2023 graduate named Graphic Design USA Student to Watch

Carly Curran stands with her hands outstretched in front of a wall with 12 calendar pages.
Carly Curran stands with her artwork displayed in the senior exhibition show "Sincerely Yours," at the McEachern Art Center. Photo courtesy Carly Curran

A 2023 Mercer University graduate’s graphic design skills recently gained the notice of a top industry source. Carly Curran, who just earned a Bachelor of Arts in graphic design, was named a Student to Watch by Graphic Design USA. 

With the help of several of America’s leading art and design schools, Graphic Design USA annually identifies top undergraduate, graduate and continuing education students ready to burst onto the design scene. Profiles of this year’s Students to Watch are available online and will be featured in an upcoming edition of Graphic Design USA magazine.

Carly Curran holds her graduation cap while wearing a white dress with her graduation stole and honor cord.
Carly Curran just graduated with her bachelor’s degree in graphic design. Photo courtesy Carly Curran

“I am so proud of Carly’s achievement,” said Tennille Shuster, associate professor of graphic design. “This prestigious recognition confirms what we see in the classroom every day from Carly. Her creativity and assiduousness set her apart and will serve her well as she graduates and begins her career as a professional designer.”

Curran, an Atlanta native, has developed and honed her skills through a variety of Mercer classes, experiences and freelance projects. A member of the women’s lacrosse team, she has done graphic design work for Mercer Athletics as well as for the art department, including for an academic textbook. Curran said Shuster has been an incredible mentor to her. 

“Every (art) professor really looks out for each student,” she said. “They really want to see us succeed, so any time they can get us in front of a different design audience, they try to help us do that.”

Curran’s areas of focus include digital illustration, photography and interactive design, in addition to studio-based work that includes ceramics.

“My style is very illustrative. It looks hand done and vector-based,” Curran said. 

Curran created her favorite graphic design projects so far during her final semester at Mercer. For the advanced design service-learning course, she did rebranding work for PARK Macon-Bibb. Then, for her senior exhibition graphic design class, she created 12 pieces of art for a monthly wall calendar. Her calendar and works by other graduating fine art and design students are on display at the McEachern Art Center through May 18.

Curran interned with Mativ, a materials innovation company headquartered in Alpharetta, during the spring semester. She handled social media for the company and designed planners and journal covers.

Carly Curran holds a trophy on Anderson Field on Mercer's Macon campus, with a jumbotron in the background that says "2023 Big South Women's Lacrosse Champions."
Carly Curran, a member of the women’s lacrosse team, holds the Big South Conference tournament trophy after her team’s win on May 7. Photo courtesy Carly Curran

Her internship and senior design project caused her to fall in love with product design. Curran said it’s fulfilling to have her designs brought to life as products and then to see people buy them. 

She said she was “blown away” by the recent recognition from Graphic Design USA. 

“I’m not really someone who gets a lot of accolades. It was really exciting to me to get that,” she said. “(I’m in) this weird transition from college to the real world. … I’m no longer an athlete. Now I have my art. It made me really proud because that’s what I’m about to go into.”

Curran said being a student-athlete taught her how to maintain a structured work schedule and balance her time. 

“Time management is huge with athletes, and that can be said for artists as well,” she said. “It’s also one of those things, athletics and art, where you can’t fake it. You can’t fake the muscles; you can’t fake the design.”

Curran’s long-term goal is to follow in the footsteps of her parents, who are both entrepreneurs, and start her own graphic design business.


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