Featured Stories

Students tackle design challenge with boldness, creativity


SUMMARY: Madison invited JMU students to design the cover of our Fall 2020 issue, with its overarching themes of civic engagement and renewing civil society.

By Jim Heffernan (’96, ’17M)

Madison invited JMU students to design the cover of our Fall 2020 issue, with its overarching themes of civic engagement and renewing our civil society—no small task given the tensions in our country ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Our inaugural Design Your Own Cover contest was over a year in the making.

“It was entirely a student-led effort,” Madison Executive Editor Khalil Garriott (’04) said. “One of our previous editorial interns brainstormed it before he graduated, then another editorial intern took the baton and pushed it across the line. She also led the marketing efforts to get the word out about the contest. We even had a couple students serve as judges on the selection committee.” 

MM Fall2020 student cover Rachel Rizzetto 300pxThe magazine sought creative, original designs from students across campus. Special thanks to Adrienne Hooker, an assistant professor in the School of Media Arts and Design, who agreed to make the contest an optional assignment in her Visual Communication Design class during the Spring semester.  

The staff at Madison selected five finalists from the entries received. An independent panel of judges was then asked to rate each design on how well it represented the issue’s theme; whether it was nonpartisan, respectful and aesthetically appealing; and if it encouraged the viewer to want to read more.

The winning design, which is featured on the cover of the issue, was submitted by Rachel Rizzetto (’20). It shows Cayla Parson (’20) speaking at a march during Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week at JMU in 2018. The event was hosted by the Center for Multicultural Student Services.

“When I started to brainstorm ideas, I knew I had to include design that intertwined the concepts of civic engagement, democracy and who JMU is as an institution,” said Rizzetto, a graphic design major who graduated in May. “I am familiar with JMU’s ‘Being the Change’ slogan and thought this was a perfect opportunity to highlight the meaning of that, along with the fact that encouraging our students and their generation to speak up to inspire change and growth is crucial in today’s world. I wanted these concepts to be the center of attention in my design.

"The young woman of color standing in front of a group on James Madison University's campus is speaking up for what she believes in and inspiring others to want to make change," Rizzetto said. "To me, this absolutely embodies what it means to be civically engaged."

MM Fall2020 student cover MacKenzie Herrlich 300

The runner-up, Mackenzie Herrlich, a senior majoring in media arts and design, took a different approach. Her concept of a woman holding up a sign with the words “ERROR 155: Democracy Not Found” is based on the error messages we receive on our devices. “By pointing out the fact that there is a problem [with our democracy], I hope the audience would ask themselves, “What can I do about it?’” Herrlich wrote on her submission form.

Senior SMAD major Emily Robertson took third place for her illustration of the voting process.

“Voting is such an important part of being a citizen and is often taken for granted, especially in smaller and local elections,” Robertson said. “By composing the design with a ballot box and a hand in the act of voting, I felt that it would be the clearest and the most effective way to show how important it is to vote. Including the phrase “Your Voice, Your Future” was to highlight how even one vote can affect change.”

MM Fall2020 student cover Emily Robertson 300

Bill Thompson, Madison’s creative director, was impressed with the overall quality of the student submissions. “They were incredibly thoughtful and communicated powerful messages,” he said. “Rachel’s design, in particular, speaks to our time now and how critical it is for each of us to realize the importance of freedom to peacefully protest and have our voices heard.”

Garriott added, “The fate of our country is in the hands of these young adults. I was proud to see their passion for action, driving change and improving the world come through in the designs they submitted. Knowing that they are motivated to strengthen our democracy gives me great hope that better days are ahead.”


Madison banner 2018

Back to Top

Published: Monday, September 7, 2020

Last Updated: Monday, May 24, 2021

Related Articles