry leaders, a “faculty lounge” for professionals to talk with JCCC faculty, and individual “rooms” for each graduate to virtually screen share their portfolios.

Promotion for the event quickly began; social media campaigns were launched, emails were sent and a custom website was built to host the showcase.

Dana Masters, a graphic design student who worked as the director of promotions for the showcase, said the experience allowed students to learn new skills they could add to their résumés.

“We created different committees for writing copy, designing ads and content for social media, and laying out the website,” she said. “It was honestly a lot of work, but it was a learning experience for all the students involved.”

Days before the event, two dress rehearsals were held to give students an opportunity to practice displaying their work while faculty and staff worked out the kinks.

With everything in place, it was time for the show.

The Event Begins

The showcase, Harmonia, went live at 4 p.m.on June 4. Jones said the theme Harmonia was conceived last fall with the idea being that the showcase would not just be an event but a destination: an alternative world built on harmonious design principles.

“As the concept evolved, it became so much more: a land built on the basis of not only creativity, but the ethos of cooperation and equality,” he said. “Little did the students know how powerful and appropriate this theme would become for the virtual setting we ultimately found ourselves in.”

When visitors “enter” Harmonia, they are greeted by a series of animations on the website that welcome them in. Colin Blunt, the student who designed the animation, said that while working on a virtual showcase was unpredictable at times, it was heartening to see showcase committee members working together in an encouraging, uplifting fashion.

“It's amazing what can be done if you throw your apprehension to the winds and choose to succeed ‘in spite of,’” he said. “This is precisely what we all chose to do. And because of that—and in large part due to the undying efforts of our incredible professor Ryan Jones—we ended up with not only a successful showcase, but something that we can all carry forward with us as something to be genuinely proud of.”

115 people attended the showcase, leading to praise from the professors and the local community.

“The event was perceived as a big success to the KC creative professional community. The panel discussion and the announcement of our graduates was powerful content,” Jones said. “In reality this whole event was blazing new and unexpected trails.”