Bluffton’s secret stash: graphic design gold

Wendy Helmig and Alison King use art to tell the Bluffton story. They say they are grateful for the collaboration and teamwork they experience working in Public Relations for the university. Photo courtesy Tricia Bell, Bluffton University

By Claire Clay

Banners, flyers, brochures, ads and posters flood the Bluffton University campus and the surrounding communities. They didn’t just show up ‒ someone had to design them. Alison King, Bluffton University’s creative manager, and Wendy Helmig, graphic designer and web support, spend their days telling Bluffton’s story through visual arts.

“I really enjoy working with the team environment here in [public relations]. I think some of the best times are when we’re having a brainstorming session, we’re going back and forth, and the creativity is just flying around ‒ ideas are everywhere, and it’s awesome,” said King. “It’s why I come back everyday.”

King has been with Bluffton for almost 13 years, four of those with an office on campus. King graduated in 2002 from Goshen (Ind.) College in with a bachelor’s degree in art and a concentration in graphic design. Following graduation, King’s love for using art to help create and build communities on college campuses began at her alma mater’s public relations office as in house graphic designer.

Helmig graduated from Bowling Green (Ohio) State University in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. She has worked for various print shops in the area, including Kennedy Printing in Findlay, Ohio, and CSS Publishing Co., in Lima, Ohio. Before coming to Bluffton, her last 18 years were spent at The Lima News. Helmig has been a full-time employee at Bluffton for nearly two years this fall.

Helmig was hired as a contracted graphic designer in January 2015 to assist with Bluffton’s “Power of Purple” campaign. She joined full-time in September 2015, and she’s never looked back.

“I never thought I’d be working in a college environment,” said Helmig. “But, I think education is valuable at every age, and if I can help someone find their path through my work, that’s great.”

King and Helmig are each responsible for different types of campus projects, but they are both passionate about what they do.

“My favorite pieces are the sports posters,” said Helmig. “I just enjoy doing those. I don’t know what it is, but even at The Lima News I loved working on the sports projects.”

Helmig is the designer for Admissions, Athletics, and Adult and Graduate Studies projects. She also assists the web manager by providing graphics for the university’s website.

King focuses on projects related to alumni and advancement, as well as any other general campus material. Her favorite assignment is compiling the alumni magazine, which is sent out three times per year.

“I’ve been working with the magazine for about a year, and I get better each issue,” said King.

The magazine isn’t completed in day, nor does it all rest on King’s shoulders.

“It’s a team effort. I may have designed the piece, but someone else wrote the copy,” said King. “Our strongest pieces are often a collaborative effort of the whole team.”

“I like collaborating with people. It helps me work better. If I don’t get feedback from others, I’m tempted to put my blinders on,” said Helmig.

Graphic design isn’t the only form of art King and Helmig enjoy, however. King loves ceramics, a part of art that has been present for most of her life.

King is the daughter of the late Gregg Luginbuhl ’71, who served as a professor of art at Bluffton. He specialized in pottery and ceramic sculptures.

“Art has been around me my whole life,” said King. “From a very young age, my dad would take me to museums and galleries and let me watch him work.”

King enjoys completing art “experiments” with her two daughters; she also uses them as subjects in her photographs. In addition, King creates her own handmade artist books by making her own paper and binding them herself.

Helmig’s hobbies are connected to her father, as well. Together, they do an activity called rock tumbling. Her father purchases large rocks from South Dakota, breaks them into small pieces with a sledgehammer and tumbles those stones with grit. The process smoothes the semi-precious stones and removes excess rock from the exterior. From those stones, Helmig makes original pieces of jewelry.

“I like to make jewelry,” said Helmig. “It’s different, and it’s something my dad and I can do together.”

After spending a collaborative 15 years as campus employees, King and Helmig have conjured up advice for students.

“You don’t have to go it alone,” said Helmig.

“I thought I knew everything, but I didn’t,” said King. “So, learning to collaborate with others and give up a little bit on your end is important. It’s a growing a process.”

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