What happens when you merge origami with digital technology and immersive learning? For a Ball State architecture major turned graphic design student, this high-tech combination has opened up a new career path that’s definitely on the cutting edge.

After working on a team project involving Ball State’s Institute for Digital Fabrication, Katie Marinaro, ’08, found she could carve out a professional niche using her design education, her technical skills, and her experience with the institute’s high-speed digital laser cutter. She began creating intricate, three-dimensional popup cards and invitations for herself.

“These cards are called origamic architecture,” she says. “When I was introduced to the laser cutter, I began designing my own patterns and began cutting out these cards that I could use to reach out to people and show them what I could do at Ball State.”

It wasn’t long before the university put Marinaro’s creativity to work. In 2006, she was commissioned to make popup keepsake cards for the grand opening of the Ball State Indianapolis Center. More recently, she designed and produced 300 invitations for an Indianapolis reception welcoming admitted freshmen to Ball State’s Honors College.

The latter piece featured detailed popup renderings of Ball State landmarks as well as Europe’s Eiffel Tower and Big Ben, reflecting international travel opportunities available through the Honors College. The invitations served as Marinaro’s Honors College senior thesis project and she discussed her honors, immersive learning, and study abroad experiences with students at the reception.

Both projects allowed Marinaro to collaborate with marketing and graphic design professionals at Ball State and to test her concept for an Internet-based business.

Since graduating and getting married, Marinaro—now McElroy—received a master’s degree in sculpture and graphic design at Ball State. And her business vision? It’s now a real start-up company named mDesign.

Related links: 

College of Fine Arts

School of Art

Department of Journalism

Honors College

Immersive learning

Institute for Digital Fabrication


Visual communication (graphic design)