Why I Love Designing for Higher Education
by Steve Hartman (and his ghost friend)
It was 1992 when I let my career choose me. I had two preferred career paths — that of a graphic designer or an assistant director of student housing. I decided to go with whichever first presented an opportunity. Well, I’m writing this for an advertising agency’s blog so we can take a guess as to which path presented itself to me first.
Though, despite not becoming a student housing worker, the clients I’ve most coveted throughout my 25 years of designing have always been institutions of higher education. I don’t think my love for the college experience has ever left me. NRHH, ACUHO-I and GLACUHO all instilled a passion in me for continuing education and campus culture.
Maybe my penchant for designing for colleges is my way of staying connected to those formative years of my life experience — the ones when I was deciding who I’d grow up to be. Additionally, I think that my fondness of the years I spent working in the University Housing system has given me an empathetic approach to students and my clients’ audiences.
In college, I was a resident assistant at Eastern Illinois University where I received my undergraduate degree in graphic design (Go Panthers!). I spent the best summers of my life as an ACUHO-I intern at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT (Go Cougars! …I only attend schools emblazoned with jungle cat imagery).
I’ve never been able to shake my love for working with schools. Over the course of my career, I’ve created everything from university capital campaigns to complete school rebrands to annual reports for schools such as Washington University, Eastern Illinois University, Webster University, Southern Illinois University, Logan University, Lewis & Clark Community College and University of Illinois. I’ve also designed for CBC High School, The Wilson School, Webster Groves School District, and the School District of Clayton.
Even as my own kids begin to tour colleges, I’ve never been able to tame my excitement for the college experience. Heck, even the class clown in me found a way to muster up the courage to grow up and teach. I’ve taught design and visual communications at Washington University in St. Louis, Webster University, University of Missouri – St. Louis, and Maryville University. I’ve loved every second of it.
I’ve been lucky to work with some incredible businesses and organizations over the years, though few truly get me as excited as the institutions of higher education with whom I get to work so frequently. I’m proud that I’ve been able to carve out this niche in my career and I hope to continue to build off it for years to come.