Open Quote Creative propels students into real-world graphic design experience

Sponsored by the School of Communication & the Arts and funded by the Office of Sponsored Programs & Research, Open Quote Creative provides students with opportunities to serve their communities, enhance their creative skills and gain experience working for clients within an agency. The agency launched during the fall 2023 semester. 

Open Quote Creative is led by professors Stacy Cannon, Audra Rygh and Brianna O’Neal. O’Neal believes that gaining real-world experience is crucial for a student’s success. O’Neal is grateful that she can provide opportunities for students to learn in a design-agency setting with Open Quote Creative. 

“We definitely try as best as we can in a classroom environment to teach (students) the ins and outs of working within an agency setting and what it is going to be like as graphic designers in the industry, but you can’t quite grasp it through a typical group project in a class,” O’Neal said. 

Photo provided

O’Neal further elaborated on the lasting impact that Open Quote Creative leaves on its students through experiential learning.

“By offering this experiential learning opportunity where they get to be involved in an actual agency setting with different leadership roles and client interaction, all of that is teaching them the ins and outs of what it’s actually going to look like when they go into the industry full time.”

Last semester, Open Quote Creative partnered with clients such as Rush Homes, Acts and Advancing Native Missions. Students worked on branding initiatives for Rush Home’s Parade of Playhouses coming up in April. They developed promotional materials such as billboards, posters, flyers and brochures to be distributed throughout Lynchburg.  

Graphic provided

Other students were assigned to help Acts, a mission organization, by creating a new campaign sponsorship and advertising materials to help the organization receive funding. Participants of the design agency also assisted Advancing Native Missions by creating a seven-day prayer guide and generating social media content to raise awareness about the prayer guide along with the entire publication. 

This semester, students participating as members of Open Quote Creative are able to assist clients such as Rush Homes and the Elkton Volunteer Fire Company. 

At the start of the spring semester, students partnered with Freedom 4/24 and completed their branding project for the “40 Million” campaign to raise funds to help prevent and end human trafficking. Now, students are working on creating newsletters, social media content and graphics that are in support of the campaign and will help collect donations to be displayed throughout Lynchburg schools. 

Additionally, other students are assisting Rush Homes by providing event materials for  its Parade of Playhouses event. Another group of students is working alongside Elkton
Volunteer Fire Company to generate advertising and resources for its upcoming 100th-anniversary festivities in 2027.

Senior graphic design major Emily Del Grosso is on the creative team helping the Elkton
Volunteer Fire Company. 

“This semester, my team and I are working with the Elkton Volunteer Fire Company on their 100-year anniversary branding, which has been my favorite project so far,” Del Grosso said. “They have given us unique deliverables, like a custom challenge coin, that we would have never been asked to develop in a classroom setting. Plus, I’m engaged to a firefighter, so I love being able to give back to such a selfless group of people through the skills that God has developed in me.”

Another student who has benefited from Open Quote Creative is senior Victoria Erdmann, a graphic design major who serves as the art and creative director for her team. 

“I enjoy being a part of Open Quote Creative because I have the opportunity to work with real-world clients alongside other dedicated students. My experience with Open Quote Creative is helping me learn how to work as a team and preparing me to enter the professional workforce,” Erdmann said. “I also love that the agency is student-centered, meaning our professors get us involved in the design process from start to finish. We are the ones communicating with our clients, writing briefs, creating design concepts and pitching our concepts to our clients.”

Photo by Hannah Jones

Each semester, 20 to 25 students, including both undergraduates and graduates, are selected to join the Open Quote Creative agency due to their portfolios and faculty and student recommendations. Students accepted into the design agency are placed on a creative team and assigned a client to create projects throughout the semester. These students are registered in either ARTS 497 or ARTS 597. To join Open Quote Creative, students must be accepted and added to the course by professors Cannon, Rygh and O’Neal. 

“I would encourage most people, if they have any interest in working in an agency environment or any interest in working with clients in general or want to boost their resume and think they would be a great team player and a great professional student within the course, to try it out,” O’Neal said. 

For more information regarding Open Quote Creative, email

Jewell is a feature reporter for the Liberty Champion

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