Junior Car­oline Hen­nekes created the cover for the 2019 – 2020 aca­demic planner. Col­legian | Carmel Kookogey

When Junior Car­oline Hen­nekes started doing messy water­colors on Sunday after­noons with a friend in Florida, she had no idea she’d be designing the cover of Hillsdale College’s aca­demic planners three years later. 

Though she only seri­ously started doing art after coming to Hillsdale, last spring Hen­nekes hand-painted the ink and water­color cover of the 2019 – 20 Hillsdale aca­demic planner, which is annually pro­duced by the college for stu­dents. 

When taking on the project in mid-March, Hen­nekes said she was both honored and intim­i­dated, but up to the chal­lenge — even though it meant having one more thing due at the end of April, the busiest point in her year.  

The front of the planner cover, a water­color painting of Central Hall, was probably the element Hen­nekes poured over for the longest since March, when the mar­keting department reached out to her with the project request, she said. 

“The cre­ative process can often be a long one,” Hen­nekes said. “But the first thing I thought was, ‘Well, I don’t want to do the stereo­typical Central Hall picture on the front of the planner cover.’”

Plans changed. While friends were rec­om­mending painting the eagle statue at the entrance to campus, or an overhead map of campus, Hen­nekes said at the end of the day, she came back to Central Hall because it was the most rec­og­nizable and “approachable.”

Hen­nekes added that she con­sidered designing a digital mosaic of Central Hall (“I was obsessed with mosaics during the Spring semester because I was in Art History”), but said she felt her skills weren’t quite up to the chal­lenge.

“I was a little too young in my Adobe Suite to be able to execute that at the level I wanted to,” Hen­nekes said, laughing. “So I fell back on what I knew I could do well, and that was ink and water­color.”

Junior Heidi Yacoubian, also an art major, described walking into the New Dorm kitchen one of the nights Hen­nekes was painting the water­color draft that would even­tually become the planner cover.

“I think she looked a little stressed,” Yacoubian remem­bered. “She was super excited about doing it, and super enthu­si­astic, because she’s so pas­sionate about art and this school, and this was a way to express her love of both. I think she just felt a little bit of pressure to make it really good because it’s some­thing she really cares about. But she did an amazing job.”

Bryan Springer, cre­ative director of mar­keting, said Hen­nekes “excelled at visual sto­ry­telling” when he had her as a student in his graphic design class.

“Her style is really graphic and illus­trated. So when I saw her work on the cover, I thought, ‘Oh, perfect,’” Springer said.

Springer described Hen­nekes’ com­po­sition as “clear and engaging,” and the image of Central Hall, as the visual icon of Hillsdale College, a natural choice. 

“I’m always thrilled as an art faculty member that stu­dents are using their skills from all of the dif­ferent classes — drawing, painting, graphic design,” he said. “I think that’s one of our strengths as a department, since often times, graphic design in most pro­grams is its own dis­ci­pline, apart from art or fine art.”

To create the back cover of the planner, a collage of words in various styles of hand-written typeset, Hen­nekes took to Instagram. 

Hen­nekes shows an earlier sketch of the planner cover. Col­legian | Carmel Kookogey

“The back was the part that I got really excited about. Back in March, nobody knew what it was for, but I did an Instagram poll,” Hen­nekes said. “It wasn’t wildly suc­cessful, but it was really cool to do, and it basi­cally said, ‘If you had one word to describe Hillsdale, what would it be?’ 

“It was really cool to approach the student body that way, because we all know what Hillsdale is, but all have a very indi­vidual expe­rience here. Espe­cially depending on what com­munity you’re in, what your major is, and just your per­son­ality, you see things dif­fer­ently.”

Hen­nekes said the back cover is crucial to the vision of the planner, because stu­dents often get caught up in the rigor of aca­demic achievement, and “forget to be human.” She chose words to high­light — by painting over them in soft yellow or Charger blue — to remind stu­dents what is really special about Hillsdale, in their own words. 

Springer said the use of others’ words was a great idea on Hen­nekes’ part, to seek to under­stand what res­onates with her audience. 

“It’s important to under­stand your audience to provide engaging visuals. I like the concept of high­lighting certain words, but in terms of com­po­sition, it also pro­vides con­trast and color. There is quite a bit of visual texture, but it’s bal­anced,” Springer said.

Though friends have asked Hen­nekes if the colors them­selves have some meaning, too, she shakes her head.

“The colors I chose were just for com­po­sition and balance, but I did inten­tionally paint certain ones I wanted to high­light,” she said.

One of those words is “prayer.” 

“There’s so often the mindset of pulling yourself up by your boot­straps, and doing things in your own strength,” she said. “This is about really real­izing that we can do nothing, and we need the Lord, and we need prayer. That’s some­thing I high­lighted just because I think that dis­ci­pline can be lost, and it’s crucial to our well-being.”

Hen­nekes also high­lighted the words “genuine” and “pas­sionate.”

“I’ve never met a more pas­sionate group of 1,500 people,” she said, smiling.