Ethan Greb is a graphic designer for the Barney Charter School Ini­tiative. Courtesy | Car­oline Greb

A pencil and a piece of paper — that’s the only medium Ethan Greb used in high school. And it proved to be all he needed. 

Flash forward past Greb winning his high school’s logo design com­pe­tition (his school still uses it today), and Greb ‘19 is now the pub­lishing coor­di­nator for the Barney Charter School Ini­tiative, impacting teachers and stu­dents across the county with his ability to make things beau­tiful.

“It’s been a long journey, getting into design,” he said. “In high school I really liked drawing and art in general, but I only did it as a hobby. When I came to Hillsdale, I took a few studio classes like drawing and sculpture, and my roommate was a pho­tog­rapher, so he got me into pho­tog­raphy. Graphic design was the last medium I explored.”

One of Greb’s pro­fessors rec­om­mended him to BCSI, a sub-department of Hillsdale that advances the founding of clas­sical charter schools. According to its website, one of BCSI’s most important func­tions is to “assist in cre­ating and imple­menting the school’s aca­demic program, pro­viding the cur­riculum design and teacher training.” Most of Greb’s work falls under this cat­egory. 

Greb is cur­rently working on BCSI’s K‑12 cur­riculum guide as well as a lit­eracy textbook for grades one through three. 

“Basi­cally, I take things for the office and make them aes­thet­i­cally pleasing,” he said. “Whatever I can do to make the material more acces­sible and more readable, that makes the expe­rience of the viewer more pleasing.” 

Greb said that his work on the lit­eracy guide is an attempt to redesign the pre­sen­tation of lit­eracy itself. For instance, Greb designed a set of icons that cor­re­spond to every subject area in the program guide. Most chal­lenging was the Latin icon, for which he con­sidered a column but even­tually decided on a centurion’s helmet to tie in with readings from Caesar, he said.

“The pre­vious [lit­eracy] program that we used was very poorly designed — it was too clut­tered, and teachers had a very hard time learning from it,” he said. “What we’re attempting to do with lit­eracy essen­tials is to present it in a way that’s easier for teachers to under­stand and read, so that they can teach their stu­dents more effec­tively.”

For Ethan, Hillsdale’s com­mitment to beauty and edu­cation impact the way he thinks about his work and the effect he wants it to have.

“The goal of design is to bring order to chaos,” he said. “Done cor­rectly, design will always enhance learning.” 

Jolene Estruth, a Hillsdale senior and copy editor for BCSI, edits pub­li­ca­tions before Greb redesigns them. 

“It’s really cool because I can look at what I’m sup­posed to be editing and I’ll see that Ethan has moved around the format, or added a totally dif­ferent graphic, or he’s added this picture that has helped a lot with what I’ve flagged as unclear,” she said. “I was astounded when I saw the final thing in print because it was so much easier to use.” 

Like Estruth, Greb received a clas­sical edu­cation in high school and college, and he’s pas­sionate about expanding the clas­sical model into ele­mentary schools.

“I’ve really come to love the liberal arts, and I think starting that as early as you can, in Kinder­garten or preschool, is better,” he said. “I really love the Hillsdale model, and what we’re doing with our charter schools is taking the college cur­riculum and bringing it down to the K‑12 level.” 

Although he’s pas­sionate about  graphic design, Greb said that he would love to teach for BCSI one day. “I’ve really fallen in love with edu­cation,” he said. 

Car­oline Greb, Ethan’s wife and an art major at Hillsdale, said that his style has noticeably matured since he began working for BCSI.  

“Over the last six months, he’s really refined a style,” she said. “Senior year Ethan’s style was very groovy, ‘70s colors, and it’s been cool to watch his artistic style match his season in life.”

According to Car­oline, Ethan loves design so much that he often does inde­pendent work for pub­li­ca­tions that he’s pas­sionate about. 

“He’ll do inde­pendent projects just for fun,” she said. “There’s a mag­azine that we both really like, “Art and Academia”, and he said ‘I’m going to design a logo for them just for fun,’ and now they’ve asked him if they can pay him to do it.”

“He goes after things that inspire him, like edu­cation and art,” Car­oline con­tinued. “He’s started melding the tran­scen­dentals of truth, beauty, and goodness into his design, and that’s what’s made his work really full and rich and given it a lot of depth.”