Matt Newberry ’24, Rebecca Bagley collect top awards at AEJMC’s VIM Fest

The Elon University senior and assistant professor of communication design, as well as Live Oak Communications, earned Gold Awards at the inaugural AEJMC Festival of Visual & Interactive Media contest. Additionally, Matt Newberry’s work was recently recognized in the Graphis New Talent Annual, which celebrates the top creative work from students across the globe.

A composite of Matt Newberry's award-winning designs for a tomato-throwing contest.
Matt Newberry’s “La Tomatina: The World’s Biggest Food Fight” project won a Gold Award at the 2024 AEJMC Festival of Visual and Interactive Media (VIM Fest). According to Newberry’s online portfolio, the Elon senior aimed to create “a sizzling branding project that unleashes an explosion of colors, textures, and excitement, leaving a tomato-licious imprint on an audience of international adrenaline junkies.” Photo courtesy of

Adam Taylor Brown didn’t mince words when he initially critiqued Matt Newberry’s student entry in the AEJMC Festival of Visual & Interactive Media (VIM Fest) contest.

“I was prepared to hate this when I read ‘10 different typefaces,’” the judge wrote of Newberry’s “La Tomatina: The World’s Biggest Food Fight” submission. “But it’s actually really good. The brilliant trick being executed here is diffusing so many aesthetic styles such that chaos becomes the leading look. The accompanying visual elements and colors hold it all together super well. Frankly, this is damn near professional.”

That is high praise from Brown who works for Marrow, a brand consultancy in Lexington, Kentucky.

Matt Newberry and Rebecca Bagley headshots published side by side.
Matt Newberry ’24 and Assistant Professor of Communication Design Rebecca Bagley both earned Gold Awards in the peer-reviewed AEJMC competition.

On the judges’ recommendations, Newberry’s entry won the competition’s General Design category and was recognized during VIM Fest’s March 8 virtual award presentation as part of AJEMC’s Southeast Colloquium. But the communication design and Spanish double major wasn’t done. His logo redesign concept, titled “Mi Familia Vota,” earned an honorable mention in the contest’s General Design category, and his immersive, guerrilla marketing concept, titled “Sonos Headphone Booths,” was also named an honorable mention in the Advertising category.

“Matt clinching three separate awards is a testament to his exceptional talent and dedication in design,” said Assistant Professor of Communication Design Shannon Zenner, who serves as head of the AEJMC Visual Communication Division and helped launch the new peer-reviewed competition. “His entries were notably clever and smart conceptually, with his Gold Award for branding of the ‘La Tomatina’ festival standing out as a prime example.”

AEJMC VIM Fest logoOn the heels of its outstanding showing at the AAF Triangle’s American Advertising Awards gala, Live Oak Communications won a Gold Award in the contest’s Small School (<10,000) School-Wide/Multi-Class Multimedia Advertising category. The student-run agency was recognized for its Blue Ribbon Diner Family-Friendly Brand Affinity Campaign, an extensive undertaking that featured new merchandise, revamped menus, a fresh photoshoot, and other strategies to enhance the Burlington restaurant’s family-friendly atmosphere. It is also noteworthy that Newberry served as Live Oak’s creative director during the campaign.

Finally, Assistant Professor of Communication Design Rebecca Bagley also captured a Gold Award in VIM Fest’s General Design category, recognized for her logo design for the Dublin (NC) Golf Expo.

Persistence pays off

Newberry’s award-winning designs are affirmation that persistence can pay off.

As part of Zenner’s fall 2022 Design of Visual Images class, Newberry began his initial work on his “La Tomatina” project, challenging himself to create a solely typographic logo that incorporated several different typefaces. It was design that pushed him far “outside of my comfort zone,” he said.

Composite of social media posts for award-winning AEJMC work.
A few mockups of social media posts for Newberry’s “La Tomatina: The World’s Biggest Food Fight” project. Photo courtesy of

Zenner was impressed with Newberry’s vision for the project and the imagination he showed. What really stood out? His tomato goggles for the Spanish tomato throwing festival. “It epitomizes Matt’s ability to blend creativity with practicality,” she said.

While he devoted hours to the project, Newberry admits his early work never fully became what he envisioned. As a result, when he began compiling portfolio pieces last fall in Associate Professor Ben Hannam’s Design Strategies and Solutions course, Newberry revisited the project.

“I completely revamped it with a more grunge, brutalist approach,” Newberry said. “This technique finally gave it the punchy energy that I was searching for earlier, so it became a project that really represents my growth as a designer.”

AEJMC wasn’t the only organization to take notice of Newberry’s work on his “La Tomatina” project. His artwork recently earned an honorable mention in the 2024 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.

Newberry credits Zenner and Hannam, as well as Bagley – his honors thesis mentor – for their continuous direction and support. As he prepares for graduation, Newberry thanked Hannam for his thoughtful advice that impacted his portfolio site, which will be an instrumental piece in his employment search.

“For each project, Professor Hannam’s feedback helped me develop my pieces even further,” he said. “He also provided me with the confidence I needed to challenge myself with each design.”

Simple, but effective

There are few recommendations stronger than good word-of-mouth.

That is how Bagley got involved in creating a logo for the 2023 Dublin (NC) Golf Expo.

Dublin spelled out in text
Bagley’s logo design won a Gold Award at the 2024 AEJMC Festival of Visual and Interactive Media.

Having previously completed work for nonprofit organizations and events in Chapel Hill and Pittsboro, Bagley was approached by the expo’s organizers with a clear goal for the project: simplicity – with a hat tip to their respective sport.

“They wanted to integrate some kind of golf reference in the logo and with the “L” in the word Dublin, and it worked out beautifully for a typographic logo,” Bagley said.

While she found it initially difficult to pinpoint the right typeface, Bagley eventually landed on Optima, which went well with the concept and fit with the golf club illustration.

For history buffs, Optima is a humanist san serif that was developed in 1958 by Hermann Zapf in Germany. Brands such as Aston Martin, Jaguar, Nordstrom and Yahoo all utilize the font.

“The logo was simple, yet fun and I went on to design posters and some apparel for the event,” Bagley said. “This is also a good logo to animate, which I may do in the future.”

Zenner applauded her colleague in the Department of Communication Design for her award-winning work, noting Bagley’s talent for design. “Professor Bagley’s recognition with a Gold Award … further highlights the exceptional talent within our community, showcasing our collective excellence and innovation,” Zenner said.

VIM Fest

The new AEJMC Festival of Visual & Interactive Media or VIM Fest contest was created by the Visual Communication division, in partnership with several AEJMC divisions. It is an opportunity to have one’s creative research, or student work, vetted in a blind-juried, peer-reviewed international competition. Gold, Silver and Bronze are awarded in each category. Gold student winners receive a $50 award.