Creatively independent: One student’s self-designed future
What does a St. Olaf independent major look like? There is no one answer — they are as unique as our Oles. Take Elissa Temme ’19, for example. Her self-created major revolving around graphic design and marketing communications landed her an internship at Duluth Pack.
As “the oldest canvas and leather bag and pack-making company in the United States,” Duluth Pack provided a wealth of opportunity for Temme’s marketing and advertising interests. The company was started in 1882 by Camille Poirier, a French Canadian who had the goal to craft a line of packs perfect for the outdoors. Today, Duluth Pack maintains the same enthusiasm for quality products — but now applied to a diverse range of uses.
The story and history behind a company has always been a large motivator in Temme’s work.
“I am fascinated with finding ways to preserve the spirit of authenticity and tradition in a company’s story while still moving forward to introduce contemporary elements and communicate through new media so that companies can reach their audience,” explains Temme. “One of the driving questions in the structure of my independent major is ‘How does one integrate classical communicative disciplines together with new media to reach a society rapidly shifting towards the new?'”
An independent major such as Temme’s, developed through the St. Olaf Center for Integrative Studies (CIS), offers the opportunity to merge courses from multiple departments to fit a student’s unique interests and educational needs.
“For me, creating visually appealing design is important, but I want an education that helps me to bring together design, words, story, and new forms of media in a marketing and advertising context. Pursuing an education in marketing and advertising is about way more than just learning how to make visually appealing things that a client will like,” says Temme, a native of Los Altos, California.
“Thanks to the CIS, I’m able to draw upon that liberal arts knowledge and translate it into a unique major program I probably wouldn’t be able to pursue anywhere else,” she says. “The CIS program has afforded me flexibility to explore aspects of creating and delivering written and visual messages through multiple media, understanding the way audiences perceive messages, and characterizing the impact those messages have.”
As part of her internship, Temme devoted much time to designing various online visuals and written content, but the most rewarding of her projects appeared in-store.
“After writing some copy and doing some online designs, I was asked to create several different pieces of typographic art to overlay on two foot by three foot rectangular photos that would be hung up in the store for an indefinite period of time. It was a fun design challenge to create type that fit perfectly in the space and harmonized well with the photographs and the marketing message. In the end, there were nine to 10 of those signs.”
It was sort of an unexplainable rush of emotion the first time I saw those pieces featured in the store. It felt like, ‘Yes! This thing I want to do that seems so risky and crazy is actually possible!’Elissa Temme ’19
Her summer with Duluth Pack made Temme become even more excited about the field she is pursuing.
“Going to work every day didn’t feel like a chore, and I think that was an important indicator that I’m on the right career path,” she says. She fondly recalls writing her friends, feeling so affirmed to be a college student “working in a professional role I’m so passionate about that eight hours a day just doesn’t feel like enough.”
Because of the drastic shift in emphasis on writing and speaking to creativity of visuals and abstract representations, success in communication fields requires a deep understanding of an ever-evolving audience-focused discourse.
“My major is centered on the disciplines of marketing and communications, expression through new media, and graphic design,” says Temme. “I have continued to develop skill in using not only words, literature, and storytelling, but also graphic design, artwork, and photographic images to impact an audience and convey a message.”
Ultimately, Temme’s internship experience reinforced not only her own career interests but also her sense of self.
“The creative world is a risky one, and taking risks is hard,” she says. “But it is so much more fulfilling when that lightbulb goes on and the sparks fly and you know you’re pursuing the right thing.”