COM student Sandra Wilkes' winning designA;;enTaylor Allen's winning poster

Creating a dazzlingly intricate Mardi Gras poster is a far cry from designing astronaut badges for NASA, but for Sandra Wilkes, of League City, her innovation paid off.

“I actually had fun because I didn’t have to do it for anyone but me. Now I’m doing it on my own, I can be as creative as I want,” said Wilkes, whose poster won the grand prize and $1,000 in the Yaga’s Entertainment 2013 Mardi Gras contest.

Formerly a NASA designer creating astronaut badges, posters, certificates and welcome home banners, Wilkes enrolled in a COM graphic design class to update her skills. She completed the poster as a class project.
“They researched Mardi Gras around the world. They had to be inspired by what they’d seen,” said instructor Coleena Jackson.

Wilkes derived her poster’s vivid colors and intricate detail from photographs of Italian carnival masks that she used as models.

Jackson assigned the project to give students a real-world assignment, though it was up to students to choose to enter the contest.
“It’s so much more fun to work with a real client,” said Jackson.
Besides taking Design Concepts with Coleena Jackson, Wilkes is taking a web design class with professor Freda O’Connor.
“The thing nowadays is to be adaptable,” Wilkes said. “You can’t learn this in two to three days. That’s impossible. It’s really complicated. You need to have somebody to help you. Going back to school helps you gain confidence. My efforts are the results of the great teaching of my instructors.”
She plans to continue learning and designing creative projects as she is between jobs.

“If people like the stuff I do, maybe I’ll freelance. In the meantime, I’m having a good time coming here learning with all the kids,” Wilkes said.
For Wilkes’ classmate Taylor Allen, of Texas City, it was success at first try with her award-winning poster for Z Krewe, a Galveston not-for-profit organization.
“This was my very first poster to do. I wanted to make it different,” Allen said.
A blaze of traditional purple, green and gold stands behind a festive Wonder Woman in Allen’s poster created for the organization’s superhero theme.

At the awards presentation, Allen was all nerves.
“I panicked. They called my name, and I started tearing up,” Allen said.
Allen received a $125 cash prize and her poster will be displayed as an advertisement.
“I got a lot of compliments. It made my self-esteem build more,” said Allen.
A full-time student in COM’s graphic arts program, Allen appreciated the input and feedback she received from her graphic design instructor, Coleena Jackson and her classmates.
“[Jackson] helped 100 percent. They’re a very good class, a good support group,” she said.