Jon Styer '07, our creative director and brand manager, in front of a "Lead Together" vinyl wrap advertisement he designed for Harrisonburg Transit buses. We really wanted a couple of video billboards on I-81 with flashing graphics, also something Jon would design (let us know if you can hook us up). Basically the point of this caption is to say that with Jon as our designer AND an unlimited advertising budget, we're fairly certain EMU could really, truly change the world. (Photo by Macson McGuigan, another cool guy but not featured in this staff spotlight)

Staff Spotlight #8: Jon Styer, brand guru

Want to know who is responsible for the beautiful new mountainscape graphics accompanying the university’s new tagline?

That would be our talented creative director and brand manager Jon Styer ‘07. In the marketing and communication office, Jon is jokingly referred to our brand czar, but he really doesn’t give off authoritarian vibes. A better descriptor is brand guru. Jon teaches, guides and firmly nudges (with handslaps, if necessary) us all in the proper use of the brand.

Just take a look at the EMU brand guide, in all its detail, and you will get a good idea of the things that matter to Jon (and his broad expertise).

Jon is also responsible for all printed materials, any official EMU t-shirts, the design on the Yoder Arena floor, the graphic on the water tower up on the hill and of course, the rolling advertisements on the Harrisonburg Public Transit busses cruising around town, among other things of EMU-y importance.

Here’s a pictorial overview of some of Jon’s EMU creations:

Things Jon Has Designed : 1. “Lead Together” Banners
Things Jon Has Designed 2. Cool Campus Signs Featuring Our New Tagline
Things Jon Has Designed 3. All Printed Materials
Things Jon Has Designed 4. Water Tower Logo
Things Jon Has Designed 5. Yoder Arena Floor
Things Jon Has Designed 6. Selfie Wall
TJHD 7. Any official EMU T-shirt (this is actually Jon’s mom, Grace Witmer Styer ’79, member of the EMU Alumni Council, making sure everyone is appropriately dressed with one of her son’s t-shirts during Homecoming).
TJHD 8. Various Other EMU Brand-Related Things (VOEMUBRT); et cetera et cetera, you get the picture…

A favorite running joke in our office is dreaming up new items for Jon to design (don’t you think enough people will want to buy a Royals-branded dog jacket or Herm costume for the baby?). [Wild ideas for Jon’s next design project are welcome to]

This is Jon watching the final construction of the water tower on the hill. It’s also Jon striking a pose that says, “What’s next, EMU? Bring it on.” Send your ideas for what Jon should design next to

Because of Jon’s influential involvement in our EMU brand refresh, we thought now was a good time to get to know him a little better with a Staff Spotlight. 

Jon is married to Rhoda Miller ‘03, whom he describes as “a talented artist and designer who also does incredibly important work at the Collins Center.” Rhoda is completing her MA in restorative justice at EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and has contributed to a new Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) curriculum for sexual harm.

The couple have a (“very well-designed, I think”) 5-month-old son and also enjoy the proximity of Jon’s sister, Amanda Styer MA ‘18, who has a counseling practice in Harrisonburg. He has many other EMU connections, some of which he shares below.

Origins And A Best Friend

I was born in Sellersville, Pa., where my father Alan Styer is from. I lived there until I was about 3. Then we moved to Greenford, Ohio, where my mother Grace Witmer Styer ‘79 and her family are from. [Grace is a current member of the Alumni Council and eight of her siblings attended EMU.]

I was mostly known as “Little Styer” growing up. My older brother, Matthew, had a big personality and had that way of being effortlessly cool. He always knew the best new bands to listen to; wore cool and unique clothes; and had a charming personality that made everyone want to be his friend. Matt was a talented artist, designer, photographer, athlete, a great cook and world traveler. He was a trendsetter, always searching for the next great thing or idea. I’m sure many people with older brothers can relate, but the unique commonality between us was that we also liked pretty much all the same things. This was probably because of his huge influence on me but also my desire to be good at everything I did. This resulted in a lot of fighting when we were younger. 

But from the end of high school onwards, he was my best friend and collaborator. He was the person who had the great ideas that he never finished and I was good at making them happen down to the finest detail. 

Matthew Alan Styer, a 2005 EMU graduate and staff member, died from leukemia at the age of 30. Life without Matt is a whole other story but looking back I think fondly on the days of being called “Little Styer.”

The Designer

Growing up, I spent a lot of my time drawing, painting, and generally making things with my hands. I was always drawn to and fascinated by art, design and architecture. I loved spending time perfecting and experimenting with different types of media (for example, I would practice by trying to paint exact replicas of my favorite National Geographic photos). 

I was heavily influenced and encouraged by my father, a master woodworker. I spent a lot of time playing and working in his woodshop from the time I could hold a piece of sandpaper through a few college summers. If I am an expert at anything, it is sanding wood because I did so much of it growing up. We built all kinds of things together from wooden swords to electric guitars. Now we mostly build kitchens together. (Well, I help design them and he builds them.)

That woodworking experience contributed to a similar set of practical skills that I use now in graphic design: problem-solving, precision, the ability to visualize how things work and go together, a concern for practicality. Design should not only make things look good but also be easier to use and serve a purpose.

Arriving At EMU

A fortunate part about having an older sibling is that you can learn from their mistakes and wisdom. Matt and I were both hesitantly interested in pursuing athletic scholarships in a sport that we didn’t really like that much: We went to a small public high school that didn’t have a soccer team at the time so we became placekickers on the football team.

After going to college for a little over a year to be a field goal kicker, Matt decided to transfer to EMU. Eventually I followed, and it was here that our worlds were both opened up to the amazing world of digital media though Jerry Holsopple, Cindy Gusler, Barb Fast and eventually Steven Johnson and many other fine folks in the VACA department. 

I originally thought I would become an art teacher or professor, but that a business minor would come in handy. My mother runs many businesses (read more about her in the 2008 Crossroads, page 7) and I always thought that combining my creative interests with some good business sense would be useful. 

I eventually decided that a profession requiring daily public speaking, even if to a classroom full of children, isn’t a good fit for an introvert. I also learned through my time at EMU, taking every drawing, painting, graphic design and photography course offered,  that I still wanted to make things. The field of graphic design offered much to explore and required an interesting combination of the skills I already had.

I may have been one of the first graphic design interns for EMU’s marketing department and then continued to do part time work for EMU until graduation in 2007. (I applied for the internship before going on crosscultural to France and Benin and by the time I get back my brother had been hired in the department. It was interesting how things worked out but fortunate that we work well together. I was also fortunate to get to work under three talented designers: Kirsten Moore, Mike Eberly and my brother.)

After graduation, I developed a good freelance business in the area. The design and photography position opened up at EMU a year later. After 11 years, I still really enjoy my work and the amazing team of creative people I work with every day. 

This is the amazing team Jon references.

Life Outside of EMU (wait, is that possible?)

 I continue to love making things. My biggest creation would be designing and building a house with my wife in Keezletown. Food is definitely my biggest and not-so-secret hobby that I have thought about turning into a profession many times, but I am afraid I wouldn’t like it anymore if I did it for a job. So I enjoy spoiling my friends and family. 

I volunteer and provide freelance design, photography and consulting work for organizations that help improve our community, including The Northend Greenway, Our Community Place, Gift and Thrift, The Harrisonburg International Festival, The Fairfield Center, The Citizen, The Collins Center and Redwing Roots Music Festival.

Two Truths and a Lie

  • I have never had a speeding ticket.
  • My favorite sport is football.
  • I have been in several bands. 

Discussion on “Staff Spotlight #8: Jon Styer, brand guru

  1. Thanks for featuring Jon in this series! In addition to all the talents captured here, it should also be noted that he has a great ability to listen to a client, hear what they want to accomplish, and diplomatically steer them toward solutions that will be within brand standards and serve their purposes well. (He does this with such finesse that they don’t realize he sometimes is steering them clear of an idea that is a branding “no-no”). Thank you, Jon, for sharing your creative genius so generously! I learned so much from working together for 10 years.

  2. Great article Jon! I learned so much about you and appreciate your role, even more, keeping our branding on point! Thank you for all you do for EMU!

  3. We love “Lead Together” in the aviation program at Lancaster. It really fits with the leadership qualities we are endeavoring to foster in our aspiring aviators. Good work!

  4. I was blessed in being able to work alongside Jon for about 8 years as EMU’s editor-in-chief. This article does a fabulous job of capturing the range and depth of his talents as a designer. During my time at EMU, ending in 2015, he was also our lead photographer. As such, he and I traveled widely to document alumni stories in far-flung states. To this published list of talents, I’d like to add his patience in having a large goldendoodle dog in our back seat (I traveled with my beloved dog whenever possible), leaning over his shoulder and periodically whining for a rest stop. Plus, the phenomenal multi-course, celebratory, gourmet meal he orchestrated for me and my husband (with some help from a few of his friends) when my first-born brought her fiance from the West Coast to meet the rest of the family for the first time. Jon is one of the most amazing people I’ve known. He’s humble too. [I’d like to add that his older brother Matt was also talented — he was the first designer I worked with at EMU — I will always remember him in my heart.]

  5. Another space at EMU that illustrates Jon’s designer’s touch and aesthetically attuned eye, is the newly renovated Suter Science Center #106 Lecture Hall. Jon was instrumental in selecting a fabric for the chairs that blended with the building’s color palette and assisted in creating the desired ambiance. The original front wall design was also heavily tweaked by Jon to yield the attractive natural wood wall that now features an EMU logo and strategically placed oak and maple panels. Thanks Jon, for your imaginative, creative touch to this space. It would not be what it is without your gifted ability to synthesize various design elements into an aesthetically pleasing product.

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