Little did nine-year-old Jonathan Barrera realize when his family moved to Evansville from El Salvador, that one day he would be set to graduate from college with a degree in Graphic Design, and be recognized for his design work for a noted author.
Barrera, a visual communication major who will graduate this May, was in Joie Fuller’s Graphic Design 2 class last year when author Mike Whicker approached the class about helping him with a re-design of his most popular book, “Invitation to Valhalla,” a historical work of fiction about the daughter of Hitler’s comrade, who is the Nazi’s top spy; and an FBI agent who is sent out to investigate a garbled shortwave transmission coming from southern Indiana that is intercepted by a HAM radio operator.
My “Invitation to Valhalla” cover was 15 years old and outdated,” Whicker said. “I had done the cover myself, and it was simplistic and I knew I need a new cover. The book is the bestselling of my six books and I wanted a more professional cover.”
Barrera said he researched the book and Whicker’s previous books. “I looked at the original cover and tried to keep some of the colors and design elements,” Barrera said. “Mr. Whicker gave us a basic template of where the image and text should be.” Whicker said he encouraged the students to be creative. “I told the class the basics of what I was looking for, but encouraged the students to interpret the cover as they saw fit. About eight or nine students submitted potential covers,” Whicker said.
Fuller, a professor of graphic design at Ivy Tech, said that unique challenge that students had on this project was they were required to work with a photograph that was recently shot for this project. “The image appeared very clean, crisp and modern. But, they needed to make it feel as though it was from WWII era to fit the storyline.”
Whicker said “all of the samples were excellent. But, his (Barrera’s) designs were the most impressive. The great things I had heard about Ivy Tech’s graphic design department were confirmed.”
“Jonathan successfully used subtle Photoshop techniques to give the modern photo a vintage feel,” Fuller added. “His design integrated the required photo of the story’s spy and effectively portrayed the era and two countries involved in the storyline, while having the book title beautifully pop off the cover art.”
Fuller said that while designing a book cover is not a typical semester activity, working on a real-world project with a client is something she hopes to have at least once during Graphic Design 2 or 3 classes. “Working with a real-world client affords the student the opportunity to design for someone other than themselves or the instructor. Students can sometimes feel that it’s the instructor just being harsh or critical as we move along on a project with tight deadlines and many changes. It also opens their eyes to the world of demands and deadlines that our profession requires.”
Barrera’s design was unveiled at a private reception on March 17 and again, at a fundraiser for Germania Maennerchor the following day. He said he plans to transfer to the University of Southern Indiana this coming fall and also would like to get a job in graphic design to help pay the way. His dream is to start his own company after having worked with a design firm for a few years.
“I decided to come to Ivy Tech after I graduated from Harrison High School in 2013, because my classmates told me it was a good school and I could get my initial degree in two years,” Barrera said. “I thought I wanted to do web design, but decided later that graphic design was a better fit.