“When I was very young I liked to make greeting cards on Microsoft Word and they were horrendous… That’s where I guess I got my start,” she said.
Junior Graphic Design major, Christen Barber, began practicing the craft early on. She started with a career in clip art greeting cards, went through a brief spell by Veterinary aspirations, and circled back around to design in high school, when student organizations began to ask her to design posters for them.
“I just found that I really loved helping people communicate a message and take pride in something,” she said.
Barber decided to come to Union as an Art Major to pursue Graphic Design seriously. Christen Barber does not look the part of the stereotypical Union artist however.
“You know, you usually see people who have dreads. They have a certain art vibe and I didn’t have that vibe. I just didn’t feel artsy enough to be in the Art department,” she said.
At her first Art Retreat (a weekend event put on by the Art department to spend time together and make art), Barber did not bring a sketch book or pencils which proved a poor choice, since the premise of Art Retreat that year was, according to Barber, to “lay around and make art like hippies.” She also did not feel like a part of the art community. The sense of alienation drove her to switch her major and temporarily become a Communications Major, but eventually, she was drawn back to art.
“I just started to miss the art community. I missed the art focus that the Graphic Design program had,” she said. “So after I came back I really started to own being an artist. I joined the art community and realized there is a community here that I can invest in and help grow.”
Barber is also the Public Relations Coordinator for SAC. You know those awesome posters for the Carl Perkins Christmas Party? Barber is the mastermind behind those. She is also the current Student Designer for the Office of University Communications, so you are probably familiar with a lot of her work, including some Theater Department posters.
She is also passionate about the impact that Graphic Design can have for the church. We have probably all experienced, in some form or another, poorly designed church products. Barber believes these can really diminish the impact of the church, sometimes even causing people to turn away. She wants to be a catalyst for a movement toward more excellent church design.
“I’ve always been very adamant about graphic design and art’s setting in a church and how that can be used to share the gospel.” She said. “A lot of churches and nonprofits have awful graphic designs and that’s just something that stands between someone and the gospel. Bad design is just another barrier that you can take away. That’s weighing on my mind a lot.”
Barber obviously loves her craft. Sitting beside her in class and sneaking peeks into her notebook full of designs and doodles is proof enough of that. She practices and perfects, and does it all with great patience. She said that currently, her focus is shifting off being concerned about what others think of her designs, and is being directed rather toward standing up for her designs.
“I want to take people’s criticisms at face value and learn that even though people point out problems in my designs, I come up with my own solutions. And a lot of times I need to stand up for those solutions,” she said.
Looking back on her old work, she was proud of it at the time that she made it, but now she is really loving the new work she is creating. Barber is always striving for self-betterment as an artist.
“I really hope that the things I’ve made now aren’t the best things I’m ever going to make.”