Viera grad wins ADDY for commissioned graphic

Tessa Abel won an ADDY from the Space Coast Chapter of the American Advertising Federation.


Tessa Abel knew she had won “something big.” She just didn’t know what.

When she found out, the recent Viera High School graduate couldn’t help but break into a big smile … and then her happy dance.

The 18-year-old had just found out she won an ADDY from the Space Coast Chapter of the American Advertising Federation in the “Out-of-Home Installation” category for a window graphic depicting several members of The Viera Company on a Zoom call with Santa and friends.

“It felt like a dream,” Abel wrote in an email.

That wasn’t the only big news of the night, either. Viera High teacher Steven Hicks also won an ADDY for his photo of Captain Hiram’s Resort from the water after a summer storm.

Hicks, who teaches students Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver and Animate in the CTE program at Viera, wrote that while he was proud to win an ADDY of his own, the fact that one of his students won was an even bigger source of pride.

Abel always liked to draw as a child. But as a member of Viera High’s Academy of Communication, Art + Design, she was able to develop the graphic design skills necessary to complete her commissioned project for The Viera Company.

Longtime friend Olivia Byrd, daughter of The Viera Company marketing manager Stephanie Byrd, recommended Abel — who was a Viera High student at the time — be considered for the job, which consisted of turning photos of staff members into vector portraits.

“The challenge of this project wasn’t the creation process itself,” Abel wrote. “This was my first time working for a client instead of a grade. Unlike working off a rubric and an inert set of directions, you have to work and be flexible with the desires and requests of the client when you’re designing for a person.

“I began the project worried that I’d blow it if I didn’t fulfill the client’s expectations right off the bat, but that back-and-forth as you fine-tune to the client’s vision is an important part of the graphic design process. It ended up being my favorite part! The joy I get from seeing an A in the grade book versus being told my work made other people happy is incomparable.”

Completing the project, which ended up being used as a poster in The Viera Company’s window during Christmas time, has given Abel a big boost of confidence.

She’s grateful for the impact Viera’s ACAD has had on her. The early-December graduate plans to study graphic design and East Asian languages in college.

“Not only have I been given a taste of the real-world skills and expectations for a career in graphic design through ACAD classes, but also a community of graphic design fans and teachers to support me,” Abel wrote. “It made me realize that my career dreams are actually within reach.

“I feel like my high school experience would have been much less fruitful without it.”