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Paw prints and picture frames: an inside look into student’s Press Paws design process

Jay Newell
Adriana Rivera Rodríguez and her dog Lilo in front of the final Press Paws design installation.

As students walk into Hamilton Hall, they may notice a bright red door, covered and surrounded by various paw prints, picture frames and cartoon dogs. A phrase on the door reads “Happiness Awaits.”

Press Paws is a dog therapy room on the first floor of Hamilton Hall where students can come to spend time with and pet a dog. It is similar to Barks@Parks, an event that brings dogs to Parks Library during preparation week before finals. Unlike Barks@Parks, there are various times scheduled throughout the school year with Press Paws for students to come meet the canines.

The main goal of Press Paws is to promote inclusivity, accessibility and happiness, all while helping students reduce stress. Adriana Rivera Rodríguez, a senior majoring in graphic design, worked to make the room “feel like home” in designing the project.

Rivera Rodríguez was first made aware of the concept when she went to Washington D.C. to compete in the 2023 Washington Media Scholars Media Plan Case Competition alongside senior in advertising Megan Groathouse, mentored by Greenlee professor Jay Newell.

Discussion at the competition sparked Newell to ask the question of whether or not Rivera would be interested in designing the project now known as Press Paws.

“I really started crying,” Rivera Rodríguez said. “Because I was like ‘What?’ I said yes immediately.”

“We’re happy that she did,” Newell said. “She’s been wonderful to work with on this project.”

Rivera Rodríguez’s original sketches for Press Paws graphics. (Courtesy of Adriana Rivera Rodríguez)

Rivera Rodríguez said she really wanted to do the project justice and met with Newell a few different times before starting her design. Rivera Rodríguez said she needed to hear from Newell to get an idea of what he wanted the project to look and feel like. What sort of colors– Iowa State colors, black and white, something else? What sort of feeling, what kind of style?

“We kind of found that [Newell] wanted the brand to be professional yet very fun, and also very age appropriate,” Rivera Rodríguez said. “We can do a doodle but it needs to be professional in a way and not something that’s almost kindergarten. He definitely wanted a personality with it.”

Rivera Rodríguez described her first few doodles of the cartoon dog as “funny looking.” “I kind of just looked at my dog and made her the star of the show,” Rivera Rodríguez said. “One of the things about the program is that we wanted students to feel at home.”

Rivera Rodríguez’s own dog is a miniature Schnauzer with epilepsy named Lilo. Rivera Rodríguez said having her dog made all the difference in her college experience by providing comfort when she was stressed or homesick.

“I like making these sketches of her,” Rivera Rodríguez said. “They’re very funny. Some of them are very cute, and some of them are very questionable.”

While the project was just implemented this semester, ideas for the Press Paws design have been in motion for months. According to Newell, he brainstormed ideas by taping a dog house over the door last April as a trial run. Paw prints were also going to be on the floor, but those scratched up easily, so designers decided against it.

Newell said that it is a huge jump to make for a design student to be able to go in and translate the design in a way that the client doesn’t feel ignored.

“When you’re talking with a client, they don’t really know what they want, but want to make sure that you’re giving them what they want and what they need,” Rivera Rodríguez said.

Rivera Rodríguez said that she worked hard to make a versatile design that could work for various products including stickers, tote bags, photos and the entryway of the dog therapy room.

Rivera Rodríguez’s mockups for Press Paws wall decals. (Courtesy of Adriana Rivera Rodríguez)

“We wanted something that communicated happiness and joy even when no one was here” Newell said. “Adriana was the perfect designer for that.”

The finished design took ISU Printing around 3 hours to install, according to Newell. It took real precision in order to have it cut and smoothed out with no bubbles.

“To actually see it, see it completed and not only that, but to see it up on the walls that I used to take classes on has been one of the most surreal experiences of my life,” Rivera Rodríguez said.

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