The Elon alumna and rising junior collected four honors, including two first-place awards, in the national Michigan State University Design Contest for College Students.
Stephanie Hays ’18 now works as the lead designer at the Sacramento Business Journal, but that hasn’t stopped the accolades from accumulating to recognize her undergraduate work.
The recent Elon graduate and Alex Toma ’20 – both members of Elon News Network – received awards in the 2018 Michigan State University Design Contest for College Students, a national competition presented by MSU’s Edmund C. Arnold Chapter of the Society for News Design (MSUSND).
Hays, a communication design major, captured first-place and honorable mention finishes in Front Page Design and earned another first-place award in Sports Page Design. A strategic communications and media analytics double major, Toma received an honorable mention in the contest’s Special Section category.
“It’s a tough competition with so many talented designers, so I feel really lucky to have my work be recognized,” Hays said. “While recognition is far from the most important part of journalism, it’s nice to know that professionals enjoy my designs and find them compelling.”
This isn’t the first time Hays has been honored on a national stage. In 2017, she was named the national winner for Photo Illustration in the 2016 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards competition.
Hays is especially proud of her “Diversifying the decision” layout, which won first place in the MSUSND contest’s Front Page Design category. The Pendulum front page, published on Sept. 20, 2017, offered a comprehensive look at the diversity of college presidents in North Carolina and included headshots of 130 college leaders.
Hays credits her ENN design staff for the award-winning page, calling the project a “big team effort.” She said she enlisted the help of multiple designers and news editors to compile content and make sure the page was accurate and completed on deadline.
“It’s one thing to read about how it’s not a diverse group of people, but when you can actually see what each person looks like and just how many are white and male, it has a lot of impact,” Hays said of the layout. ‘I wanted people to say, ‘Wow, this is a problem in higher education.’ I wanted it to be an immediate response.”
Hays’ other first-place layout, “Piling Up,” was completed during her summer 2017 internship with The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Virginia. It features an illustration of a mailbox with letters and baseball stamps to demonstrate how much fan mail athletes receive. (The “Piling Up” layout is mislabeled on the MSUSND contest website and inadvertently credits another contestant for Hays’ work.)
“I wanted that page to be fun,” she said. “It’s a story that people don’t think about much – that athletes must get a lot of fan mail, and how they deal with it varies. And since the photos weren’t really exciting, having an illustration that kind of jumps off the page and runs up into the header provides a lot more interest – and it really let me emphasize the sheer volume of mail. Plus, it plays into the kind of classic overflowing mailbox look that (while not very common anymore) is immediately recognizable from cartoons.”
Hays’ “Best of 2017” Pendulum cover also received honorable mention in the Front Page category. The issue was published on Jan. 31, 2018.
Additionally, Toma earned an honorable mention in the Special Section category for his design of The Pendulum’s 2017 Fall Sports Preview.