UMSL alumnus Nermin Zimic

Nermin Zimic poses with his senior thesis project, which won the Judges Choice Award from AIGA Saint Louis. Zimic graduated in May and has started working at Falk Harrison as an assistant art director. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Bright designs for restaurant menus, concerts and other events filled this spring’s AIGA Saint Louis show in the gallery at the Center of Creative Arts in University City, Mo.

But in one corner, a more serious project captured viewers’ attention and won the top prize. Nermin Zimic, then a senior at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, designed several items to spread awareness about genocide.

Zimic graduated from UMSL in May with a bachelor’s degree in studio art with an emphasis in graphic design. AIGA Saint Louis, an organization for design professionals gave his work the Judges Choice Award for the best overall work out of submissions by professionals and students. Zimic was confident with his chances in the student competition, but was surprised by his overall win.

“I didn’t expect to win the Judges Choice Award,” Zimic said. “There was a lot of really, really good work. It was a good thing that I got to compete against both students and professionals.”

Charlie Nowell, also a recent UMSL graduate, won the award for best student work, and Marquis Love won the people’s choice award for his work.

The winning piece includes informational posters and T-shirts and buttons with a logo of the word “genocide.” The logo is simple black with white lettering, and the letters “no” in red. The project also contains a booklet that merges elegant design with pertinent information and research on acts of genocide throughout history. He includes a section on his family’s experience during the Bosnian Civil War.

The subject challenged Zimic. He had to make the piece interesting and compelling without being too graphic, especially when selecting images. He selected images that focused on the subjects’ emotions, rather than depicting actual violence.

“It was hard and I was debating whether I could actually do this whole thing,” Zimic said. “But, I wanted to write my own story.”

Zimic is a graduate of Bayless High School and studied at St. Louis Community College at Meramec before UMSL. While at UMSL, Associate Professor of Graphic Design Gretchen Schisla was one of his favorite instructors.

“Nermin possesses all the qualities a teacher hopes to find in a student,” Schisla said. “I have tremendous respect for the work he did on genocide, a thesis topic that had personal meaning for him.”

Zimic was a toddler when the civil war broke out in his native country of Bosnia. At the time his family lived just a few miles from the eastern Bosnia town of Srebenica, where thousands of men and boys were killed during an act of genocide in July 1995.

His father was in the army and his mother was getting treatment for an illness in Sarajevo, several hours away. Zimic and his sisters were being cared for by their grandparents, and they escaped harm by fleeing through nearby forests to a safe zone in the town of Zenica. The family reunited when the war ended, and Zimic came to St. Louis in 2001, at the age of 10.

Even though Zimic and his immediate family escaped serious harm, many of his friends lost fathers, uncles, brothers and other family members. It’s this experience that led Zimic to develop his submission for the show.

Zimic has already started working as an assistant art director at Falk Harrison, a brand communication agency based in St. Louis. So far, he’s worked on projects including posters and signage for clients including Monsanto, Sigma Aldrich, Focus STL and the St. Louis County Library Foundation. In the long term, Zimic would like to reach the level of creative director.

Even though he’s started working as a professional, Zimic is also interested in using his work to spread awareness of genocide and end the practice. The nonprofit United to End Genocide has arranged for Zimic to work as an intern on their website.

“I am lucky enough to now live in a free country, and would like to help others who are in a similar situation that I was,” Zimic writes in his project. “My goal is to inform others about genocide, how inhumane of an act it is, regardless of race, color or religion. We all need to raise a voice to prevent genocide from happening now and in the future.”

The UMSL Experience

Rachel Webb

Rachel Webb