The art behind the art

When walking into the Fine Arts building, you’ll immediately come across an open gallery filled with abstract and interesting art. Paintings, photographs, sculptures, a pair of headphones look as if they’re waiting to be touched. What you won’t see is junior Hailey Johnson, a double major in graphic design and computer science. She sits at a desk hidden in the back of a classroom on the other side of the gallery, focused on her laptop as construction continues on outside a window beside her.

While some consider graphic design to be “pretty,” Johnson believes that there’s more to it than just visual appearance. For her, graphic design involves technicality the same way painting or drawing does.

“Art is communication, but graphic design is mass communication,” Johnson said. “It’s talking; it’s research; it’s trying to understand what the subject matter is.”

When looking at a painting from Picasso or Raphael, viewers have no doubt they’re looking at a painting. Graphic design is different. Graphic design in posters and advertisments are all around, even in the background.

“I love making graphic design that seems like art, but it depends on where your head goes,” Johnson said. “I definitely think I’m geared more towards the technical and realistic approach of graphic design. It all blends, so it’s really kind of a grey area sometimes.”

This perspective began in high school where she experienced several art classes before taking graphic design one her junior year. She submitted a logo for a competition which became a big success, appearing all over posters and T-shirts. This, however, wasn’t enough to convince her that graphic design was the right career choice.

“I was good at science, but it wasn’t fulfilling enough,” Johnson said. “But, art also wasn’t fulfilling. They didn’t do enough individually.”

Johnson struggled to find where she stood with her love for graphic design and her talent for science. After receiving a scholarship to St. Edward’s and scheduling a visit, she had saw that graphic design studies were a better fit than her original plan for pre-physical therapy. Yet, she continued to feel unfulfilled through her freshman art classes which were far different than the ones she had found fun in high school. She decided to take a computer science course, in which she had finally found the best of both worlds and realized that graphic design and computer science were highly compatible.

“You can use them simultaneously, and it made perfect sense to me because I’m good at math, I’m good at science, I love making art, so why not combine both?” Johnson said.

Since then, Johnson’s balance of the two majors has inspired her to bridge the gap between graphic design and computer science. There isn’t much communication between the two, she says, but there should be.

While her plan for the future is pretty clear, whether or not she chooses one over the other depends on the direction of her career.

“I want something that allows me to dip my feet into the design world yet also be able to code that design.” Johnson said. “It honestly just depends on how I’m feeling.”

The artist doesn’t see herself having a distinct style just yet, at least not in the same way her inspiration, Saul Bass, does. But Johnson hopes that one day people will look at her industrial designs and say, “That’s her.”