In Alumni, Experiential Learning

Abby deWitt and Laura McNeil share their thoughts behind their winning designs

The Communication Arts Design Annual Magazine featuring the award-winning projects from their 60th annual design competition. (Ben Williams)

Recent graduates from the BYU Department of Design, Laura McNeil and Abby deWitt, were featured in the 2019 September/October issue of the Communication Arts Design Annual competition — showcasing winners from one of the most prestigious design competitions in the United States and throughout the world.

McNeil and deWitt received two out of the 12 awards from thousands of entries across the country including submissions from top design schools such as ArtCenter College of Design and Savannah College of Art and Design. BYU was one of two schools to receive multiple awards in the competition.

Both McNeil and deWitt drew inspiration from literary works that hold a special meaning for them.

Laura McNeil’s designs of a curated series by Kurt Vonnegut. (Photo courtesy of Douglas Thomas)

“I curated and designed a book series by one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut,” McNeil said. “His literary voice is known for being dry and minimal, with punches of abrasive reality. With his writing style in mind, I took inspiration from wood type. The letterforms are simple yet loud, reflecting Vonnegut’s unique tone.The asterisk is used as the author’s byline, since Vonnegut was known for including an asterisk in his signature.”

deWitt created book covers for Elie Wiesel’s “Night,” which she first read in the 10th grade.

“It had such an impact on me with the simplicity and poetic nature of the writing and the ability of the author to convey such complex emotions — especially concerning religion in a time where the persecution of the Jewish people was so astonishing,” said deWitt. “Up to that point, I hadn’t seen covers for the books that had the same impact visually that the stories have.”

For deWitt, the project emphasized the importance of paying close attention to detail to enlighten the deeper meaning behind a design.

Abby deWitt’s redesign of the “Night” trilogy by Elie Wiesel. (Photo courtesy of Douglas Thomas)

“I redesigned Elie Wiesel’s Night Trilogy covers in order to reflect the main characters’ transformation and perception of religion,” said deWitt. “I used the Star of David as the primary icon in the patterns to represent that transformation. Patterns were screen printed and blind embossed onto each cover, representing both the titles and the change in religion.”

For both alums, the experience as a whole proved valuable in every aspect of their design careers — including appreciation for their mentors at BYU.

“Having my designs judged by professionals who relate to my work and appreciate the time and effort it took to create them is both rewarding and encouraging,” said deWitt. “It put weight behind my work by validating my designs and portfolio. I would just want to thank my professors for being supportive and encouraging me to push my limits in design.

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