Brewing a capstone back to life

How the Lutrinae’s production manager resurrected her stolen capstone

On March 11, mere hours before Haley Graham would end up receiving four awards for work she did on the Luntrinae at a journalism conference in San Francisco, the van California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) rented for the team was broken into and robbed. 

Among the various expensive items stolen from the van was her iPad, but not just any regular iPad. This iPad contained five weeks’ worth of drawings she had done for her capstone project. To her dismay, the project was not backed up onto the cloud.

When she first discovered the van’s status, a sense of dread filled her, hoping that her iPad placed under her seat was safe and sound. In the matter of hours of the van being unattended to, the work she tirelessly poured her heart and soul into, was gone forever, lost to the streets of San Francisco. 

“I felt like I was feeling everything and nothing all at once. I was honestly in a weird space. I kind of felt numb, but I knew something crazy happened,” said Graham. “If you’ve had something traumatic happen to you, you know the feeling, it was weird but I was feeling just that.”

Despite the emotions of the situation rapidly overcoming her, the conference where she was set to receive awards, was still set to happen regardless of the status of the iPad. Determined to receive the awards, she persevered and attended the award ceremony with her editor-in-chief, Arianna Nalbach. 

When she returned back to her dorm after the conference, she held on for hope that her project would magically still be on the cloud and signed into her Nalbach’s iPad to check. However this was to no avail, it was a lost effort. In the pursuit to get started back on her capstone, she frantically bought a new iPad.

As a communication design major and frequent enjoyer of craft beer and brewery culture, Graham centered her capstone around creating branding and packaging for a fictitious brewery. In the foreseeable future, Graham aspires to eventually become a graphic designer or social media manager for an actual brewery as she has a deep passion for the industry.

Up to the point of the robbery, Graham estimated her capstone was 40% complete. An integral part of her project was an intricately drawn 3D typography in Procreate. When she brought up the robbery and the project’s disappearance to her capstone professor, they could only grant her a four-day extension. 

With her project due in less than two months, she had to make up for those five weeks of work she had done in a short span of time with only a few days extra. Worried about whether she would be able to finish it on time, she was left with no other choice than to reach out to a mentor on the advice of her capstone professor.

Through Linkedin, she contacted Cory Onken, a CSUMB alumnus who works as the social and digital media manager and brewer at Around The Horn Brewing Company, a brewery Graham regularly frequents. Onken reached out to her quickly and to her surprise, he agreed to mentor her on the project and even did so for free. 

After completely restarting her capstone from the ground up and offering Onken a substantial amount to work with, his mentorship and feedback throughout the entire process helped her to improve and strengthen every aspect of the project. For Graham, it was a godsend to have Onken along each step of the way. However, the process of starting back from nothing didn’t come without its trials and tribulations.

“It was mentally challenging to redo all of it again because I am a perfectionist and I am hard on myself, and in the pursuit of wanting to be perfect, my mind was telling myself that my project was perfect before and was not going to be the same.” 

The struggle to aim for perfection is a common struggle for artists and for Graham, it was a matter of her understanding that not everything about her capstone had to be perfect because, in the end, her perfect had always been to overcome what she went through on the night of the robbery.

“Trying to make it the same was hard, but I realized that it doesn’t need to be the same. When I was starting it again, I could barely remember what it looked like. For one of the logos that I worked on, I was disappointed in how it turned out, so it at least forced me to redo that one.”

With capstone festival approaching soon, Graham hopes for the best possible outcome and feels she has a pretty good shot, yet, she isn’t going to include having to start her capstone over again in her presentation as she doesn’t want to be pitied but instead, wants her work to be viewed for what it is. 

As for her thoughts on San Francisco, well, let’s just say that her attitude toward the city won’t change anytime in the future.

“I will not be going back to San Francisco until San Francisco gets its sh*t together.”

View Graham’s entire capstone project on the Communication Design Capstone website:

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