Student design wins Travis County voting sticker


Daniel Guel

Senior design student Ashwara Pillai won the Travis County “I Voted” sticker design contest. This sticker was used during the 2022 election cycle.

Mimi Calzada, Life & Arts Senior Reporter

Ashwara Pillai landed back in Austin from India feeling jet-lagged and delirious when she received an exciting email — her illustration would decorate Travis County’s 2022 voting stickers.

This year, Travis County held its first “I Voted” sticker design contest open to all college students living in the county. Applicants jumped on the opportunity to submit a design to be printed and distributed at the polls during the 2022 election cycle. Design senior Pillai’s submission — a bluebonnet as a checkmark — took the prize. The county invited Pillai to the County Clerk’s Office and awarded her in front of the judges. One hundred thousand stickers with Pillai’s design were printed and distributed at polling locations during Early Voting and on Election Day.

Pillai said after learning about the contest from her professor Carma Gorman, she didn’t want to pass up the chance to enter despite making her way through finals week at the time, especially since she rarely comes across contests like this. 

“This was such a rare opportunity,” Pillai said. “There’s not a lot of opportunities for graphic designers, in undergrad especially. It was really crazy that (the county) wanted this art-specific thing.”

When deciding how she wanted her sticker design to look, Pillai said her very first idea included a bluebonnet, and that she’s never been so certain about a design choice before. Born and raised in Austin, Pillai said the flower holds a special significance to her as she’s seen the city change and grow throughout her life.

“It can be really sad seeing the gentrification (and) how much the city is growing. Whenever I get nostalgic thinking about my childhood, seeing flowers has always been such a comfort in a growing urban city,” Pillai said. “It (reminds) me that there’s some (continuing) beauty.”

Contest judge and UT alumna Dawn Okoro said the softness of Pillai’s design made it stand out amongst the other submissions. Okoro said she liked how Pillai’s submission represented all of Travis County, not just Austin, and that she gravitated to the simplicity of Pillai’s sticker.

“(Pillai’s design) was a bit softer,” Okoro said. “Her sticker was less rigid than what I’m used to seeing for an ‘I Voted’ sticker, so I’m really excited to see the pretty flower on it.”

Pillai said she’s proudest of winning this contest because it’s allowed her to represent her community.

“This was super important for me as an Indian woman,” Pillai said. “I was able to reach so many people because of this. It was such an important moment for representation, especially for Indian women in graphic design.”

Pillai’s lifelong friend Sreenidhi Tupuri said she felt extremely proud of Pillai and her achievements. Tupuri said Pillai showed enthusiasm for her interests, even when they were young. 

“Growing up, (Pillai) was very passionate about what she wanted to do,” said Tupuri, a UT alumna. “She loves using her art for a greater purpose. I’m very proud that she won this award because she’s using her art (to encourage) people to vote.” 

Pillai said she feels most grateful for the outpouring support and praise from her friends, family and the UT community.

“Over the past couple of months, it’s been insane how supportive my friends and family have been,” Pillai said. “People I haven’t seen since I was young have been DMing me and sending my mom pictures of the sticker. It feels like so much support. You don’t really realize how many people are supporting you until something like this happens. It’s a good reminder, and I’m so grateful for it.”