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Graphic Design Students Sweep AAF Buffalo’s Don Nichols Scholarship Competition; Win First Place for 7th Consecutive Year 

This year’s Don Nichols Scholarship Competition challenged students in a unique way: to creatively present their own personal takes on a year that is sure to go down in history — 2020. 

“It might be a year we’d all like to forget, but it’s likely not going to happen,” says AAF Buffalo’s website. “And through those trying 12 months, we’re sure someone, somewhere had some positive experiences. Undoubtedly, we all learned a thing or two about our families, our nation, civil rights, and what it means to be our true selves in the face of a pandemic.” Students from all area colleges were invited to submit their work in a variety of formats: advertisements, booklets, essay, poems, illustrations, posters, blotters, games, sculptures, photographic prints, and more. 

For the seventh year in a row, a graphic design student from Villa Maria won first place. Henny Zack, who will graduate this weekend with an associate of applied science, earned the competition’s top honor for a paper toy she created. Once assembled, the toy is a cartoon-version of planet earth wearing 2020 glasses, muddy boots, a big smile, and a crown of fire. Its assembly instructions include the humorous quip, “it’s not the first time I fell apart! Help put me back together.” 

Assembled paper toy featuring the world with feet in yellow boots, 2020 glasses and its head on fire.      Visual instructions for assembling the paper toy

Junior Zach Huber was awarded second place for his quarantine activity guide. Huber created the guide to help keep couples occupied during the pandemic. It includes activities that duos can complete together, like themed dinners, learning TikTok dances, indoor photoshoots, and more. It also includes a sticker page that can be used to indicate that activities on the list have been completed. Huber won third place in last year’s competition. 

Front cover of Huber's Quarantine Activity Guide Pages 1 and 2 of the of the Quarantine Activity Guide

Pages 3 & 4 of Huber's Quarantine Activity Guide - Activity Suggestions     Sticker pages in Huber's Quarantine Activity Guide

Junior Hadyn Otwell won 3rd for his suicide prevention iPhone messages. Otwell’s design speaks to the mental health crisis many are experiencing as the world continues on in pandemic mode. 

iPhone home screen screenshot with text messages, missed calls, CNN breaking news update, and calendar reminders

 Villa usually does well in this competition, and we’re thrilled to have the top honors again this year,” said Julie Zack, an assistant professor of graphic design at Villa Maria. Our graphic design students consistently create projects that are recognized as exceptional by industry professionals. It’s incredible to see that our students are still producing top-tier work, even after a super challenging year. 

To learn more about studying graphic design at Villa Maria College, visit