This beautiful, photogenic girl is Taylor O'Dell, one of my friends from school. She is one of the sweetest people I know. I have learned a lot about her story throughout the past year, and the following blog post narrates, as I wrote for a feature story this past semester, just one portion of her story. Taylor has emerged on campus, designing for several popular campus events and groups. This is what led me to write a feature story on her for one of my journalism classes. Little did I know there is much more to her story than I captured in the following feature story.
Of course, to repay her for helping me write this story for my class, we scheduled a photoshoot, the results of which can be seen following the story.
Taylor O’Dell grew up in Hughes Springs, Texas. In high school she participated in cheerleading and yearbook, which both allowed her to utilize her hobby of design.
Brittany Thomasson, O’Dell’s high school cheer sponsor and teacher, offered her the task O’Dell now remembers as the turning point that lead her to pursue a career in graphic design – designing the football program.
“Taylor's talent has always been outstanding,” Thomasson said. “In high school, we had her trapped in a world of [Microsoft] Word. She used to spend hours trying to get the paint splotches perfect on the football program.”
After graduation, O’Dell enrolled at Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas, to stay close to home and receive her associate degree in graphic design. She began to learn to use programs like Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign. After being recognized by teachers and winning an annual t-shirt designing competition, O’Dell said she realized this was her calling.
“She began to see design as her special God given talent and passion, rather than just a hobby to be used by others,” said Thomasson, who was now O’Dell’s boss at a joint coffee shop and teacher supply store called Apples for Teachers where O’Dell did all the design and advertising work.
O’Dell aspired to grow her work through word of mouth in a way that let people see her work without pushing it onto others. She chose to create an Instagram account named simply by her initials - TNO Designs.
At the end of her six-month internship at an oil company in Louisiana where she served as the graphic design and marketing assistant, the company offered her a job, but she wanted to return home.
O’Dell worked for a year but she said felt something was missing from her college experience. She found an avenue to take her graphic design skills to a new level through advertising, and is now a junior advertising major at Harding University.
Upon arriving at Harding, O’Dell began working at Mr. Postman Expresso, a company that serves as a coffee shop and post office for packages, pick-ups and drop-offs. Mr. Postman immediately began utilizing her abilities in redesigning its products including shirts, chalkboards, promotional pieces and coffee sleeves. O’Dell had the opportunity to combine her passion for design with her studies in advertising in a promotional campaign using three new coffee sleeves as items for customers to collect.
Student Michalie Brown met O’Dell at a club mixer and referred her work to Andrew Baker in the Mitchell Center, which overseas Uplift, Spring Break Missions, TC Magazine and leadership and ministry majors. The graphic designer they had previously worked with graduated, and the office was in search of someone to take his place, according to Brown.
“I was impressed with not only the quality of her designs but also her creativity and uniqueness,” said Brown who works in the Uplift office. “Taylor has an incredible eye for modern trendy design. As a camp trying to reach teenagers, [that] is what we're looking for.”
Baker was immediately intrigued in O’Dell’s work, according to Brown, and contacted her to design flyers for author Bob Goff’s visit to campus in the fall. Baker then hired O’Dell as the Mitchell Center’s full-time designer. Her work will include the summer’s Uplift camp.
“We have used her for several of our projects and plan on using her until she graduates,” Brown said.
Due to her rapidly spreading reputation around campus, Bisons for Christ also asked O’Dell to design the flyers and t-shirts for this year.
“It has been so awesome to see people walking around campus in my shirt designs,” O’Dell said. “I’ve always designed stuff, maybe for something small, but Harding is such a big campus; it’s been really cool. God has really blessed me.”
O’Dell’s dream job and future career goals include a longing to impact the world in ways similar to companies like Toms, a shoe company who donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes sold.
“I want to travel,” O’Dell said. “I want to be able to design on my little laptop, going wherever I want. My main goal in life is to make the world a happier place. I want God to lead me there, and I want to inspire and impact people’s lives.”
Even after transitioning from a small town in Texas to a small town in Arkansas with a dream to travel the world, O’Dell remains true to those like Thomasson who challenged her to start the journey she is on today.
“I was blessed to be a part of a nudge for Taylor, but most of the time I just get to take a back seat and admire God's work,” Thomasson said. “My favorite part is probably seeing her figure out how she will use her talent to make a loving impact on the world.”