A Recap of Starter Kit: Making This Design Thing Matter

“Having your principals can lead to doing the work you love.” Justin Kemerling said to a room of students as he began his talk; Making This Design Thing Matter. Justin Kemerling credited his success and inspiration to his love of punk rock, political science, and his home state of Nebraska. Punk Rock taught him how to be very resourceful with the limited resources that were provided to him and that later transitioned to his work with nonprofits with small budgets. Political science, a love that he had absorbed as a college student, brought on a drive and foundation that helped him steer his work and projects. Finally, he used Nebraska as a backdrop of inspiration and a drive of wanting to make his home state cool. All these foundations are brought together in his mission of, “working with progressive changemakers & do-gooders.”

Showing and crediting his circle of friends and collaborators, Justin urged students to latch onto those that are talented and learn from those who have a skillset that you can take and add on your own. From his 15 years as a designer, this shaped out and gave him a set list that leads his work. Justin Kemerling wants to do work that:

  1. Is a part of something.
  2. Is optimistic.
  3. Gives a damn.
  4. Is community minded.
  5. Moves people to action.
  6. Points us in a direction.
  7. Picks a side / annoys certain people.
  8. Makes things better.
  9. Has heart.

Relating to the students in the room, Kemerling speaks of his experience with working in clients and how working as a designer can feel stressful and limit the amount of creativity one can do with their work, and suggested to the students in the room to just be weird and have fun with the work they are given. With this list, Justin Kemerling designs with heart and works with clients both in and out of the state making work with heart and meaning for causes he believes in wholeheartedly and suggested for students to find their own core beliefs and design with purpose.

Finally, AIGA-UNO would like to thank Justin Kemerling for taking time out of his day for coming to speak at our event. For those that missed the grand start for the Starter Kit: speaker series, fret not! We have more Starter Kit events planned for our campus. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated on all our future events!

My Thesis and Inspiration

When thinking of what to do for my BASA thesis show many interesting topics came to mind. Depression, abuse, politics, were among those topics. One topic that stood out from the rest was that of immigration. Both of my parents were born in Mexico and came over to the United States when they were both young, to work and to have a better future. I have always been surrounded by family members that were in the country illegally, but I never knew the difference since they always abided by the laws and all they ever did was work. I had a rude awakening while attending a Cinco de Mayo parade when I overheard someone say, “I wish ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) would come, so all these illegals can start running like animals.” I was furious at the comment and at the individual. She didn’t understand the reason why people immigrate illegally, and she didn’t see these individuals as humans.

I wanted to create an interactive poster series for my thesis that will inform people about immigration. Each poster would be placed on the front of a small door, the poster would include information and the face of an individual. Once you open the door you encounter another image, a personal image of themselves to demonstrate that they are also human, that they also have aspirations and dreams. I am grateful that throughout the whole researching and creating process I was able to learn new information, and that I also have the opportunity to share that information with others.

Ana Gavia

BASA Fall 2017 Graduate

University Of Nebraska at Omaha

Starter Kit: Making This Design Thing Matter



Justin Kemerling

Making This Design Thing Matter

Milo Bail Student Center – UMOHO Room

Friday Nov 17th, 2017 | 3 P.M.

AIGA-UNO is proud to present Starter Kit: Design Talks; a speaker series focused on helping upcoming graphic designers and students learn the processes of graphic design from professionals in our community and outside of it. Our second speaker in our design talk series is independent designer and co-founder of Dundee’s co-working space Round And Round Justin Kemerling.


I’ve been a designer for almost 15 years. In a big agency, for a small then medium size startup, and then as an independent. I do the work I want to do. I’ve worked with a lot of different types of clients. I have a good network of interesting collaborators. I write a lot about all of this. I keep my portfolio current. And even though I’m pretty nice, I don’t take any shit.

Favorite Typeface:

My tastes change with the tide. I mostly prefer type that’s appropriate. So for the time being, that’s Rama Gothic, Soleil, Anton, and Tisa.


A Recap of Starter Kit: Making Design Your Day Job

Prepping our starter kits just got more complex! The students and faculty of AIGA-UNO want to extend our grandest appreciation to our first Starter Kit speaker, Michael Stevens. With his wise words, the students have just been given a head start in preparing for their futures as graphic designers and got a set of guidelines on making design their day jobs!

Michael Stevens’ recounted his time as a student to the crowd that had gathered for the talk. He recalled wanting actionable advice from his professors and getting advice like: “It’s all about your portfolio,’ ‘it’s who you know,’ and that ‘you’re on the right track.” However instead of continuing this trend, Michael gave a set of steps and guidelines to improve and set the students on the right path.

  1. Know the top agencies.
  2. Learn from great, new design.
  3. Work on your software skills.
  4. Master typography.
  5. Design about things you’re passionate about.
  6. Present your work professionally.
  7. Seek mentorship
  8. Attend design events.
  9. Intern before you graduate.
  10. Don’t overdesign your resume.
  11. Create a job wish list.

This list provided by speaker Michael Stevens is the actionable advice and steps. Getting involved and delving into the design community online and around you, seeking and searching for advice, mastering the tools of your trade by knowing the ins and outs of the Adobe Creative Suite, or even your hand placement on your keyboard, Michael Stevens spoke with glee and experience about his adventures into design as a student and even now as a professional. Full of professional and personal experience, Michael Stevens explained each point passionately and left no room for doubt or confusion.

Finally, AIGA-UNO would like to thank Michael Stevens for taking time out of his day for coming to speak at our event. For those that missed the grand start for the Starter Kit: speaker series, fret not! We have more Starter Kit events planned for our campus. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated on all of our future events!

Learning From My Mistakes

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in design was from a series of mistakes early in my student career. During my first courses of graphic design, we were assigned to make a poster design after an art movement. I was super excited to work on it! I started hand drawing the layout of the poster and scanned it into the computer to color it in Illustrator.

After working for 2 hours, Illustrator decided to crash. I had not saved in those 2 hours and had to start over again. As the poster started to get more complex, I started getting more confused. It was because I did not label any of my layers. There were over 30 layers unnamed with some layers lacking in content. After 7 hours working, the poster was almost complete. I transferred it to my flash drive and during the transfer, an error occurred. I ignored it, only to find out later that my file got corrupted from the transfer. I never saved it online and had forgotten to store it on any other device. That was my only copy and after all that hard work I had nothing to present.

There were so many lessons that I had learned from that single experience. First is to save often. Sometimes working on your design, you might get lost in your design, get distracted, and lose track of just how many hours had passed by. I would recommend saving your work at the very beginning and then save every 10 to 15 minutes. So, if the off chance that your design program crashes or your computer shuts down, you will have an up-to-date file on your work.

Next, is to back up your work by having a copy of your work online and offline. This means a copy of your work exists somewhere on your laptop, flash drive, or external hard drive and saving your work through email, Dropbox, or Google Drive. With these course of actions; if you accidentally delete your file, your flash drive corrupts, or you left your work on another computer, your work will always be accessible.

I would also recommend investing in an external hard drive early on. Flash drives are good for small projects, but if you are planning to store all your work on a flash drive, it is recommended to have a large file storage device. Also, multiple flash drives with your work can be difficult to keep track of.

The last lesson is to organize and label your process properly. When designing, label your layers. If you are planning to hand off your work to another designer, labels let them know what elements connect without having to search through a sea of labels named “Layer 1”, “Layer 2”, “Layer 3” & etc.

When saving your work, name the project by the project name, not a temporary name. “Thing”, “untitled”, “project1”, or “fjdaslk;f” are very vague names and could be confusing when you have to find your work. “Goodwin_logo_v1” is a good example of naming your project. It shows what’s in the file and what version it is.

Ever since that experience, I save constantly, I make 2 to 3 copies of my work (2 offline and 1 online) and label my layers and project by a proper name. I am actually glad that this experience happened early on. If that had not occurred, I would still be un-labeling my layers and not backing up my work. Overall, I hope you will take on this advice. Remember to save often, back up your work, and organize.

Tristan Bernth
BASA Spring 2018 Graduate
University of Nebraska at Omaha

Starter Kit: Making Design Your Day Job

Michael Stevens

Making Design Your Day Job

Milo Bail Student Center – Nebraska Room

Friday October 6th, 2017 | 6 P.M.

AIGA-UNO is proud to present Starter Kit: Design Talks; a speaker series focused on helping upcoming graphic designers and students learn the processes of graphic design from professionals in our community and outside of it. Our first speaker in our design talk series is former UNO graduate Michael Stevens.

Currently a graphic designer at Bozell, Michael Stevens graduated from UNO in 2015 with a BASA in Graphic Design and a minor in Art History. His design experience includes having been a summer intern at Oxide Design Co., a Siver Medalist at the 2015 AIGA Show, a participant in EmSpace’s FORGE program and an in-house graphic designer for UNO’s College of Business Administration.

When not designing, Michael enjoys teaching violin lessons at the 402 Arts Collective: a local music education nonprofit, and pursuing miscellaneous hobbies including writing music, flying airplanes, and eating copious amounts of Thai food.

Michael will be speaking at the Milo Bail Student Center at the Nebraska Room at 6PM.

Juried Student Galley Exhibition

On Friday February 17th, the University of Nebraska-Omaha showcased the Juried Art Student Exhibition opening event. The show is provided every spring semester for all students to participate in entering. This show provided over 37 student artists that are pursuing a degree in College of Fine Arts and Media. Attending this exhibition, provided not only a wide assortment of classifications of what art is, but rather gave an overall view of how art is interpreted, with showing sculptures, prints, paintings, mixed media materials and digital works.

An interesting aspect that came to mind when walking through the gallery is the connections that you create and the people you get to know. Throughout my years at UNO, I have met new artists, seen their style and their process work in design. What was remarkable, was seeing the development in those pieces and then getting to see the final product in the show.

This event served as an honor not only for my fellow art members in the school, but a proud moment to participate in the gallery with them. I have never had my artwork in a gallery event, so this was pretty impactful accomplishment. It shows that hard work can pay off. Overall, the experience was remarkable, talking with fellow artists and getting to view representation creations.

If you have not checked out the Juried Student Art Exhibition, it is located in the UNO Art Gallery until March 30th. Go check it out and see all the inventive ideas of creation.

Alyssa Skeen
BASA Spring 2017 Graduate
University of Nebraska at Omaha

3 Things I Learned that Helped Me be a Better Graphic Designer

In my four semesters of Graphic Design classes, there have been plenty of times I have found myself overwhelmed with too many ideas and frustrated with a lack of ideas. With the help of my professors and my peers, I conquered these obstacles to make myself a better designer. I would like to pass on some of the realities I have learned through being a graphic designer.

1. Your first idea isn’t always your best idea.

There have been plenty of times where I think that I completely nailed something on the first try, but in reality the only thing I achieved was limiting myself to one option. What saved me from this was creating thumbnails. Yes, it’s tedious, but it really does open your mine. Sometimes your first idea really is your best one, or it could be your 47th or your 64th. You don’t really know until you try. I learned not to be afraid of making multiple versions of the same idea too, because making having your type above your logo is more successful than having it underneath. You never know until you try.

2. Find inspiration pieces.

We all can’t beautifully imagine everything straight from our head no matter how hard we try. I found that looking for pieces that have the same look or overall feel you are going for makes designing so much easier. While you’re not exactly copying the piece, you can find out what in particular makes it relate to your own design. Is it the typeface, the color palette, the layout, the illustration style? Looking at a few pieces that really gets your gears going will propel you into a better design result.

3. Get feedback as much as possible.

Having your peers and your professors break apart your work down to every little detail is really scary at times, but it helps. A lot. At first, I only wanted to hear positive things, but I learned that only getting positive feedback isn’t going to make your work go anywhere. Criticism is going to make you find a way to defend your decisions or make you change them to fit better with what you are trying to communicate. Feedback doesn’t always have to come from your peers or professors either, asking anyone to see if someone be changed or edited to make it into a better design is important. Without the feedback I have gotten on my designs, I wouldn’t have been able to turn my thumbnails into comps or my rough comps into comps or my comps into a finalized version. There is always tweaking to be done if you really think about it, and the more feedback you get helps create the design that will communicate what you need to say.

Emma Farrel
BASA Fall 2017 Graduate
University of Nebraska at Omaha

A Taste of Coca-Cola from a Designer’s Eye

If I had to say what my favorite brand is, personally and conceptually it would definitely be Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola has it down when it comes to design, branding, advertising, and marketing. What is unique about the Coca-Cola Company is that it is recognizable anywhere. The branding is so strong that the logo is recognizable in any language. Whether you are enjoying an ice-cold can of Coke in the United States or China, you know exactly what it is.

The marketing team always has a fun, innovative way to market the brand in a way that literally catches the world by storm. Take for example, the “Share a Coke” campaign. It’s like going to a gift shop and finding a keychain with your name on it; you’re going to buy it because of the novelty. This was also true of the “Share a Coke with…” Anytime I would see a can that says “Share a coke with your best friend, boyfriend, etc.,” I would give the can to that person. But if they weren’t around I would send them a photo of it with a corny caption.

Let’s not forget the advertising for coke products. Coke and food go together. This has got to be one the simplest, most truthful phrases I have ever heard. I think most people (at least the ones who drink soda) can agree with this. The taste of the crisp, refreshing Coca-Cola pairs well with anything. Whether it’s pizza, French fries, pasta, or a hot dog, the best sidekick is an ice-cold Coca-Cola.

Amanda Wood
BASA Spring 2017 Graduate
University of Nebraska at Omaha

Designing Milton Wolsky Lecture Event

On Thursday evening (02/02/17), the lecture event of Designing Milton Wolsky, with speakers Madison Besch and Andrew Peterson, gave insight for new and current designers in the field. They gave great tips on their process of design in the image the client wanted, instead of their own beliefs. Each component had rationale from the typography, imagery, and even the grid. An interesting intake from the Milton Wolsky book was the fact that they used personal motifs as gaining a relation to the artist in his style, while embracing an energetic and playful layout. In relation, I hope to see more informative events that show what graphic designers can do in the community.

Alyssa Skeen
BASA Spring 2017 Graduate
University of Nebraska at Omaha