Tommie Collins III

Tommie Albert Collins III was first exposed to graphic design when it came rolled up in his grandmother’s subscription to The Chicago Sun-Times.

As a kid, he would wake up on Saturday mornings and pore over the comics with a bowl of cereal in hand. The antics of Garfield were a favorite.

“Little did I know, when I was looking at the line weights, the colors and the cool graphics that I was actually looking at graphic design,” Mr. Collins said. “That’s what makes the punch lines even more clever.”

Now he is a rising senior at Hampton University, where he studies graphic design and English. He has worked as the visuals editor for the school newspaper and the yearbook, and always has a few freelance projects in progress.

He relishes the challenge of catering to a client’s needs while maintaining an artistic voice in the final product.

“Everything you do has to be intentional,” Mr. Collins said of design. “It just can’t be because ‘I thought this looked cool.’ Everything has to complement each other.”

After he completes his undergraduate degree, he wants to attend graduate school at New York University or Columbia University and continue his studies in graphic design.

Mr. Collins hopes to work as a designer for a major news publication such as Wired or The New York Times. His long-term goal is to open a performing arts school for students who come from less-than-privileged backgrounds.

“I really want to bring that creative outlet back to my community because there’s so many kids that have talents that are wasted because they don’t have the resources to nurture those skills,” he said.

Mr. Collins’s mother inspired his interest in mentoring others. She was a teacher and his first educator. One of the first things he remembers being taught by her was how to write the perfect letter “e.”

“To see that smile on her face, to see that she was just as proud of my achievement as I was it was like wow,” Mr. Collins said. “All teachers have to be like this.”