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Hurricane teen wins Christmas card design contest

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Each year, a Christmas card is sent from Toyota's Buffalo plant to about 1,300 company employees, friends in the business community and elected officials.

This year, that card was designed by 18-year-old Emma Hurley, a senior at Hurricane High School who spends her afternoons taking graphic design classes at Putnam Career and Technical Center.

Hurley won first place in Toyota's annual holiday card design contest. The competition takes students through the process of creating a design for a customer, from inception to final product.

Hurley's design shows a Christmas tree with an ornament hanging on it — but a photo of the globe substitutes for the ornament. The whole world is draped in ribbon that reads "Toyota."

Her idea, Hurley said, was to show that Toyota is a global company. She also wanted to tie some original photography into the project — she took the photo of the tree herself, spending hours on her front porch holding an artificial tree from her parents' attic at different angles.

"I'm really into photography so I wanted to use that," she said. "Plus, I thought pulling in the actual photo would make it look more elegant."  

She became interested in graphic design through her love of photography and hopes to pursue both at West Virginia University in the fall. She plans to put her $500 in prize money toward a new laptop that she can use to practice her graphic design at home.

The competition, a partnership between Toyota and Putnam Career and Technical Center, shows aspiring graphic designers what it's like to work with a real-world client with real-world expectations.

The students tour the Buffalo plant and have conferences with Toyota representatives to get an idea of what their business is about, and what they want in a holiday card. After students submit their first design proposals, they get feedback from Toyota officials before they turn in the final product.

Second-place winner Sara Phelix, for example, made a card with a mechanical reindeer powered by an engine.

She worked with Toyota officials to make sure that the engine she showed resembles an actual Toyota engine (it does, but she went with the four-cylinder model instead of the six-cylinder, because it was easier to make).

And on Hurley's original design, the globe was rotated in a way that didn't show North America. The judges suggested that she shift the perspective, to illustrate that Toyota has a local slant, too. In the end product, the globe shows North America, and a red star marks West Virginia.

"I'm really glad they did that," she said. "It's something I never even thought of, and it makes it better."

That's part of what the contest is meant to promote, said Sandy Maynard, the Toyota spokeswoman who worked most closely with the kids through the process.

"We want it to be a back-and-forth relationship," she said. "So it's just like they're in the design business."

Contact writer Shay Maunz at or 304-348-4886.


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