Senior SIP Series: Zach Plating and Aften Whitmore

Senior English major Zach Plating is an aficionado of the graphic novel, and particularly appreciates  the medium’s ability to relay difficult themes through both visual and literary art.  For his SIP, the English major is analyzing how personal growth and identity are portrayed in “autographies,” or autobiographical graphic novels.

“The ability of the author to appear in the autography as both narrator and character, and to depict emotion through both words and images results in greater complexity than in a traditional autobiography,” states Plating.

He says, “Reading a good graphic novel elicits a response of awe and curiosity.” Initially, Plating wanted to pinpoint exactly what qualities are essential to convey these emotions to the reader, but as English majors are encouraged to research topics underrepresented by literary critics, Plating carved out a niche via the autography and crisis comic genre instead.

The graphic novels Plating plans to discuss, Persepolis and Fun Home, narrate the struggle of adolescent, female protagonists to stake out their identity and stabilize themselves in chaotic environments at home and in the streets.  Persepolis depicts the conflicting forces author Marjane Satrapi faced as a teenager during the Iranian revolution with  clashing, black-and-white images of burkas and punk rock sweatshirts.  Fun Home recounts author Alison Bechdel’s  reconciliation with her homosexual tendencies and her  abusive, bisexual father.  Plating explains  that these autographies are not merely diverting reads, but “tell stories of the struggle to find an artistic practice sufficient for both telling and drawing complex stories of marginalization, tramatic loss, and remembering.”

Plating is currently debating if he wants to add well-known graphic novel American-born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang to his reading list as the novel focuses on establishing one’s identity within their heritage and race.


It is not often one stumbles upon the opportunity be the alternative covergirl for a magazine.  By exploring the power that visual graphics hold in media sales, IDS major Aften Whitmore is recreating popular teen magazines with cover-photos and color schemes that clash with current media standards.

“I want to look not only at why the models themselves are attractive to a particular audience,” she says, “but why the graphic design in and of itself is appealing.”   

During her time at Covenant, Whitmore has studied in the fields of Art, History, and Sociology, and has decided to integrate her experience in Art and Sociology for her SIP.  Whitmore says, “I am looking specifically at graphic design and adolescence…and plan on integrating the sociological aspect by studying the demographic of the audiences.”

IDS majors must first select either a research or project track for their SIP.  Whitmore says she chose the project track because of her experience with graphic design and the fact that, “I can’t write thirty pages without crying.”

By researching the readership statistics of typical teen publications including, “Teen Vogue, Cosmo, and Seventeen,” Whitmore says she will acquire “a better understanding of why a girl of a certain group, race, or age might purchase something like this.” She will then experiment with visual factors such as “lettering, colors, fonts, and placement” on mock-magazine covers that are visually similar to popular publications but “slightly off from the covers I’d be viewing.” Control visuals will help Whitmore pinpoint why the variable is less appealing to typical readers of the magazine than the usual design.  For one of the variables, she will model for her covers “as a contrast to the models you see on teen magazines.”

“I’m really excited about how this project turns out,” Whitmore says, jokingly adding, “Maybe this can be my big break!”