University of Arkansas – Fort Smith student Talia Blanton chose to attend UAFS because of the numerous opportunities in the university’s graphic design program, but Blanton hadn’t expected one of those opportunities would include designing a logo for a regional athletic conference.

The Bonanza native recently designed the new logo for the Heartland Conference, the Division II athletic conference in which UAFS competes, as part of her studies in the university’s graphic design program.

Blanton, along with seven other students, were tasked with each designing their own version of the logo as part of a class assignment to help the conference in its rebranding efforts. Conference officials visited the class and outlined the direction of the conference and qualities they’d like to see in the new conference brand.

“We wanted to update the brand and create a more virtual logo,” said Brandon Tripp, director of communications and strategic positioning with the Heartland Conference. “And we threw out the suggestion that one of the institutions could supply the talent with senior-level graphic designers. It would be a great opportunity for us to work with them and for the students to get some real world experience on going through a complete rebranding.”

Dr. Paul B. Beran, UAFS chancellor, was serving as the chair of the Heartland Conference Presidents Council and suggested students from the university’s graphic design program could assist with the logo’s creation. After Tripp and others on the rebranding committee looked into the program and Windgate Art & Design – the state-of-the-art visual arts facility in which design classes at UAFS are housed – they agreed. 

The project began with Tripp and other members of the committee traveling to UAFS to speak to students in the class, discussing what they were looking for in a new logo and the direction in which the Heartland Conference planned to move.

From there, students spent several weeks designing the logos. Blanton, who has little interest in sports, ironically found her lack of sports knowledge to be an advantage when approaching an athletic logo design.

“My professor really pushed us towards making a sports logo without looking at sports logos,” she said. “She told us to take in our surroundings then adapt it to what you think could be a sports logo. So it was to my benefit that I didn’t really have a preconceived notion of what an athletic logo should look like. That fresh perspective helped me.”

After the designs were finished, students presented to conference officials via a teleconference, and officials narrowed down the logos to the top two, which they vetted with different committees within the conference, according to Tripp.

When she found out her design was chosen, she was surprised.

“It’s pretty awesome,” she said. “The best part about it is that I’m going to get to see something I made out in the real world. When the logo is officially released, I’ll be able to see something that I made on banners and T-shirts and websites.”

Tripp said the conference was pleased with the new logo.

“Talia’s design was very versatile and modern, and it separated us from the rest of the landscape within Division II while also fitting well within it,” Tripp said. “We appreciate all the hard work from the students and faculty at UAFS in helping make this happen.”

The opportunity to design the logo also allowed Blanton to get real-world experience in the realm of graphic design, which helped prepare her for a career in the field.

“This is going in my portfolio, for sure. This opportunity taught me real-world application of working with a client – meeting with them, getting feedback, working with them to make the changes,” she said. “I’m honored and grateful for UAFS giving me this opportunity. There’s just lots of things I know I never would’ve made or done if I hadn’t gone here.”

The new logo is set to be released in fall 2017.

About the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith

The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith is the premiere regional institution of Western Arkansas, connecting education with careers and serving as a driver of economic development and quality of place in the greater Fort Smith region. Through a small campus, dedicated professors, and the university’s unique bond with its community, students at UAFS are able to do more in the areas they are passionate about, both on- and off-campus, in a way that prepares them for post-graduate success. To find out how you can do more at UAFS, visit


Article by John Post, Director of Public Information
Photo Credits: 
Photo by Rachel Putman, Photographer, Marketing and Communications Office
Date Posted: 
Monday, March 27, 2017
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