Meet Jaylyn Graham ’22, a graduate student majoring in Information and Communication Science & Emerging Media and Design. In this blog, Jaylyn shares how his passions have created a multitude of opportunities for his future, how they’ve driven his success, and have ultimately led him to be the person he is today.  

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What made you decide on your major at Ball State?

Going all the way back to undergrad, I got my bachelor’s in drawing. So when I got into the graduate program I decided on animation. Unfortunately, I ended up not getting into that program. That was pretty disheartening. I had to find a new path. That’s when I picked up two minors, a Design Technology Minor, and a Digital Media Minor. That’s where I really found my passion, and I was able to see that I wanted to pursue both the Emerging Media & Design (EMDD) and Center for Information and Communication Sciences (CICS) programs.

For graduate school, the EMDD graduate program is like the expanded version of the Digital Media Minor that I was undergoing so I chose that. That’s when I found my passion for design, and specifically UX and UI which is the field I want to go into.

Then I discovered the CICS program. The CICS program has the really strong alumni base that I really wanted, and they have a big emphasis on a social learning program. That social learning program has been one of the best assets for me. It’s been helping me get a lot of connections while also providing vital fundamental knowledge of tech, business, and management.

So I wanted to do both CICS and EMDD because I wanted the best of both worlds. I didn’t want to do CICS and then come back and get my EMDD master’s degree, have two masters but no actual professional work experience. I wanted to find a way to do both at the same time. This is the only school that offered this type of situation for me.

What has your experience been like with CICS and EMDD?

This is my first semester and it’s been pretty tough balancing the two programs. Yet, because there’s a really good connection between both the programs, the directors, and professors have allowed me to create a unique pathway that allows me to do both simultaneously.

Specifically, with CICS, it’s really been a great experience, it’s definitely been challenging, and it’s been a lot of work. But the professionalism, the social networking skills that I’ve gained, the tech foundations that I’m understanding and started to comprehend, have all been extremely beneficial. In regards to the EMDD program, it’s also been a great experience, I have a really strong passion for design.

EMDD was actually my first choice but then I found out about the CSS program, and I was split between the two. Then I discovered that I could just do a certificate and get the best of both worlds. I’ve really just been doing what I love and learning how to do it better.

What are the top three projects you have worked on?

What is a day in the life of Jaylyn Graham?

It depends on what day it is. So Monday, I have a graduate assistantship with the Division of online strategic learning and there I’m a graphic designer. I work from eight to five. Then at 6:30PM is my EMDD 600 usability class and that’s a three-hour class so I get out at 9:10PM.  I then go home and do homework so Mondays are pretty brutal. Thursdays are also kind of the same. So, Mondays and Thursdays are pretty busy.

On the days that I’m not super busy, I go to some different events to kind of de-stress. I know a lot of organizations have events on campus.

On Wednesdays, I work from home so I work from eight to five. I take my lunch break but also go do service every Wednesday at Muncie Mission. That’s something that’s really helpful for me. It really just varies every day.

Can you tell us more about your work in the community?

I feel like if you’re going to be a part of a community, especially for long as we are for our undergraduate and then your potential graduate years, you should want to be as involved in your community as possible, not just your campus but your actual community. I mean, this is where you live, this is where you’re going to be for the next four years of your life. So I’ve tried to really make it a habit of going to different places and volunteering.

I know through my fraternity, when I was an undergrad, we have an annual event called the Sigma Sleep-Out for the Homeless, and it’s something that we do from Muncie Mission. We stay outside for 24 hours collecting canned goods, monetary donations, gently used clothing, just about anything we can donate to Muncie Mission. It’s usually around October, November so it’s pretty cold outside.

It’s important to be an asset to your community because your community is what helps you become who you are. That’s something I really hold near dear to my heart. I always try to give back to my community.

What got you interested in design?

I grew up drawing anime. I’m a really big anime fan. That’s what got me into art. As I started to further develop my skills it expanded into something else. I think my art became an expression of how I’m feeling at the time.

Then everything kind of shifted in 2020 with Black Lives Matter. That’s what inspired my entire senior project. Just seeing everything that was going on and feeling that discontent and that anger and that frustration, it was a lot of emotions. 

What’s your favorite part of designing?

So a lot of my art during my undergrad was kind of actually focused on color. I really love color. If you ever see me around campus, I’m probably wearing a bright and vibrant color. I wanted to showcase how you can use color to perceive emotion. That’s what I was doing my studies on.

My color palette can get limited because minimalism is really big right now. A lot of people don’t like seeing a whole lot of different colors on their screens and on the design. It really just depends on what you’re working with. 

When working with Ball State, I know I have to follow brand guidelines but I’ve been working on a project for this nonprofit company called “First Root” and they have a really wide array of color palettes. I get to express myself more when I get to work on stuff like that because I get to use more color.

But it really just depends on the situation. I know within my own business when I’m making marketing materials for my clothing and my art I like to use more pops of color.

What’s your business?

I started my business, “Jays Vizuals“, in 2018. At first, I was really just making commissions for people. It was a way for me to get into digital art and I had to learn it on my own.

I was making commissions like drawing people’s friends for their birthday and a lot of people asked me to draw a dead relative and give that to them. It was a really good experience. It was also really nice knowing that I’m doing something that can really impact people.

But then I got burned out doing that from already being a student and then doing activities outside of my classes. It was a lot.

Then I started making poster prints in 2019. I had all my art pieces already made and a lot of people asking me for different designs. But I knew I didn’t want to do anything custom because it just took too much time for me. So I took some pictures of a lot of my designs or I would make some new digital designs. I tried to sell them on campus and then that evolved into starting an Etsy page. That’s when I started to see people actually really liked what I was doing; they really liked my art.

So from there, that’s when I got into the clothing business. It’s nice seeing that evolvement that I’ve kind of done throughout the years but it’s really hard to manage it all during school. I’m extremely busy. I definitely do the best job during the summer when I’m just working a full-time job and I get to do this when I get off work.

Do you have any mentors?

All of the faculty at Ball State has been helpful, especially my professor Megan McNames; she’s my professor for my usability class. She’s done everything that I want to do already so I look to her for guidance.

After the first week of class, I reached out to her email. I was like, I love what you do, I want to do what you do, can you be my mentor? Since then, she’s really been helping and guiding me with different things. I really appreciate what she’s been doing for me.

What obstacles have you overcome at Ball State?

It’s not even necessarily just about being at Ball State but just being a student in general. It’s okay to fail. I feel like my freshman year was full of failures. I was doing good in school but I didn’t get into the programs or this job that I really wanted to do. I had a long string of failures but failure turns into success.

How have your parents influenced you?

I try to be humble. I think my parents definitely raised me to be that way and I really appreciate them for that because I personally don’t like cocky people, arrogant people. It’s okay to flex on your achievements but there’s a time and a place to do it.

I feel like when you’re humble people can relate to you more and understand you better. That’s how my parents raised me and I appreciate them for that.

What was it like seeing your artwork up in the Multicultural Center for the first time?

When I saw my colorism series there for the first time in the multi, it was kind of…what’s the word I’m looking for? Speechless! It’s like, wow, I mean, I’ve sold art before but this is the first time that I sold art to an institution. I know it’s going to have a permanent home and people are going to see this, anytime they come in here.

I was an Excel mentor for the Multicultural Center at the beginning of the semester and all the incoming freshmen were looking at me like, “Wow, that’s really amazing. Who made that?”. Seeing people admire my work and relate to its central message made me speechless.

What do you think is most important about Ball State?

I think the most important thing about Ball State is the community. Being involved with the community and really taking advantage of all the opportunities available to you.

Interested in an experience like Jaylyn Graham? Check out The School of Journalism and Strategic Communication.

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