Courtesy of Alara Degirmenci

For Alara Degirmenci ’22, graphic design has become a way of life.

Coming to Yale from her home in Istanbul, Turkey, Degirmenci thought she wanted to pursue a major in computer science. But when she took a class called “Introduction to Graphic Design” with professor Henk van Assen, she discovered a passion for hands-on work and decided to “shift gears.” Degirmenci’s creative experiences inspired her to instead major in computing and the arts, with a concentration in graphic design.

“I really find value in developing a personality or character for [designs] that speak to an organization’s values and ideals,” Degirmenci said. “It’s so much fun to come up with something from scratch that is creative and useful.”

Degirmenci has since worked with student groups on campus and companies — including CuraLife and the Yale School of Art — to design their branding, logos and posters. She recently worked with the Yale Student Environmental Coalition to redesign their logo. Upon identifying issues such as a lack of cross-platform flexibility and outdated color scheme, Degirmenci used the group’s core values, of community, inclusivity and well-being, to generate new designs.

Alara Degirmenci’s self-portrait illustrations, displayed on the Yale School of Art website (Courtesy of Alara Degirmenci)

Degirmenci noted that she tries to create designs that are “dynamic” and “adaptable.” She focuses on ensuring that her designs can be used across platforms and channels, while still remaining meaningful.

According to YSEC President Jamie Chan, the new logos and color palette that Degirmenci presented received positive feedback from both current club members and alumni. She added that Degirmenci’s design was a “much needed” update from YSEC’s original logo from the 1980s. For Chan, working with Degirmenci was “wonderful.”

“Alara was so thoughtful and professional throughout the rebranding process,” Chan said. “She was able to grasp what we were looking for, even when we couldn’t verbalize or visualize it. [The logo] is a representation of the modernity, creativity and progress that YSEC hopes to uphold in the years to come.”

Alongside working with professional clients, she recently developed a sustainable and customized denim apparel line called “Almeera Denim.” She takes inspiration from pieces like Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and Piet Mondrian’s abstract art to create unique hand-painted designs on denim wear. 

Hand-painted denim from Almeera Denim (Courtesy of Alara Degirmenci)

Degirmenci initially launched the brand on Instagram as an “art project on old clothes.” But overwhelming positive feedback since prompted her to expand by uploading the pieces to her website portfolio. Now, she curates an online store that includes an option for custom-painted denims based on photographs submitted by clients around the world. She has already sold $3,000 worth of products on the website.

On campus, Degirmenci is involved in Yale’s User Experience Society, an undergraduate design consultancy group that launched last fall. She also serves as the editor-in-chief for the Chew Haven food blog. Degirmenci has increased the blog’s online presence and viewership during her editorship. 

Degirmenci’s promising portfolio has earned attention from Yale’s graphic design community. She recently completed a three-month summer internship at her professor’s design studio.

According to van Assen, Degirmenci is “clearly interested” in her work, and always does more than is expected.

“She’s a curious person with a strong work ethic,” van Assen said. “That’s a golden combination in my opinion.”

Isaac Yu | isaac.yu@yale.edu