Graphic Design: A Decade of Excellence


ST. LOUIS — Look around you. No matter where you are, the artistic elements of graphic design are bound to be in your presence. The cover of your book, pages in a magazine, CD jackets, and that poster hanging on your wall all incorporate the works of a graphic designer.

As it celebrates its 10-year anniversary, Maryville University’s graphic design program has seen many graduates obtain success both locally and nationally. “I believe, without a doubt, that the Maryville graphic design graduate is a competitive candidate anywhere in the country,” said Cherie Fister, associate professor of art and graphic design, and program director.

Fister was instrumental in starting Maryville’s graphic design program and has watched each student evolve personally and professionally. “Design and professional education is surely important,” Fister said, “but the faculty investment in cultivating creative thinkers and compassionate, energetic problem-solvers trumps any discipline specific expertise.

Fister believes Maryville’s graphic design program excels for several reasons. All students are required to complete an internship before graduation. This field experience and is valuable to each student. In addition to the internships, seniors complete a six-credit capstone course that allows them to define a major visual communication project, and present their research and design solutions in to a professional panel. Throughout the year, students get a chance to discuss their work with professional designers.

Another important factor in student success is the strong relationships they build within the program. According to Fister, the students seem to form a “supportive yet competitive” community. “It is gratifying to watch the students help each other become stronger visual interpreters and more precise communicators,” said Fister. One such student is Reggie Tidwell, a 1997 Maryville graduate who began his own graphic design firm more than six years ago. Tidwell says his experience at Maryville was inspiring. “We were the first students to go through the program. We were a very close-knit group and constantly motivated one another to do our best.”

Tidwell believes Maryville prepared him for his future. He said each teacher took a genuine interest in the progress of each student and their dedication meant a lot to him. “The foundation of my education at Maryville was the understanding that the learning never stops,” said Tidwell. “I learned to be resourceful and to continue to grow and evolve within my profession.”

After graduation, Tidwell freelanced for about a year and then took a job as an in-house graphic designer and Adobe Flash instructor for Litton-PRC, a Fortune 500 company. He was then hired to lead the Flash team at a St. Louis information graphics company, Xplane Corporation. After working there for a year, Tidwell was laid off. He then started his own firm, Curve Theory, which specializes in building interactive websites and presentations.

Because Curve Theory is a single-person company, Tidwell often works with other designers and programmers. “My philosophy is that through collaboration with other individuals, I can keep overhead down and work with some of the most talented minds in the industry.” Tidwell served on the St. Louis chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Artists (AIGA) for more than three years, which helped him gain many valuable contacts.

Tidwell began Curve Theory while living in St. Louis but has since moved the company to Asheville, N.C. He has clients located all over the country with about 30 percent of them based in St. Louis.

Tidwell said it is common for graphic designers to combine careers in graphic design and photography. He started a career as a commercial photographer more than two years ago. In fact, he has founded a group on the photography website, Flickr, called “Graphic Designers Moonlighting as Photographers.” While reading a discussion thread within the group, Tidwell learned that Flickr would give exposure to nine graphic designers who are also photographers. Tidwell quickly submitted his work and was chosen to appear on the site. To view Tidwell’s photography, visit:

Maryville University, founded in 1872, is a private, coeducational institution offering approximately 50 undergraduate, seven master’s and two doctoral degree programs to 3,422 students. Ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s Best Colleges in the Midwest, Maryville University prepares its students for successful and meaningful careers by offering programs that integrate liberal arts with professional studies.

Among Maryville’s most recent graduates, 94 percent are employed or attending graduate school. Approximately 15,000 alumni work and live in the St. Louis region.

– by Emily Mullen, student writer, Marketing and Public Relations