"Amaizing" Design

Sharanya Durvasula was ready to challenge herself in spring 2011 when she began her graphic design internship in Rutgers Office of Trademark Licensing.

But she was a bit taken aback when a new assignment came in: design a corn maze.

One Big Assignment

Working as a paid intern in Rutgers Office of Trademark Licensing, the then Rutgers–New Brunswick junior enjoyed gaining graphic design experience, creating official Rutgers T-shirts, key rings, and other promotional items for university groups and licensed vendors.

But the scale of her work really expanded when she was given a new assignment: design a nearly six-acre corn maze for nearby Von Thun Farms.

More than a year ago, Rutgers alumna, Cindy Von Thun, and her husband, Bob, approached the university about the possibility of creating a Rutgers football-themed maze in their fields. The university embraced the idea as a fun way to support state farmers and serve the people of New Jersey.

The first maze, created in 2010, was a big hit. For fall 2011, the university wanted a student-designed maze. And sitting in the right office at the right time was Sharanya.

Explore the Maze

Find your way through the Rutgers football corn maze at Von Thun Farms in Monmouth Junction until October 30.

Two Interests

Sharanya, from Princeton Junction, New Jersey, took art classes throughout high school and helped write and do artwork for Sex, etc., a Rutgers-affiliated magazine for teens by teens. Through the magazine work, Sharanya developed an interest in public health and reproductive health and decided she wanted to continue to study the subject in college.

“Rutgers was a great pick for me. Here, I could study public health and health education and still pursue my interest in art. Rutgers has strong programs in both those fields,” she says. “Some people don’t see an overlap in the two subjects, but I think there’s a lot. You use the same critical thinking skills in developing a design as in formulating a public health education campaign.”

Three Icons

Sharanya really had to use those critical thinking skills in designing the maze.

“When I got the assignment, in March, my first thought was, ‘Where do I start? This thing is humongous!’ I did a lot of research online on corn mazes, especially football-themed mazes. In a lot of them, you walk through the figure of a player or a helmet. I wanted ours to do a bit more.”

She took inspiration from crop circles and the hedge maze in The Shining and incorporated a block “R”, a football, and a Scarlet Knight logo in a design of interlocking circles.

Beyond Graduation

Now a double major in public health through the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy and visual arts through the Mason Gross School of the Arts, she is on course to graduate in May.

While the opportunity to create another corn maze might not be in her future, Sharanya does have an idea of her dream job: “I’d love to work at a health-related nonprofit designing communication materials. I think the visual component is pretty important in any health message. ” she says.

Sharanya plans to take her parents to visit the maze this fall. But if you happen to see her in the labyrinth, don’t bother asking her for directions: “Even though I designed it, the first time I visited, I was way off when I tried to figure out where I was in the maze. It’s easy to get lost.”