Generational talent: Jax State MFA student, Conner Gayda, receives prestigious recognitions in graphic design


By Brett Buckner

Talent, much like the inspiration that guides it, doesn’t always have a source. Some are simply born with the desire, a need to create. But drive alone doesn’t guarantee success, nor does it provide the right platform so that gift can reach others. For that, it takes a community. Or, in the case of Jax State student, Conner Gayda, it takes a college.

Conner GaydaGayda, 25, who will graduate in May with a MFA in Visual Communication Design, has received a pair of honors for his work in graphic design. Gayda was selected as one of 15 students from around the world for the 2024 Communication Arts Student Showcase and will have six pieces included in the international juried publication, Graphis. “They’re both prestigious publications that honor the best in design, illustration, typography, photography, all that sort of stuff,” said Gayda, a native of Tyrone, Ga. “It’s a huge honor to be included.”

Gayda was quick to share credit with the faculty within the College of Arts and Humanities. “I can say with confidence that our design faculty is as good – if not better - than anywhere in the country,” he said. “We have such an incredibly strong design faculty. They’re absolutely amazing. And they’ve all been super supportive. Any success, I've accomplished here, they’re a huge part of, so, I can’t thank them enough,” added Gayda.

ACLU Poster depicting the American Flag, with each stripe ending in an upturned face. Poster by Conner GaydaCommunication Arts is a long-standing publication that is extremely respected in the field, said Chad Anderson, professor of graphic design. “It is notably difficult, as a professional designer or agency - or as a design academic - to have work accepted in the publication and their competitions,” he said. “This is not solely an academic achievement. Taking that alone into consideration makes this award beyond impressive but add to that the level of global competitiveness this award holds … narrowed down to 15 selected, such an achievement is absolutely off the charts.”

Gayda’s achievements not only bring attention to the MFA program but also elevate the reputation of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Sciences, showcasing its commitment to student success and cultivating artistic excellence, said Seth Johnson, Distinguished Professor of Graphic Design. “[Gayda] is a generational talent, and his professors recognized that early in his graduate career,” he said. “His selection for the Communication Arts Student Showcase and inclusion in Graphis is a fitting recognition that adds to his many accomplishments over the last three years. He is definitely the most decorated MFA candidate to attend Jax State, and recognition should be given to his exceptional graphic design professors for nurturing his talent.” 

Gayda’s interest in graphic design was born out of a “fascination” with music. In his junior year of high school, he took a photoshop class as an elective. It was there that Gayda “connected the dots,” realizing that it was often graphic designers who created so many of the album covers he loved, especially those from Blue Note Records. “Right then,” he said, “I knew that’s what I wanted to do, that same type of art.”

An advertisement by Conner Gayda, depicting a food brochure which uses grains and spices to create the design and typography.

After graduation, Gayda will move to Birmingham, where he’s accepted a job with the Tatum Design studio. “It’s all coming to head now,” he said. “All the hard work is paying off. I owe all of it and so much more to my professors.”


View Gayda's Work on the Web:

Presentation: Typography, Baseball, and the Fight for Civil Rights
2023 Jacksonville State University Student Symposium