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Caitlin Straley
Excellence Award Winner
Graphic Design
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Graphic Design evolves design fundamentals into powerful tools for communication, problem-solving, and creative strategizing.

Music has always had a profound impact on my life. From a young age, I remember songs helping me express myself and understand my emotions. A huge musical influence for me has been my father. He introduced me to mainstream artists like U2, Tom Petty, Nirvana, and The Beatles. More importantly, he exposed me to bands near my hometown of Midland, Michigan. I grew up understanding that talent went far beyond what was played on the radio.

Underground music is not typically fueled by sales or pleasing the masses, but rather because someone’s soul believes in it–and I find that to be incredibly beautiful. As a graphic design student, I knew this was a concept I wanted to explore at some point in my academic career. The perfect opportunity presented itself in my publication class and Filter publication was born. The name Filter came from a common problem I would encounter. Underground talent is typically hard to find which can lead to hours of unsuccessful searching. Filter simply filters through the vast Internet of Things for good music.

I wanted to focus on this project in my hometown and get to know the people behind the music that shaped me. I interviewed five extremely talented musicians which included Bryan Rombalski, Michael Robertson, Leland Blue (band members Connor & Ben), and Andy Reed. During the interviews, I asked questions not only about their music but about who they were and what message they wanted to share.

After my extensive research, the design process came naturally. The tone of Filter is inviting, inspiring, professional, and insightful. The physical publication has a keepsake, nostalgic quality. It’s very tactile with a variety of papers, special finishes, die-cuts, and different page sizes. With each turn of the page, there is something new to discover. The graphic elements such as the cut-out rectangles on the cover are simplified sound waves of words, lyrics, and songs from the featured artists. The typography and layout are clean to keep the musicians’ work in the foreground. Just like music, the structure of the publication follows the rules but knows when to break them. Beyond the publication, I expanded Filter into an integrated branding campaign for my thesis class. I explored traditional and non-traditional ways to promote these artists, from guerrilla advertising, small tours, postcards, mixed CDs, and subscription services via an online website.

Filter developed into much more than something I did for a grade–it became a passion project. Eventually, I was able to deliver physical copies of the publication to the artists I interviewed. Seeing my work influence and move people only furthered my enthusiasm for the design world. It has been an honor to get to know and share their voice. I believe there are thousands of other individuals just like them who have their own stories to tell. My hope is that more people will stop to listen.

What is your most memorable

experience at KCAD?

One of my most memorable experiences at KCAD was working in the Communications Department as a Graphic Design Intern. During my internship, I conceptualized and executed several creative solutions for a variety of media. This opportunity gave me valuable industry experience while developing meaningful relationships within the KCAD community. In addition, seeing my work out in the real world further elevated my ambition, creativity, and excitement for the Graphic Design field.

What are your most

notable accomplishments?

2019 West Michigan American Advertising Student Awards

  • Bronze Award (Integrated Campaign)

  • Silver Award (App Design)

2020 West Michigan American Advertising Student Awards

  • Bronze Award (Integrated Campaign)

  • Bronze Award (Logo Design)

  • Gold Award (Publication Design)

  • Gold Award (Integrated Campaign)

  • Best of Show (Integrated Campaign) 

Worked alongside two KCAD professors (John Koziatek & Jonathan Moroney) for a collaborative partnership with Grand Valley State University as a UX/UI website designer.

Worked in the KCAD Communications Dept. as

a Graphic Design Intern for 2 years.​​

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