Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Community Buoy: Loyola swimmer designs water rescue app

Isabella Castillo
Ella Balhoff looks at her computer.

Swimmer and global award-winning graphic designer, Ella Balhoff is ready to graduate and continue to centralize people in her work. Lafayette native, Balhoff said that vibrant colors and the Cajun community she grew up surrounded by inspired her time at Loyola, as an athlete, friend, and now app designer.

Her swim and Acadian community in Lafayette have impacted the way she navigates life. Balhoff said she has always kept community collaboration in mind. This semester, she finished her app, Buoy’s, design, an app that reflects her swim community. According to Balhoff, her high school swim club aided in multiple flood clean-ups, as other members of the community also did their part to help.

“Buoy is a water disaster search and rescue app that facilitates connecting people for civilian help,” said Balhoff, “So like people with boats and trucks–cause I saw people unifying when it came to the point that even police couldn’t help them.”

Inspired by her experiences, Balhoff used FIGMA to design her prototype.

“I saw people coming together during disasters,” Balhoff said, “I want to help people in those moments.”

Starting her journey at Loyola as a computer science major, Balhoff said her love for website design and experience in CSS and HTML programming convinced her that it was the way to go. But once she understood her motivations, she switched to graphic design.

“I like to highlight people, to give everyone their spotlight,” Balhoff said. “It’s about letting people be heard.”

Transitioning to the design department took her by surprise, Balhoff said.

“The program itself is a community,” Balhoff said. “We take three-hour-long classes and go grade to grade together. It’s almost like middle school.”

Part of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, Balhoff said her structured schedule allows her to handle the surprising rigor of the design program.

“As athletes, we’re used to doing things back to back,” Balhoff said.

Aside from scheduling, she intertwines swimming in her designs in multiple ways. She won Graphis’ New Talent Award, in which she submitted a title sequence for James Bond’s Thunderball. Conducting underwater shots and only using technology from 1965, Balhoff won gold.

Hoping to get her app developed after graduation, Balhoff intends to continue spotlighting the community, centralizing people in graphic design.

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