Student Spotlight: Josh McCarthy ’24

Graphic Design major Josh McCarthy, on his design internships with Eleanor Shonkoff and Laura Kurdziel and how graphic design helped to further their research.
Josh McCarthy '24
Josh McCarthy '24

In the years 2023 and 2024, VPA student and graphic design major Josh McCarthy, held two design internships. The first internship was with Dr. Laura Kurdziel, Associate Professor of Psychology; the second with Dr. Eleanor Shonkoff, Associate Clinical Professor, Nutrition and Public Health. McCarthy talked about his experiences, designs, the research that was being done, the most rewarding parts, and advice he would give to other students. 

Dr. Kurdziel commented that her research focused on “how slow paced breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system and improves emotion regulation.” Dr. Kurdziel needed a graphic that she could edit to accompany her research, as she needed to be able to vary the inhalation/exhalation techniques. During his internship with Dr. Kurdziel, McCarthy created a set of lungs that could breathe in for a certain period of time, hold for a period of time, and exhale for a period of time. He created an added layer of personality by adding a face to help bring the visual cues of breathing to life. 

Breathing graphic featuring lungs, designed by Josh McCarthy
Breathing graphic featuring lungs, designed by Josh McCarthy

Dr. Shonkoff’s research focused particularly on Hispanic families who are struggling with food insecurity and/or childhood obesity. Shonkoff reports the goal is to “help develop healthy meal habits, decrease mealtime stress and help parents support child development of self-regulation skills and their own feelings of satiety.” For her project, McCarthy was tasked with creating a checklist, or a visual hunger scale, with faces that ranged from “no pain” to “the worst pain ever.” 

Through these professional experiences, McCarthy talked about what he felt were his biggest accomplishments after completing his internships. He found the internships to be an accomplishment in itself as he always enjoyed helping people. “I found that it expands my graphic design capabilities to be useful and help with more projects.” McCarthy completed his internships with ease—based on his knowledge and skills learned in his graphic design program—and was happy to be doing such great internships. 

McCarthy found the most rewarding part about his internships to be when he saw everything come together. He credited the process as being an interesting and vital part of the creative process, especially seeing the draft evolve into a great visual design that could be completely different by the end. “I will say though it’s very rewarding seeing people pleased with my work and I always want to make my clients happy.”

One piece of advice McCarthy has for others looking for internships would be “to find an internship that might be a bit out of your comfort zone, because it can expand your knowledge to work on different projects. You may think you are only capable of doing one type of project when you are capable of so much more.”

McCarthy’s love of helping others and dedication to making his clients happy helped him create two beautiful design projects helping to further important research. He found his internships to be rewarding and a great start in getting the feeling of managing projects and getting to know clients and their needs.

Hunger Scale designed by Josh McCarthy
Hunger Scale designed by Josh McCarthy

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