The 2019 Align Design Series December cover contest winner, Shaun Ellis, is a Rome High School student who wants us all to remember Rome for the holidays.

align design series group
Jordan Epperson, Digital Strategist with Whiteboard, speaking to the group.

Year two for the Align Design Series is in the books. Creative Director and Designer at V3, Ellie Borromeo, partnered with Rome Area Council for the Arts (RACA) and Darlington, using her experience as a graphic designer to inspire high school students.

“The conversation started with Ian Griffin, founder and partner of V3 Collective. He was on the Board of Directors for RACA at the time,” Borromeo explained. “We aimed to provide a design workshop to introduce graphic design and industry-relevant design foundations to interested area students. We wanted to contribute to furthering the awareness of design within this community and demonstrate its ubiquitous relevance within top-performing companies today. Because design is a growing and adapting industry with endless opportunities, Rome Area Council for the Arts’ leadership thought this would be an effective way to show students how they could pursue a creatively-fulfilling career.”

“Rome Area Council for the Arts (RACA) works to expose the Rome area to all arts. By offering this three-day workshop to area students, RACA hopes more young people will join the creative workforce if they know a career is viable. By covering all aspects of the graphic design field, students from area high schools get an overview of what awaits them if they decide to pursue this career path” said Ali Booker, RACA’s Executive Director.

The workshop met for three weeks, each time on Saturday in the Darlington High School library.

Much like last year’s workshop, Borromeo covered details of design that students may not have been exposed to. By combining an intro to the technology used in today’s design industry, foundations such as design history and principles, and hosting speakers that either work in the field or represent options for post-secondary education, the class was given a real-world view of this integral field and what it takes.

“This year, I wanted to change the focus to be more work heavy,” Borromeo explained. “Last year, I focused more on facilitation and I recognized that we needed more hands-on work time during the session. I wanted to offer them the chance to go through the design process together by working through thumbnail sketches, talking about design concepts and analyzing the work we were able to complete. Feedback and critique are areas I wanted to expose our class to because that is such an important part of the process.”

RACA’s Align Design Series served an average of nine students every week. The class started with around 11 students from Darlington, Rome City and Floyd County Schools. Interested students identified by their teachers attended if their schedule allowed. Borromeo said that they wanted to keep the classes small – around two students per school – so that she could offer more individual instruction to students who wanted to dive deeper into this discipline.

“Our approach to the curriculum is really all-encompassing,” she said. “We worked on the technicalities behind forming design from the visual perspective, as well as from the foundational perspective of developing a concept or message. We also talked about how to develop ideas based on what a business’s needs are and who that business may be trying to reach.”

Part of the Align Design Series was giving students an opportunity to have their work published in V3 Magazine. The Align Design Cover Contest was developed to help students showcase what they have learned. This year’s winner, Rome High School student Shaun Ellis, has his design work featured on the cover of the December 2019 issue of V3 Magazine.

Like last year, Borromeo selected a group of professionals to visit with the students and provide additional information about working in the field of graphic design or options for post-secondary education. Students were allowed to ask them questions, see examples of their work or student work and gather invaluable feedback. 

On the second day of the workshop,  Jordan Epperson visited the class to speak about projects he has worked on with Whiteboard, a design firm based in Chattanooga, Tenn. Epperson works as a Digital Strategist for Whiteboard and his presentation covered the nuts and bolts of the process, but he also spoke about finding his way in the creative world early on. 

“As a designer, the nature of your work starts with solving problems creatively,” Epperson said to the group when asked about how he found a connection to the creative industry. “You will often find yourself solving problems for other people. So, if you are a freelance designer, you have likely chosen organizations that you align with, value wise, to work with. Or if you choose to work with an agency, your work in design can serve a very wide range of businesses, organizations or people. When charting a course for my career, I really tried to focus on the people I want to help and supported the problems I want to solve. For me, redemptive leadership is something I am passionate about. I enjoy helping people who are entrepreneurs and humanitarians; I enjoy working with people who want to impact their communities. I may not have the capacity to lead an organization like that, but I do have the tools to help them with their goals. In a way, I feel that I am contributing to their efforts through the work that I do.”

Epperson went on to say that when toeing the line of which directions he chooses to use his art, it is important to say yes to the right projects and no to the wrong projects. However, using his professional experiences as a guide, he said that there are many opportunities to use art to build a career. And because of the growing numbers of businesses who are moving into the digital realm of marketing, those opportunities are becoming more accessible to young professionals.

Day three of the workshop included guest speakers Melissa Kuperminc who serves as a graphic design professor at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) and Ron Moore who is the Design Department Head at Creative Circus Atlanta.

“The guests speakers for the last day are both from post-secondary institutions that offer degrees or certificates in design. I aimed to end the workshop with insight into the multitude of ways students can continue their design education after high school, whether by attending SCAD or Creative Circus or doing it DIY,” Borromeo explained. “Ron Moore spoke to all the forms that design takes and how endless the opportunities there are for various personality types and skill sets, highlighting the differences between areas such as illustration and poster design or user experience and user interface design. 

“He also provided insight regarding the approach of Creative Circus as a portfolio school that challenges students to produce their best work,” she added, “opening up options to those who complete the program to jobs at the best agencies in the world. In contrast, Melissa reviewed what an educational experience at SCAD looks like if pursuing design and presented numerous examples of recent student work, shedding light on the processes and work that went into each piece as well as highlighting her own background as a design professor.”

“Regarding the V3 cover contest, not only was this a great chance for the students to see their work developed and published, but it was also an opportunity for them to go through the design process from critique to final work,” Borromeo said. “This is a wonderful project to add to their portfolio. It also gives V3 an opportunity to showcase these students and their hard work as a part of the community we exist within. As a company, we at V3 believe in celebrating people who are pursuing creative careers.”

I feel we were able to offer the students a look into how they can use their creative interests or inclinations to start a career in any way they choose,” Borromeo added. “I want to also thank RACA for partnering with us and providing the support for this workshop. To Darlington School, we are also grateful to you all for allowing us to use the library and the resources there. This effort would not have worked without the support of everyone involved.”

Align design series students sketching in workshop
From left to right, Carolyn Smyth, Kendall Buford, Conner Arrington and Calysta Long working on sketches


Darlington for their partnership 

Ellie Borromeo for leading the class instruction 

Jordan Epperson – Digital Strategist at Whiteboard

Ron Moore – Design Department Head at Creative Circus Atlanta.

Melissa Kuperminc – Graphic Design Professor at SCAD.