Community and creativity: DMSE graduate students design departmental swag

A GMC contest led to three new spins on the DMSE logo that now decorate T-shirts, hoodies, and sweatshirts.

A few years ago, DMSE updated its visual identity and adopted its iconic interlocking hexagon logo. The logo is striking, identifiable, and well-liked throughout the department.

During the spring semester of 2023, DMSE graduate students put their own twist on the logo to get their hands on more departmental swag.

The Graduate Materials Council (GMC) held a contest—DMSE grad students were offered an opportunity to submit an original design incorporating DMSE iconography that would be emblazoned on clothing, giving grad students and others in DMSE an opportunity to represent the department in a new way.

Today, three winning designs are on T-shirts, sweatshirts, and hoodies—grad students can choose one item for free and pay for extras. The clothing was made available for purchase to other DMSE students, postdocs, faculty, and staff.

The idea for the contest was born out of a desire vocalized by many DMSE grad students to have more departmental swag, said Matthew Ko, vice president of the GMC. “A lot of us are proud of DMSE and want to show it off,” he said. “Getting free swag is nice, but we wanted it to serve as also a community engagement project.”

The council polled DMSE graduate students on what sorts of swag most appealed to them; T-shirts, sweatshirts, and hoodies were the most popular, Ko said. With the swag types decided, designs were solicited—15 were submitted, and winners were determined through ranked-choice voting. About half the DMSE graduate student population participated in the vote.

In the end, three winning designs all tied for the top choice: Sara Sand’s “Colorful,” Misong Ju’s “DMSE,” and Kevin Ye’s “MIT Warhol,” a playful take on Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans.

Though GMC originally planned on using only one design, the three winners aligned with the three clothing options they wanted to offer, so they decided to roll with it, using one design per article. The GMC received about 140 orders between students, staff, and faculty, and Ko said the contest was one of its most successful events to date in terms of community participation.

None of the winners had design experience before the contest, and each had a unique motivation for participating. Sand used the contest as an opportunity to learn Adobe Illustrator, something she had wanted to do for a long time. For Ye, it was an opportunity to build school spirit while making people laugh. Ju had previously enjoyed art-related MIT events and wanted to do more. “I also thought it would be really cool to see my design on DMSE swag,” Ju said.

The new apparel has arrived, and staff, students, and faculty have begun wearing it around campus. It was the cap to a year that saw a huge influx of DMSE swag, Ko said. Throughout the school year, the GMC ordered various items, including jackets, pins, and beanies to name a few. These were given to students participating in various events, such as voting in the GMC election or giving talks for the student seminar series.