This fall, there was something special brewing in the Catherine Byrne Hall Graphic Design Studio.
In a collaboration with Northeast Iowa Community College and 7 Hills Brewing Co., students in ART 230 Form + Communication had the opportunity to develop a new branding template and design kit for the restaurant and brewery. Owner and CFO Keith Guitierrez ’03 said the idea came from his friendship with Associate Professor of Art + Design Eric Wold, as well as his own experiences as a student.
The partnership with NICC is an extension of the NICC Today, CU Tomorrow agreement, which streamlines the transfer process for NICC students looking to continue their education with Clarke.
“I remember being a student and doing old labs that had been replicated from decades ago. I wasn’t excited about it, so I thought, ‘what can we do that is more tangible?’ It gave birth to this, and it’s been fun for us and the students,” Keith said. “They’re creative, they’re inventive, they bring a passion that’s great to see.”
As the project began, Digitial Media Studies and Graphic Design majors from Clarke toured the 7 Hills flagship location in downtown Dubuque alongside students from NICC’s Graphic Design + Layout course. They were able to talk with the staff, make notes on the color schemes and existing branding, and seek ways to add their own creative flair. They were then given a brief outline of what Keith and his team were looking for in a labeling system.
“The brief leaned into an 80s/90s theme, and the ability to change it out seasonally. It was cool to see how we each took our own spin on it,” said Addison Roberts ’25, a Graphic Design major who transferred to Clarke from Highland Community College.
I really enjoyed it all, because starting out with just 12 icons, you had to trust the process because you didn’t know how it was going to turn out. Being able to do a project with 7 Hills and networking with the community was something special.
As students’ designs progressed, Keith came into the classroom to provide additional feedback and input on potential bottle labels, iconography, in-store displays, and more. For Eric, this was the real heart of the experience.
“Oftentimes, things happening in the studio are so very well controlled by the instructors, but client work has that spontaneity that gives students a more real experience,” Eric said. “Additionally, Keith made a generous donation to the department for this work, and the student whose design will ultimately be put into production received $500. This is not pro-bono; this is a real, paid work that students can add to their portfolios and be proud of.”
On October 9, the class convened at 7 Hills Event Center to present their final designs to Keith and his team. The designs were so competitive that the 7 Hills group asked for additional time to deliberate before choosing the labeling system from Carleigh Hodgson of NICC.
“All the designs were impressive — it’s great to see the innovation they brought to the table,” Keith said. “We want the collaborative opportunities with students to continue to evolve.”
Are you part of a business or community program that would like to partner with Clarke? Contact us to see what’s possible!