Designed for Excellence

Kyle Smart

Class of 2015
Major: Art
Minor: Psychology, Communication
Hometown: Rochelle, Ill.

When Kyle Smart found out that one of his works had been chosen for a permanent collection, he was ecstatic.

“As a designer, I all but counted myself out of the competition, because so many people don’t understand that graphic design is truly an art,” he says.

Judges from the Christopher Center for Library and Information Resources, which houses the collection, disagreed. They selected Kyle’s work “Keep Calm and Sing On” as one of four pieces to be purchased in the collection’s inaugural year.

This is hardly the first time that Kyle’s art has appeared on the Valparaiso University campus. He designed the posters for the 2014-2015 events series at the Center for the Arts, and he led a redesign of The Torch, the campus newspaper, to commemorate its centennial. Crusaders will also be looking at his work decades from now when they page back through their 2013 yearbooks.

Kyle’s journey down this road was encouraged by Joseph Gonzalez, associate professor of graphic design, who suggested that Kyle apply as a designer on The Torch. Though Kyle was skeptical at first, he found that the deadline-driven work honed his design skills.

“There is a sense of urgency, a sense of the importance of the product we were putting out,” Kyle says. “My work at the paper helps the school, and it helps me because I spend so much time working outside of class.”

That first campus job led to design opportunities at the yearbook, The Beacon, and at the campus radio station, WVUR, where Kyle worked as the promotions director and webmaster. He also continued to excel in the classroom, creating work that was showcased in student art shows and in The Lighter, Valpo’s award-winning literary and fine arts journal.

By junior year, Kyle had developed a significant portfolio. When art department chair Aimee Tomasek notified Kyle about the Christopher Center’s new collection of student art, open only to art majors and minors, he submitted the maximum five pieces.

About three months later, Kyle stood in front of the judges and spoke about his works. As he explained, “Keep Calm and Sing On” was commissioned by the Phi Mu Alpha fraternity. It promoted a music festival in memory of a brother who had died in combat.

“I presented this with the explanation that I cared about this piece because of my love for the arts. As a close friend with the brothers of PMA, it felt important to me personally, and I felt that it was an important piece for Valpo,” Kyle remembers. “It was a really formative experience to try to sell that work and to talk about it in such a formal manner.”

Kyle says the experience gave him more confidence in asserting the value of his work — a skill he will use throughout his artistic career.

Kyle plans to work as a designer in Chicago and is considering graduate work in graphic design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. As he notes, he’ll be just a short drive from Valpo.

“It’s amazing to understand that I can come back to the library at any point, and my piece will be in the building,” he says. “It’s an amazing feeling to know I was able to leave something at Valpo.”