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Michigan State University

From a Spartan to a Lion

Katie Quinlan graduated from MSU in May of 2022 with a B.A. in advertising and a concentration in art direction. Quinlan was a member of MSU’s softball team. She is currently a graphic design coordinator with the Detroit Lions.

Graduate Katie Quinlan holds up a poster she designed herself at Ford Field

This season has been an extraordinary one for me and the Lions. It’s my first year in the NFL and the Lions are playing for the NFC Championship this weekend. It’s crazy for me to believe that this is my everyday life! It truly is a special year, and one I’ll never forget. This season is an extremely exciting opportunity for the city of Detroit. I’m surrounded by excellent mentors and positive leaders that have fostered a family like culture, where we feel like we are a Detroit Lion and the work we do makes an impact. The Detroit Lions organization embodies true grit, and loyalty to their city and fans.

I got my start with the Lions as a graphic design intern in the 2022 season which led to joining the talented in-house creative team. Our team delivers digital and print assets for social content, in-stadium displays, in-game digital creative and marketing materials to generate ticket revenue, enhance fan experience and increase brand recognition across all departments for Ford Field and the Detroit Lions.

Katie Quinlan standing on green softball field at MSU.

It’s been fulfilling to watch Lions fans engage with social content online or get excited when they are holding one of our gameday poster designs over the edge of the stands, begging for an autograph from one of their favorite Lions players. It’s very rewarding to see fans enjoy the designs we create.

My Spartan journey began with my love of softball. My softball passion as a kid turned into my college path when I committed to playing softball for Michigan State. My dream came true my freshman year when I stepped onto the dirt of Secchia Stadium. The remaining for years were some of the greatest days and best memories of my life, playing for the Green and White.

Playing softball at Michigan State taught me countless lifelong lessons and gave me numerous opportunities away from the diamond. It’s not every day that you find a student-athlete pursuing an art major. I combined my passions for sports, and my artistic talents to succeed on and off the playing field. During my time as student, I had the opportunity to work as student designer for MSU Athletics. My experience as a student designer pushed my creative ability and confidence in the sports design industry.

During my final fall semester at Michigan State, I enrolled in Professor Ross Chowles’ portfolio class. Chowles has spent 36 years in advertising and is a well-awarded professor of practice. He was very inspirational in helping me with the creative direction of building a solid portfolio of work. The impact that this course had on my career made me a more aware candidate for the industry I pursued.

Katie Quinlan taking photos while on the field in Lions sweatshirt.
Katie Quinlan taking photos while on the field. Courtesy photo.
Katie's design for a blue, limited-edition custom Detroit Lions vinyl record.
A limited-edition custom vinyl record. Image courtesy Katie Quinlan

One of my proudest moments at MSU was being able to design my own senior softball poster. Prior to that year, it was a tradition for the softball team to have a poster made for each senior on their respective senior celebration day. During my senior year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we weren’t going to have any posters made for the year, so I took the initiative to design the posters, so each of my teammates and I had something memorable for our senior day(s). I was grateful to be able to create my own senior poster and reflect on my time and experiences as an athlete at MSU.

At the Lions, one of my favorite projects was designing a limited-edition custom vinyl record. The vinyl artwork was a completely custom design as it captured the essence of Motown and Detroit, past and present, which led into our 90th season celebration theme for the year. The vinyl itself plays the historic Detroit Lions fight song, “Gridiron Heroes.” This project came as a full circle moment to me, as I initially got into graphic design from an interest in wanting to design music album covers. Combing my passion for graphic design and blending it with the world of sports and music is one of my most remarkable accomplishments personally. It was a fulfilling experience watching it come to life from the initial concept stages, to witnessing our influencers’ reactions during their own unboxing.

Close up of Lions quarterback Jared Goff in uniform and sunglasses

One of the most fun experiences to happen so far was during a media day. I was tasked with taking photos and capturing behind-the-scenes shots of our studio sets, players and the overall scene for the day. I was fortunate enough to capture one of the most iconic photos of Lions player, Jared Goff.

We were in the main studio and a couple of Lions players (Kerby Joseph and Tracy Walker) had sneaked into Goff’s set time to play a fun prank. They had put all their jewelry on Jared. As I realized what was happening, I kept snapping photos, and it was moment of pure joy as everyone in the studio was laughing at the candid interaction between players. The significance of the moment wasn’t real to me until the next day when the photo, I had taken, had blown up on the internet and had gone viral. The iconic photo of Jared Goff has created a mass movement for the city of Detroit and Lions fans all around the country who have rallied behind Jared Goff and the Lions. It is a testament to the power of our visual storytelling and the connection our fans feel with the players.

Originally published by MSU Today

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