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Press for Change


Allison_Press_Berry2When you think of a Halloween costume, you probably think of something classic: maybe a zombie, a sci-fi alien, or even Harry Potter. But when you are creative, intuitive, and have a bit of wit, you think of dressing like Cherie Berry. That is, if you are from North Carolina and are a millennial.

You see, Cherie Berry is the NC Commissioner of Labor and has been since 2000. As the commissioner, her picture and signature are posted on every elevator in North Carolina. If you’re wondering why this is significant, put yourself in the shoes of a child riding the elevator. Their curious mind (and height) would inevitably lead them to look at the picture posted above the control panel. Every time they rode an elevator in North Carolina, they would see Cherie Berry and think, “who is she and why is she in every elevator?” Plus, her name is relatively memorable.

This past Halloween, Allison Press, a junior in Graphic Design here at the College, dressed as Cherie Berry, and remarkably, most of her classmates and peers immediately knew who she was from their elevator ride experiences. It helped that she adorned her costume with Ms. Berry’s iconic signature. This is funny for someone like myself, who is not a millennial but who appreciates the cleverness and the ability to pull from childhood experiences that are esoteric.

Allison is self-confident and articulate, with a clear and purposeful plan for her future. She came to the College of Design after attending a certain other university in Chapel Hill, where she was enrolled as a journalism major. While there, she took a graphic design course and realized that it was something she truly enjoyed. The university offered few additional graphic design courses, and the program offerings were limited based on what she wanted. Press decided to transfer to the NC State College of Design to pursue a bachelor in Graphic Design.

“Writing is something I like but don’t love. I had a visual arts background from high school, and when I discovered graphic design, I realized it was a combination of communicating things visually and with content,” Press says. “I had an interest in news and the political landscape of journalism, however, when you think about the communication of empathy and such things, you realize that there is a need for the information to be graphically represented.”

For the past two summers, Press has had the opportunity to be an intern with the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. She worked at the National Portrait Gallery and the Office of Policy and Analysis (OP&A). At the OP&A, Press was exposed to human-centered design and survey design that focused on serving the needs of others. These experiences have been influential in her future ambitions, which are pretty impressive. “I am interested in designing for a government agency,” Press states. “Something that is vaguely intertwined with social impact. Specifically, I would like to be a UX designer in a government agency; maybe on the IT side to make the government work better. I believe there is a need to improve the communication between the government and itself. There is a big opportunity for intervention. Like Veterans Affairs and bringing it up to date,” she continues, “I think these programs should receive the same amount of care and attention as a business or major corporation. I don’t know how as a designer I can solve the problems – to fundamentally change the way things are done – but I think it is a start.”

I am certain Press will make good on her intention. “I like to compartmentalize data in my head,” she says. “I want to apply this to big things. And the government is big.”

Her drive to make a difference is evident in many of her endeavors. Recently, Press was named the Raleigh Ambassador for “On the Grid,” which is like a Yelp or social engagement for designers and the local community. As the ambassador, she will be responsible for defining different districts or zones within the Raleigh area and reaching out to local design professionals within these areas to help promote and share local “gems” and places of interest. “I haven’t started the process, however, the design community is so collaborative in Raleigh, I don’t think it will take long,” says Press. “There are so many interesting places to discover: restaurants, art galleries, or coffee shops.”

Next semester, Press will head to Hong Kong to participate in the Study Abroad program. She chose Hong Kong for specific rationale, and you have to appreciate her reasoning. First, she knew she wanted to go someplace in Asia – a place to which she would unlikely have the opportunity to travel later in life. She also wanted to be outside of Western design influence so that she could experience cultural diversity and learn a unique perspective. And the Hong Kong program was in partnership with Hong Kong Poly Tech, which has an impressive interactive and UX design program. “Hong Kong is so interesting with the mesh of British and Chinese influenced based on its history of colonization. I am looking forward to experiencing such different cultural influences,” she says.

She will be gone January through May and anticipates the experience to be rewarding. “I’m excited and definitely nervous. I’ve never been out the country for that length of time and so far away. I know that the rewards will be far greater than any fear,” Press states calmly.

Currently, Press is working on designing the College of Design winter commencement program. She was nominated for this and is grateful for the chance to represent the College. I suspect that she will design something that will impress us all.