Ohio Northern University graphic design student and intern Lauran LaBelle.

When Ohio Northern University’s Communications and Marketing Department needed to create a prominent sesquicentennial anniversary mural for one of the most utilized buildings on campus, it asked senior graphic design major and intern Lauran (Barthauer) LaBelle to do the honors. Likewise, when a fun T-shirt design was wanted for an informal departmental summer get-together, LaBelle immediately accepted the challenge.

Both of those designs, along with a large sesquicentennial banner design she submitted, won her a coveted Graphic Design USA award in 2021. LaBelle was among 10 percent of more than 11,000 entrants to be recognized by the 60-year-old organization, which serves as a business-to-business information source for graphic design professionals, covering news, people, projects, trends, technology, products and services. She also represents the sixth ONU student to receive the award over the years.

Bold, brave and beyond ordinary, LaBelle favors imagery that pops with color and tells a story. She says from the time she was about 14 years old, she was passionate about visual design. For her senior capstone, she created Worth More, a Christian-focused digital mobile app targeted toward tween and teen girls that enables conferencing and provides guidance on topics ranging from appearance to leadership. Her goal with the app, she says, is to “foster Christian self-acceptance” for individuals navigating the oftentimes confusing stage of adolescence.

Her work at ONU has been met with great enthusiasm. The mural she created for an interior wall of McIntosh incorporates 150 design elements. The banner now adorning the Dicke College of Business fronts South Main Street, making it difficult for passersby to miss. And, her T-shirt design, inspired by the Olympics, was a hit with co-workers.

LaBelle, who is originally from Cable, Ohio and now lives in Piqua, says she doesn’t embrace a specific design aesthetic. Instead, she practices creative flexibility for any project she completes.

“I like to experiment,” LaBelle says. “I enjoy working with some formal designs but I like to be playful, too.”

As she anticipates her May 2022 graduation, LaBelle knows that graphic design is her professional destiny. She says she’d prefer to work for a nonprofit organization, but that a job elsewhere that allows her to continue to create designs for good will thrill her as well.

“Design for good is a huge focus for me,” LaBelle says. “I not only make things that are aesthetically appealing, but have a desire for my design work to make an impact on the lives of those who view it.”