Michele Hratko on Designing for Dancer’s Symposium

The program and tickets for Reverie
Michele Hratko

Michele Hratko, a rising sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design (BDes ’27), was recently tasked with the design and branding for the CMU Dancer’s Symposium’s Spring Showcase – Reverie. Dancers' Symposium (DS), CMU’s largest student-run dance organization, aims to provide an open and supportive environment to further the exposure of dance, music, student choreography, and student performance.

As a First Year student, Hratko had two experiences with the DS, in the Fall as a dancer and in the Spring as a designer.

“Being in DS as a dancer was super rewarding last semester,” said Hratko, who does both jazz and lyrical dance. “It was a great opportunity to meet new people as a First Year and learn more about different arts communities at CMU. I think having experience dancing with DS helped me when designing, because I was a bit more familiar with the organization and how design assets would be used for the show.

“It was also super fun to be able to combine 2 of my interests— dance and design— through this opportunity.”

The theme of the Spring 2024 DS showcase was Reverie. Hratko’s designs, which included posters, shirts, programs, banners, ticketing and digital assets, were inspired gradients, which evoked the ideas themes of haziness and dreaminess.

A series of 4 posters for Reverie
The program and ticket from Reverie at the show

“I first explored creating gradients in the word mark so that the type would look like it was dissolving,” said Hratko. “As I was brainstorming how to expand the gradient motif into other assets for posters and shirts, we were doing charcoal figure drawing in the Collaborative Visualizing studio. I realized that charcoal might be able to create a similar effect to what I was creating in photoshop. I drew a bunch of gestural figures with charcoal, scanned them into photoshop, and then created a composition of 3 figures. This ended up being the core of the design system along with the logo.

“The hand drawn letters of the logo and fluidity of the dancers together evoke a fleeting feeling like being lost in a reverie.”

For a First Year student, designing the entire branding and visual strategy for an event in under 2 months was a massive undertaking. As the sole designer, this opportunity was Hratko’s first chance to work for a “client,” coordinating with the team of show directors on the design direction and bringing all of the materials to life.

“It was definitely a larger project than I had anticipated going into it, especially as a first year without a ton of formal education in communications design,” said Hratko. “So far in school I’ve been able to design with my personal aesthetics largely as the driving force, but this time I was designing for someone else and responsible for representing another organization. I learned how to communicate professionally with clients, make compromises, and respond to revisions.

“It also became a little bit challenging to balance this project with my studio projects, but it was refreshing to work on something that would be brought out into the world rather than a conceptual school project,” continued Hratko.

The t-shirt designs for Reverie
Michele Hratko in front of her poster for Reverie

The end result of Hratko’s hard work was evident all over campus.

“It was really fun to see programs, tickets, and shirts that I had designed being given to and worn by so many people during the show and see the designs being reacted to by such a wide audience,” said Hratko. “I had so many friends texting me pictures of them whenever they spotted one of the posters around CMU campus.

“I also appreciated the physical tickets that each attendee got,” continued Hratko. “I kind of assumed while first designing the tickets that they would be sent via email because physical tickets are so rare nowadays, but it was so exciting to see everyone get one at the door. I love saving artifacts from shows that I go to and a physical ticket is the perfect way to do that.”

Hratko’s work for DS capped off an incredible First Year.  

“I had an amazing time in my first year, and I cannot believe it went by so quickly, said Hratko. “Some highlights were staying up late with friends in studio sharing our favorite music, watching the solar eclipse on Flagstaff with a bunch of my class, and exploring new types of design across all of our projects.”

Moving forward, Hratko is looking forward to exploring what the Communications and Environments Design tracks have to offer her as she narrows down her interests as an emerging designer.

“I’ll most likely end up choosing the C track because I’d love to do more branding design and visuals like what I did for DS,” added Hratko.

“I am also looking forward to exploring more of CMU’s extracurricular organizations and discovering the possibilities of design outside of our studio classes.”

Learn more about Design for Communications

Learn more about the CMU Dancer's Symposium