Merge conference 2017March 9, 2017 (Jackson, Miss.) - On March 4, Belhaven's Graphic Design Department hosted MERGE 2017, which is the American Advertising Federation of Jackson (AAFJ) idea-exchange event. Graphic design students from Belhaven, Mississippi State University, University of Southern Mississippi and others directly interacted with graphic design, advertising, communication and marketing professionals at this annual conference.

Gigi Turner, graphic design chair at Belhaven, said, “MERGE is one of a few regional creative student conferences. It is an incredible opportunity for students to get a feel of the changing current in the graphic design industry from the designers themselves.”

Representatives from various creative agencies and studios answered questions on a professional panel and gave portfolio reviews for each student. The conference also included breakout lectures that touched on topics such as social media design, branding, concepting and marketing. “As we know, this is a huge benefit to students because they get to see early on where their work needs improvement and how to accurately prepare for graduation,” added Turner.

The MERGE conference also gave students a chance to practice what they had been hearing over the weekend. During a creative challenge, students were given a creative brief and then given time to work in groups to create and concept logos, product packaging and branding ideas.

“We started this event 14 years ago,” said Karen Clark Johnson, Godwin Group's vice president of print production and MERGE organizer. “The goal of the conference is to inspire and educate the up-and-coming graphic design students on topics such as skill level, the ability to be their own unique designer and real-world expectations about their job positions in the field. I love to see the talent coming from the state universities. These young men and women will one day be our future co-workers and employees.”