Meet CCAD’s Class of 2023 Valedictorian
Each year, Columbus College of Art & Design identifies the person with the highest grade point average throughout their college career and selects them as valedictorian of their graduating class. This year, Collin Williams earned that distinction—and also was selected as Outstanding Senior in the Advertising & Graphic Design program.
Williams is a graphic designer who specializes in illustration, hand-lettering, creative writing, and “handmade magic.” Originally from the Dayton, Ohio, suburb of Vandalia, Williams’ early design work came as a volunteer creating the Vandalia-Butler High School drama club’s playbills and posters. He went on to attend the Miami Valley Career Technology Center’s Graphic Commercial Art program for his final two years of high school before enrolling at CCAD at the encouragement of one of his instructors, Lisa Hetzer (Advertising & Graphic Design, 1979), herself an alum of the college.
Williams says his mother has always championed her childrens’ pursuits, including his decision to attend an art and design college. For him, CCAD and Columbus “felt like a good stepping stone to ‘real life,’” Williams says. “ It’s only an hour or so away from where I grew up, and my eldest brother had already lived out here for a few years.”
That brother, Cody; Cody’s wife, Erica; and more recently, their son, Benji, “have really kept me afloat out here in Columbus,” Williams says. “I moved in with them when COVID-19 hit and Cody pretty much always comes to my rescue when my car breaks down, when it’s time to do taxes, or whenever I’m not quite sure how to ‘adult’ something. I’m incredibly thankful for them.”
Williams began his creative practice in earnest in 2019, creating art and stationery and “happy little goodies” to sell online and at local markets. He also spent a year on staff at the locally renowned letterpress printing and bookbinding studio, Igloo Letterpress, solidifying his affinity for handmade charm. Williams took on more than 20 local art markets in 2022, setting up sprawling booths and working closely with local showrunners to decorate their venues. He’s also been recognized for his creative accomplishments by the Columbus Society of Communicating Arts—winning three awards of merit in student illustration, campaign, and print design, as well as “best of category” in student branding at the CSCA’s 2022 Creative Best Awards.
In his sophomore year at CCAD, Williams was part of a team of AdGraph students that partnered with peers in the Industrial Design program to pitch a project to Honda/99P Labs. “But,” he says, “my favorite project is definitely my last one, my senior capstone project. I hosted an event, “Collin’s Dreamboree,” during Franklinton Friday on April 14. This was a massive undertaking that essentially was like if a craft market, state fair, and creative workshop had a baby—with a main goal of teaching folks how they can go home and start making creative magic with their own two hands.” (Photos in this post feature provide a sampling of Collin’s Dreamboree.)
Williams says since starting at CCAD, he’s become “kind of fearless” in his creative practice. “Part of that, maybe, is just the naïvety of being young, but after doing so much work, nothing feels impossible. I’ve really settled into ‘my thing,’ and it feels so delightful ,” he says.
“There are a lot of fantastic students and professors here (at CCAD) that deserve the world and I’m thankful to have had this space to work alongside them,” he says. “... So many people have helped me get to the point that I’m at now. Thank you, Allison Chapman, Rachel Dangerfield, Regan Detwiler, Natasha Wheeler, Lisa Hetzer, Jack Spitler, Cody Price, Erica Price, Lianne Pflug, Mom, Matthew Mohr, Jim Lutz, Mark Burleigh, David Bennett, David Schirtzinger, Brandon Ballog, Melissa Jackson, Brice Bunner, Ann Shifflet, Maggie DiVito, Dr. Lesley Jenike, Chelsey Hill, Carrie Schaefer, and all of the wonderful people that have supported me over the years. Thank you for believing in me and my goofy little dreams.”
Not content to rest on his laurels, Williams says that post-graduation, he’ll be freelancing (and is available for projects via his website, collinwill.com), wholesaling his stationery products, and selling his wares at local craft markets. See what he’s up to on Instagram at @cloudhymns.
“And please, let the tiny little things linger and hold them close,” Williams says. “Life is random and imprecise and captivating and so incredibly small and worth savoring—every last drop.”
CCAD celebrates its 144th Commencement on Saturday, May 13. Visit ccad.edu/commencement for more.