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Student Spotlight: Hannah Largen

Hannah Largen named College of Architecture and Urban Studies 2018 Outstanding Senior

Armed with dual degrees from CAUS and Pamplin College of Business, an impressive portfolio, and a winning attitude, this first-generation college student and “country girl” is headed to New York to work in advertising.

2018 Outstanding CAUS Senior Hannah Largen at her “home away from home” (i.e., her desk in Henderson Hall).

Story by Barbara Micale. Photos by Marya Barlow.

In 2016, Virginia Tech sophomore Hannah Largen of Stuart, Virginia, co-designed the Virginia Tech Emoji Keyboard, featuring more than 80 emojis of iconic Virginia Tech imagery, inside jokes, and the HokieBird.

The project was incredibly successful. There were 27,000 downloads on the first day of its release and it won a Regional CASE III Grand Award for Online Innovation.

But “Hokiemojis” were just the beginning for Largen. Since that experience, she has built an enviable student portfolio with internships on campus, in Washington, D.C., and in New York City.

Largen will receive dual degrees in visual communication design and marketing management, and will graduate summa cum laude as the Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies 2018 Outstanding Senior.

Largen got the news of her award while in Starbucks. “I started tearing up. Thinking about where I was four short years ago and where I am now, I am so incredibly honored to receive this award and truly grateful for each and every person who has helped me get to where I am today.”

Meaghan Dee, assistant professor and chair of Visual Communications Design in the School of Visual Arts, said, “Hannah is an absolute joy to have in the classroom. She works incredibly hard, actively participates in critiques and discussions, and produces phenomenal work. She is kind, yet honest and authentic. While pushing herself to produce great designs, she also builds up her classmates so they can do the same.”

At FourDesign, a student-run, faculty-led graphic design agency with clients that include Virginia Tech and local businesses, Largen designed logos (including one for the Center for Rhetoric Society at Virginia Tech), brand identities, print materials, and websites.

“Hannah has always been an exemplary student. She is a very active participant – eager, curious, goes above and beyond on her projects, and does consistently great work,” said Professor of Practice and Director of FourDesign Jeff Joiner. “She is one of the most earnest students I have ever taught and I feel lucky to have had her in my classes.”

Currently, Largen serves as creative director at VT PRISM, a student-run ad agency, overseeing a team of eight designers and leading all design projects. Under her direction, PRISM has created social graphics and print media for Pamplin College of Business and the First and Main Shopping Center in downtown Blacksburg. She credits both PRISM and faculty advisor Donna Wertalik not only with giving her invaluable experience in the advertising world, but also for the many opportunities she has gained through client-work and internships.

Largen at her desk in Henderson Hall.

Interning at AKQA in Georgetown, Largen participated in developing some conceptual designs for Verizon and World Wildlife Foundation. But having the opportunity to tell the story of the DC Diaper Bank, an organization that provides a reliable source of baby and personal hygiene products to families and mothers in need had the most impact on her.

For more than two months, Largen, alongside a team of interns, gathered research and conducted interviews; led a visual rebrand of the logo, web, print materials, and warehouse; and brainstormed ways that the organization’s mission could be better communicated to young mothers.

“Because of these efforts, the DC Diaper Bank has received more in-kind and monetary donations, which will help them continue to expand and reach as many people as possible,” Largen said. “To contribute to such a positive cause and bring joy to so many families made this the most rewarding project I have ever been a part of.”

At Spring Design Partners in New York City, she helped design packaging for national product brands like Oreo, Hostess, and Chips Ahoy, and developed a social media campaign for Bamboozlers Bottled Cocktails.

And, on a personal level, she made a post-graduation plan to go back to New York and work in an advertising agency.

“Coming from rural Virginia, everything about New York was a shock at first. It challenged me in so many ways, but I fell in love with the city and know that it is where I want to be,” said Largen.

But taking such a big step is nothing new to Largen. She felt pretty much the same way arriving at Virginia Tech as a freshman. A first-generation student from a small Virginia town, Largen admits to being totally overwhelmed and acknowledges amazing faculty, teachers, and Residential Learning Coordinator Melissa McLevain for helping her overcome the difficulties she faced in adapting to college life.

“Melissa is the nicest person I have ever met,” said Largen. “She not only helped me get through some rocky times but helped me become a better person.”

Largen has been a resident advisor at Pritchard Hall since her sophomore year, and this year served as the RA for the first-ever arts-centered living-learning community, Studio 72.

“I wanted students to know there was someone they could rely on, just like I had looked to my teachers and Melissa for support,” she said. “Being an RA has been the most impactful part of my time here at Virginia Tech, and I hope that I helped make new Hokies’ first year of college a positive experience they will never forget.”

According to McLevain, Largen has more than succeeded.

“Hannah has acted as a resource and confidant for numerous students through her role as a resident advisor. They have learned a lot about hard work, authenticity, and kindness from her strong example,” said McLevain. “She is incredibly driven and conscientious, giving 110 percent to everything she does. I have truly enjoyed knowing Hannah and am excited to see all that she will continue to accomplish after graduating this spring.”

Her passion for helping younger students also led her to serve as an ambassador for the School of Visual Arts for the past four years, where she led campus tours during Open House events, visited high school art classes, and mentored prospective students. “I love encouraging younger students who share the same love and appreciation for the arts to follow their dreams here at Virginia Tech. This was my final way of giving back to the school and design program that have given so much to me.”

With graduation just months away, Largen is looking forward to what comes next. While design and art are her passion, her long-term goal lean more toward advertising strategy and user-experience design.

“I believe that design and advertising are powerful in communicating with people, and, if utilized correctly, my passion for art can be used as a platform to inspire, inform, and address important issues in today’s society,” Largen said. “I have had an amazing four years at Virginia Tech. Not only was I able to be inspired by some of the best teachers in both design and business, but I also had invaluable opportunities for hands-on learning that I will benefit from for the rest of my life.”

Click here to peruse Largen’s design portfolio.