School honors decorated creative team with strong Auburn roots

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Oct. 31, 2014) — Auburn University’s School of Industrial and Graphic Design honored Birmingham-based Big Communications with a special award that recognized the accomplishments of the firm’s creative team, which is packed with Auburn design graduates.

Clark E. Lundell, professor and school head of Industrial and Graphic Design at Auburn, said Big was selected for the Outstanding Service Award (professional achievement) based on the firm’s achievements in the field, recognition in the industry and the number of Auburn graphic design alumni who contribute to the firm’s work. Graphic design faculty members at Auburn determined the honor.

“The Auburn Graphic Design program is grateful for the opportunity Big Communications provides our graduates and for the endorsement of quality we strive to instill in each and every one of our students,” Lundell said.

The Big creative team received its award at a banquet hosted Thursday night by Auburn’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction that acknowledged the accomplishments of students, faculty, alumni and friends of the college and its three distinct schools. The college has held the awards banquet for more than 20 years.

“The award is in recognition of the excellent body of work of Big Communications,” said Carlton Nell, Auburn’s Graphic Design program chair. “Big demonstrates that intelligent design — specifically the ‘Made in Alabama’ and the ‘Alabama Gulf Seafood’ campaigns— enormously impacts the culture of the state and region for good.”

Auburn University alumni dominate Big’s creative team. Members of the firm’s Auburn talent pipeline are:

  • Aaron Gresham, the firm’s creative director — Class of 1997
  • Matt Lane Harris, associate creative director — Class of 2001
  • Shannon Harris, senior art director — Class of 2006
  • Ryan Brown, digital art director — Class of 2007
  • Blake Hicks, digital art director and front-end developer — Class of 2008
  • Taylor Evans, art director — Class of 2012
  • Caroline Collins, junior art director — Class of 2014

Gresham said the strength of Auburn’s Graphic Design program has helped shape the mindset of Big’s creative team. “Auburn’s program gave us all thick skin,” Gresham said. “The difficulty of the program always prepares students remarkably well for the difficulty of the advertising industry.” 

Behind the work of that team of Auburn graduates, Big was named AdAge magazine’s “Small Agency of the Year” for the Southeast Region in 2013, a first for any Alabama firm. Over the past three years alone, Big has claimed more than 100 Addy Awards, including multiple Best in Show honors, regional Best in Show and three national Addys. Since arriving at Big, Auburn graduates have won 7 different individual achievement awards from the Addy Awards during that same timeframe.

Ford Wiles, Big’s chief creative officer, attributes much of that success to the caliber of Auburn’s program. “In our search for talent, we have to look beyond a résumé and a portfolio,” Wiles said. “Auburn sets the standard for graduating not simply good artists, but even better creative thinkers.” 


Big is a Birmingham-based creative communications company specializing in digital, branding, content marketing, public relations, media, and video. For more information about Big, visit

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