WISE Scholarship Recipient Ashley Lowe: Seeing the Forest and the Trees

The WISE (Woodbury Integrative Student Experience) Program grants $1,000 Tuition Scholarships to eligible students throughout the university each year. The program enables students to earn scholarship funds while gaining invaluable life experiences and compelling educational opportunities in four High Impact Practices (HIPS) — study away, civic engagement, leadership and internships, each applicable to emerging local and global communities.

There’s nothing like traveling 400 miles to get out of your comfort zone. Senior Ashley Lowe, a Graphic Design major, took her summer internship in branding design to San Francisco, in search of “an unorthodox experience and location” — and came back to earn herself a WISE Scholarship.

Ashley’s four-week internship on the marketing team at Forest Restaurant Supply Company morphed into a crash course in using design strategically to convey high-level company values and promote brand differentiation.

Forest Restaurant Supply is dedicated to serving the diverse population of San Francisco’s restaurant entrepreneurs, whether immigrant or native to the United States. As Ashley describes it, “many of Forest’s clients don’t know how to market themselves. Because the company didn’t see any of its competitors meeting that need, they created three different divisions to help them: Delivery, Design and Store.” Job #1 became getting the word out on the new divisional structure, through a major branding project: designing the headquarters’ lobby signage. Deliverables included a trio of “pull-out” banners (later altered, as things evolved, to wall-mounted acrylic frames).

The aim of the project became showcasing each of the divisions so customers would rely on the company for all of their marketing, delivery, and supply needs (equipment, furniture, packaging and so on). In a nutshell, then: enlist graphic design to empower Forest’s customers.

Through visual research into the ways companies create inspirational office signage, Ashley developed four distinct layouts. In the process of working through the project task list, she learned a quick lesson in managing up. “I pushed for a face-to-face meeting with the president of Forest,” she says. “This chance to personally interact with the head of the company proved to be far more effective than just receiving instructions from my supervisor and altering them accordingly. With a proper meeting, we were able to bounce new ideas back and forth, which stimulated new conversations and fresh solutions. Working with a group of brand new faces and personalities challenged my ability to focus on team-building right from the start.”

As Ashley recalls, both the design team and Forest’s president came to recognize her work ethic. “Regardless of the task, I kept an open mind and asked them for their feedback, while still completing my designs efficiently,” she says. “As a result, both began to ask for my opinion on which of my design solutions was most suitable for the company. And when I actively listened to client concerns directly, I was able to gain deeper insight into their desire to show cohesiveness in the relationship between the company logo and its divisions.”

Looking back, Ashley regards the Forest Restaurant Supply internship as an edifying break from the often solitary nature of academic life. “The experience demonstrated to me that working together as a team enables creativity to solve design issues, and it challenged me to be creative in my responses to design problems,” she says. “Although it lasted only a month, the internship enriched my understanding of a real-world job.”

Learn more about the WISE program