Catherine Nester ’22 recognized in prestigious Graphis competition

The communication design major received an honorable mention in the Graphis New Talent Annual, which celebrates the top creative work from students across the globe.

As Catherine Nester ’22 recalls, the idea for her recent award-winning design project began over a fresh batch of kombucha.

Catherine Nester ’22 has gathered several accolades in recent weeks, including being named the Communication Design Department’s Outstanding Senior Award recipient.

Nester’s roommate had just started brewing the popular fermented drink, and the two of them spent a day naming each flavor and brainstorming labels. The communication design major realized the undertaking was perfect for her last project in Associate Professor Ben Hannam’s Design of Visual Images class.

“So, I decided to run with the idea and build a whole kombucha brand based around authenticity, adventure and community,” the Communications Fellow said.

That is the origin story of Top Bunk Bucha, the kombucha brand line that Nester conceptualized and designed. And the results not only taste good, they are also award-winning.

Top Bunk Bucha’s design earned an honorable mention in the 2022 Graphis New Talent Annual, one of the world’s most prestigious annuals with award-winning work from international students in design, advertising, art/illustration and photography. The competition is steep – with more than 1,000 submissions from international art schools.

“The New Talent Annual is a collection of work that recognizes top new talent in the design field,” Hannam explained. “It’s a legit, well-known design competition that features A++ work. It is just more proof that Catherine Nester is a great student, great person, great designer.”

Nester said collaborating with her roommate on Top Bunk Bucha made the design process especially satisfying.

“It’s really special to be recognized for something you’ve worked so hard on, especially something that came out of just having fun with friends,” she said. “It’s easy to get tunnel vision with your own work because you’re staring at the same thing all day, so the external validation is definitely reassuring. I’m most proud of the scope of this piece – there’s careful design of every element, from the logo itself, to the color scheme, to the bottles and labels.”

A look at Top Bunk Bucha, the kombucha brand line that Nester conceptualized and designed. Its clean design has garnered much praise in recent competitions.

Nester thanked several of her communication design faculty members for their endless support, beginning with Hannam who was involved from the project’s inception. “Ben gave me really helpful feedback throughout the process and was very supportive of the final result,” Nester said.

Additionally, Assistant Professor Shannon Zenner encouraged Nester to submit her work for the Graphis New Talent Annual, as well as several other regional and national competitions. Nester’s designs have garnered ample praise and have been recognized by the American Advertising Federation and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. In AEJMC’s Best of Design contest, Nester earned awards in six categories, including Best in Logo and Best in Packaging.

“All of my professors at Elon have been so supportive and a lot of my success is because they believe in me,” she said.

That support has validated Nester’s decision to enroll at Elon, which she said offered the best curriculum to fit her interests and career plans.

“Communication design is what brought me to Elon,” the senior said. “When I toured other schools, it seemed like my two options were to study writing or journalism in the communications school, or study graphic design in the art school. This program let me combine my passions for strategy and effective storytelling with my love for visual art and creativity. Being a communication design major has not only sharpened my design skills, but my thinking and problem-solving skills as well.”

Having worked with Nester in both class and Live Oak Communications, the school’s student-run strategic communications agency, Hannam said the senior encapsulates all the qualities a professor could hope for.

“I can tell you first-hand that she embodies the ‘leave no stone unturned’ spirit that all Elon faculty wish for their students,” Hannam said.

Not surprisingly, Nester received Communication Design Department’s Outstanding Senior Award at the School of Communications’ annual awards ceremony on May 3.

Following graduation, Nester will participate this fall in the Disney College Program, a national internship opportunity supported by The Walt Disney Company. Afterward, she plans to look for a graphic design position in the Orlando area.