Hayley Stout has taken art classes for as long as she can remember. When she began looking at colleges to attend, her high school art teacher handed her a list of art-related disciplines that could connect to her love for creativity. She was intrigued by industrial design and its combination of art and functionality.

“I applied to all of the best industrial design programs I could find,” said Stout. “Virginia Tech was on this list, and as soon as I visited campus and my department, I knew this was where I wanted to be.”

Alongside her faculty mentors in the School of Architecture + Design industrial design program at Virginia Tech, she learned the importance of research, creative design and testing in the design process. She then applied those lessons to real-world experiences as a student employee on campus.

During her sophomore year, she landed a graphic design role on the Virginia Tech Engineers’ Forum magazine and eventually became the magazine’s webmaster. Then in spring 2021, Stout joined the University Libraries’ strategic communications team as a graphic design assistant.

“When the graphic design assistant position opened up at the University Libraries, I knew I wanted that position right away as this would be an opportunity to learn and grow as a designer,” said Stout. “I also liked the idea of supporting the school in some way and experiencing what it is like to design for an institution.”

Trevor Finney, University Libraries creative services coordinator and Stout’s supervisor, said he was impressed with her extraordinary professionalism, eagerness, and diligence. After training students on the library’s strategic communications team’s goals, tools, and styles, Finney expects student employees to work independently on assignments.

“She makes it easy to trust that not only will the work get done, but she’ll push some of her own boundaries, explore new ideas, and have a good time too,” said Finney.

In fall 2021 while working in the University Libraries, Stout signed up to convert her position to a paid internship as a part of the Campus internEXP program. This program makes experiential learning more deliberate with documented learning goals and outcomes. 

“This pilot program offered a fabulous opportunity for both of us to strategically and collaboratively approach the experience-based learning that can be so valuable in a job,” said Finney. “Working on the family of skills that make up brainstorming was a goal she set for herself in the fall 2021 semester as part of the program.”

She worked on those skills by designing pages in the University Libraries IMAGINE Magazine. Finney challenged Stout to go back to basics in the ideation process for her designs.

“I think her biggest leap forward came while working on a spread in the fall 2021 magazine. She was working on a story about architect Leonard Currie and had several digital concepts that were variations on a theme,” said Finney. “I really pushed her to do something totally different and see where it took her. In the end, she got rid of the computer all together — no design programs, just paper, pencil, a pair of scissors, and props from around the office. I think it was a unique challenge, but she ended up designing one of the most engaging spreads I’ve seen.

“She also used the no-computer approach in her ideation work for the spring 2022 edition and really wowed us,” said Finney. “Several of the layouts and concepts she pitched influenced the magazine.”

Hayley Stout. Photo by Chase Parker for Virginia Tech.

A young woman smiling at the camera, sitting at a desk surrounded by sketches and design mockups.

Stout said the design spreads for IMAGINE Magazine were her favorite projects. 

“In addition to helping design existing spreads, I was given opportunities to create designs of my own,” said Stout. “These were great occasions for me to implement many different design styles and become more confident in who I am as a designer.”

As Stout gets ready to graduate, she looks back on all of her experiences at Virginia Tech and people who helped her along the way.  “As a whole, my best memories that I will have of Virginia Tech would be the times I spent with the people I got to know while I was here,” said Stout, “my close friends, my studio classmates, and my coworkers at the University Libraries.” 

She is looking forward to a professional design career, beginning at her alma mater. Upon graduation, she will serve as a user interface and user experience designer (UI/UX) and visual designer to help create improved systems for the university’s senior management areas including the offices of the President, Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer, and Executive Vice President and Provost.

“In our industrial design program, we are trained to follow a design methodology outlining the necessary steps for research, design, and testing,” said Stout. “I also had the exciting opportunity to be on the design team for the University Libraries at Virginia Tech, where the goal is to design creative, compelling ideas and visuals that compliment the brand guidelines. The combined rigors and discipline of the industrial design program with the creative work at the University Libraries prepared me for the dynamic field of UI/UX.”