Winning by design

Coryn Bajema came to the University of South Carolina to play soccer, but it was her talent off the field that has drawn the attention of the campus community lately. 

The graphic design senior from Lyndon, Wash., says the skills she has learned from soccer help her off the field just as much as they do on the field.

“The one thing I love most about soccer is being a part of a team because we use teamwork every day in our lives. I was warned being a student athlete would be a challenge, but with years of self-discipline and help from professors, prioritizing has become easy,” says Bajema.

So when faced with the task of designing a cover for the annual First-Year Reading Experience, she was up for the challenge.

As a part of the annual event, graphic design students reimagine the covers for the First-Year Reading Experience book selection. After reading this year's book, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple, Bajema’s cover designs came to life.  She said growing up in the state where the book was set gave her a more realistic perspective when designing the cover. 

“The book’s setting took place in Seattle, so for the majority of the book, I was set on designing something that had to do with that. But near the end, I decided to drastically switch gears, when I realized that that wasn’t the most important theme after all,” says Bajema.

She found inspiration from the ending theme of making necessary changes for the family to live a happy and healthy life together. This theme was close to Bajema’s heart because she shares a strong bond with her family.

Following in the footsteps of her father, who is a designer, Bajema says her passion for design started as a child. Her mother has recorded what Bajema wanted to be when she grew up since Bajema was in kindergarten, and she has hasn’t changed her mind yet: She always wanted to be a soccer player and a designer.

“I never stopped loving design. I definitely get it from my parents, my dad specifically. He is very creative, and whether it’s at work or at home, he always has a project going,” says Bajema. “Both of my parents realized that I had a knack for design at a young age so they have really encouraged me to utilize my gift, and I am very grateful for that.”

All of that paid off for Bajema this year when her design for the book cover was selected as the winner. That design can be seen around campus and on posters for this year's event. She notes the most rewarding part of being selected has been showcasing a different side of her talents and work she is passionate about.

“My family, friends, coaches and professors were all huge supporters in both my soccer endeavors and design dreams, which definitely helped throughout the process," she says.

She says she’s open to playing professional soccer after college, but also would be happy in a career as a graphic designer.

“I want to start my own company and further the brand I already have. I do a good bit of freelance work right now but, someday, I want to run a business myself,” says Bajema.

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This year's First-Year Reading Experience will be held in the Colonial Life Arena on Monday (Aug. 17). "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" author Maria Semple will address the newest class of Gamecocks before students break into smaller groups to discuss the book with faculty and staff members. 

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