Cumberland University


John Essary: Designing Practical Beauty

Rick Brown

There’s little more satisfying to John Essary than creating something that is as beautiful as it is practical. An Entertainment Design major concentrating in Graphic Design, Essary has designed materials ranging from brochures and posters to fliers and postcards.

The products of his labors and those of other designers, Essary says, are all around you.

“Graphic design may not sound practical, but we use print publications every day,” explained Essary. “I like to hold something finished in my hands. I like the complexity of bringing many things together to create something beautiful that people can use.”

That enthusiasm has found a full expression at Cumberland, where the West Tennessee native enrolled in 2009. Having won several FOCUS awards and a Silver ADDY award for his art and photography, Essary has found his niche as a creative designer.

Ironically, it is a niche the multitalented musician, photographer, and designer came to only after a long period of exploration. Having traveled abroad, tried a variety of vocations, and attended two different colleges, Essary initially approached Cumberland as just another venture.

What changed Essary’s opinion was the personal attention he found as a Cumberland student.

“I had gone to a larger college before and didn’t like it, but I liked the feel of Cumberland,” said Essary. “During the entire process when I was applying and registering, everyone was extremely helpful and personable.”

With that personal support, Essary has excelled as an Entertainment Design student. Whether drawing sketches in studio art classes or designing layouts in computer labs, the graphic designer has honed his craft from a variety of different angles with the help of his professors. Even for Essary, who has seen life and art from many viewpoints, the experiences have been eye-opening.

“Probably one of my favorite experiences was doing woodcarving and sculpture, because it’s something I would have never done on my own,” said Essary. “It forced me to think about art and space in a different way, and that transferred over to layout design.”

Essary has used that newfound perspective to design art on and off Cumberland’s campus. In late 2010, the senior art student helped create six murals for the Papa John’s restaurant of Cumberland’s Mitchell Student Center, and that same year, Essary began working as a graphic design manager for the university. Throughout his experience as an undergraduate, Essary has also played guitar, banjo, and mandolin as part of the band Sleepy Eyed Fox.

Those successes have encouraged the energetic art student to look forward to a career of creativity. Now planning to become a professional graphic designer, Essary hopes to see his work in print and online. Eventually, he hopes to share his knowledge with others as an art professor.

It is work aptly suited to Essary, who has seen his aspirations transformed not only by his own efforts, but also by those of his professors.

“Cumberland University has had a major impact on my life,” said Essary. “Before I came here, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Now I know, and four years later, I feel like I’ll have a good foundation for graphic design.”

Having found his own place, Essary may one day help other students find theirs, but not before he has shared his passion for practical beauty with the world as a graphic designer.