Written by Randi Adams
Photographed by Cameron Ohls
Senior graphic design major Rachel Garrison is quick to blame her father for her entry into the art world. “My dad’s an artist, and art was always something we did to connect when I was really little,” she explains. Growing up in Florence, South Carolina, Rachel remembers her father setting up his drafting table in their living room, setting her own play table next to his, and how he would draw something for her to color. She smiles as she adds, “I just always wanted to do what he was doing, and that fascination grew as I got older and started drawing more.”
The idea behind her most recent series is rather personal, coming to her in a moment of vulnerability when it “seemed like everything was crashing down.” Rachel suffers from diabetes so when everyone is struggling through exams and last minute assignments she has “this extra thing that people don’t see.” Understandably, this has been a cause for frustration. Out of this, Rachel decided she wanted to make people see the negative effects that diabetes has on her and so many others. This series was also the first time she allowed design to serve as an outlet for her feelings, and more than anything, she wants it to “show people what it feels like.” In the series, she experiments with pricking her fingers as she does when she tests her blood sugar levels. Rachel explains, “I wanted people to understand how much I bleed over the course of a day, a week, or a month and the frustration and stress that comes along with it.”
In a more general sense, Rachel’s designs are admittedly calls to action. She elaborates on this and says, “I desire for people to have something to do once they look at my designs—whether it’s changing their mindset about something or understanding a different group of people in a way they wouldn’t have before.” Part of this is simplifying ideas down to their core so that anyone can understand them—a concept that Rachel is very adamant about incorporating into her own work.
Rachel cites two designers as major inspirations to both her work and her outlook on life. First, James Victore because he “battles fear in taking up art as a degree.” She admits to comparing herself in a negative way to other people and says that Victore inspires her to resist that habit. As far as visuals go, Rachel finds inspiration in the work of Alvin Lustig. She explains that he’s a designer she studied when she learned about modernism—a design movement that she draws a lot of inspiration from. Some modernist principles she incorporates into her work include a clean grid and a form that follows function. With that, she adds, “I don’t really make anything that I feel is meaningless. I don’t make things just to make.” She also looks up to Lustig on a more personal level because he was a diabetic and even though he didn’t have the treatment options that are available today, he continued to design.
Looking forward, Rachel hopes to make a career in a creative agency. Because she enjoys connecting to people’s stories, she loves representing what people want to showcase visually in a brand. This goes back to her desire to show different perspectives in order to create deeper understandings. Rachel tells me that whether or not design is at the forefront of her career, “[It] will always be a part of [her] life.”