Three OU Visual Communication students awarded for their designs for the 2019 Neustadt Lit Festival

September 13, 2019
The prize-winning poster design by OU student Marley Smith

NORMAN, OKLA. (Friday, September 13, 2019) – University of Oklahoma students Marley Smith, Abby Merz, and Sadie Gorham have been awarded first, second, and third place, respectively, as this year’s winners of the annual Neustadt Lit Festival poster design project. The students participated in the competition as a part of an annual collaboration with World Literature Today and the University of Oklahoma School of Visual Arts.

Smith’s winning design will be used in all the promotional materials for the 2019 Neustadt Lit Festival that will occur this fall, October 15–17, on the University of Oklahoma campus. The festival’s schedule of events and full list of featured writers, artists, and scholars are now also available online. The festival will feature the ninth NSK Prize laureate and guest writer Margarita Engle, who is a Cuban American author of over two dozen books, including The Surrender Tree, which won the Newbery Honor, and The Lightning Dreamer, which won a PEN USA Award.

Visual Communication professor and undergraduate coordinator Karen Hayes-Thumann has incorporated this design project for nine consecutive spring semesters as part of an undergraduate course. This year, WLT’s editor in chief, Daniel Simon, and art director, Jen Rickard Blair, visited with the class and corresponded with the students to provide feedback and help them refine their concepts.

“Marley’s design is vibrant, and she has entwined Margarita Engle’s background in both botany and literature into a concept that will be inviting in this year’s festival promotions,” said Rickard Blair.

First-place winner Marley Smith is from Choctaw, Oklahoma, and will graduate in May 2021 with a bachelor of fine arts in visual communication and a minor in interior design. Smith plans on pursuing a career in branding and hopes to find work in helping nonprofits raise awareness and funds for causes she believes in.

Second-place winner Abby Merz is a junior in the Visual Communication program at OU. After transferring to OU from an animation program at another university, Merz said she feels like she has found her true home in the VisCom family and has grown immensely as a designer during her time at OU. After graduating in 2021, Merz aspires to work for a prestigious design studio such as Pentagram.

Third-place winner Sadie Gorham is from Ionia, Michigan, and moved to Oklahoma with her family in 2009. Gorham said she has always had a passion for art, which is what drew her to OU’s Visual Communication program. Gorham is a junior, and upon graduation she hopes to pursue a master’s degree in fine arts and a career at a design company.