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College of Arts and Sciences Newsroom

NASA needs more than just rocket scientists

By Ashley Junkunc ’21

NASA needs rocket scientists, astronauts — and graphic designers to reach the stars.

Jack Hadley, a University of Dayton senior graphic design major from Cincinnati, spent his summer working at NASA creating posters and graphic designs for spacecraft missions.

“I was shooting for the stars when I applied,” Hadley said. “Working with people that are working to get us to Mars, the moon and beyond was incredible.”

While he always had an interest in technology, space exploration and creative storytelling, Hadley wasn’t quite sure how a graphic designer would fit into that world. He explored job opportunities with SpaceX and NASA by looking at their YouTube channels, social media platforms and websites to see what kind of design trends and approaches were being used. It wasn’t until showing his portfolio to NASA recruiters at the University’s 2019 spring career fair, that his dream started to look more like a reality.

“I began pushing away my own worries and anxieties of not being good enough and transforming myself into someone who is more self-aware of inevitable potential,” Hadley said. “When I saw that NASA was coming to the UD career fair last spring, I knew that was going to be my chance.”

While the application process was lengthy and challenging, he enjoyed researching and explaining his interest in the industry. However, there were only a few spaces available for the competitive position. Hadley received the call during his sustainability class that he would officially be interning full time during summer 2019 at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland as the advanced conceptual spacecraft mission design artist.

His goal was to provide an artistic touch to mission ideas that would make the public and employees able to better visualize them and become more excited about NASA activities. His biggest projects this summer included designs for the Martian ascent vehicle, a new moon rover and a space submarine.

“Engineers, rocket scientists and everything in between, they really appreciate it most to see their ideas come to life,” Hadley said. “Visual communication is an important thing because without it, the public wouldn’t be as excited about NASA missions. I know people who don’t appreciate what NASA aspires to do and creating these posters and artwork reflects their importance.”

Hadley’s passion for design evolved during his advanced placement drawing portfolio class in high school and has grown during his time at the University. He has also had the opportunity to work on the University’s River Campus as the lead graphic designer at the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives. By creating a new logo, website headers and media designs, he helped advance University partnerships with the Catholic Church.

“If it was not for UD, the chances of achieving an internship at NASA would have been much more unlikely,” Hadley said. “So overall, I believe UD has had a positive impact on my career aspirations.”

Upon graduation in May 2020, Hadley hopes to return to NASA and specifically wants to work with video graphics. His dream is to be the first graphic designer on a mission to Mars.

At NASA, Hadley worked with Betsy Turnbull, a member of the COMPASS conceptual spacecraft design team. Before becoming a full-time employee at the Glenn Research Center, Turnbull sat in the same spot as Hadley did, as an intern. She appreciates the work Hadley contributed to the team.

“Jack’s contributions from this summer have continued past his departure. The pieces of artwork he created are both beautiful and engaging,” Turnbull said. “This means that we are able to have more conversations about what excites us about space. Having a piece of artwork to speak to when describing something literally out of this world makes engaging people much easier.”

For Hadley, this internship showed him shooting for the stars wasn’t out of his reach. His biggest takeaway was witnessing how graphic design plays a direct role in inspiring rocket science.

“NASA does a lot of important and extremely interesting work, but without a way to convey that information to the public and get them excited, we are missing out on the ability to involve the very people we serve,” Turnbull said.

For any student studying the arts with an interest in the technology and science industry, Hadley advises creating work that directly reflects your own passions.

“Overall, my greatest advice would be to stay active and engaged with your worth and potential even when the possibilities seem further away than the stars,” he said. “If you get excited about what you create and look towards the future, your boss will take a chance on you, like mine did with me.”

For more information, please visit the Department of Art and Design’s website.

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