11/29/2021 Holly Leber Simmons

Alumni Profile: Christy Batta ’09

This magazine article is part of Spring 2021 / Issue 96
  • Christy Batta ’09

Christy Batta ’09 is doing good. She’s doing well too, but she’s doing good. Batta serves others daily in her personal and professional life, using her skills in graphic design, hand-lettering, connection and organization.

She calls herself a graphic designer for good, and says service has always been part of her life. She didn’t always plan to be a designer. “I told people I was going to be a journalist because that was a thing I knew people could be,” says Batta, a double major in art history and anthropology.

She’d worked on her high school newspaper as the layout page editor, and felt drawn to graphic design because “it seemed like a safe way to be creative, within constraints. When I first started, I thought, ‘I can organize things on a page.’” She developed her interest through an internship in F&M’s Office of Communications, making posters for on-campus lectures, and then during a stint at the Phillips Museum of Art.

She says design is a good outlet for her curiosity, a quality she attributes to her liberal arts background. “I genuinely want to know about what people are doing and why, to connect with them in a way that’s helpful for them and me.”

She’s made it a good outlet for her passion for service, building a portfolio and reputation working with nonprofits and businesses doing good for others. Particularly important to her is research for multiple sclerosis, which she was diagnosed with in 2011. She was 23, pursuing her master’s in fine arts in graphic design at the Savannah College of Art and Design. “I was pushing my limits, healthwise. Not sleeping, eating whatever, everything in service of productivity,” she says. She began experiencing numbness and tingling, first in her midsection, then all over her body. The doctor thought she had a pinched nerve, but tested for MS, just in case. The test came back positive.

“It changed what I was able to do physically. I had to sleep more and take care of my stress. It wasn’t a choice. Stress is an instigator for relapses. That was the first thing I learned–stress is my new enemy. I had to figure out how to finish grad school without sacrificing my body. That’s hard.”

As an immunocompromised person, the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated discussions Batta wishes she didn’t have to have. “It’s another painful public conversation about how vulnerable you are as someone with a chronic illness,” she says. “But it’s made me feel more committed to doing more projects for social good, helping vulnerable people, making sure the balance in my projects are right, in terms of community impact versus for profit.”

Her dedication to community extends beyond her professional work. Her neighbors in Silver Spring, Md., know her and her husband, Nate, as unofficial ambassadors for the town. She co-founded a hand-lettering society and is a leader in a local timebank.

In 2019, Batta launched HumanPlusKind Co., an Instagram account and Etsy shop dedicated to hand-lettered inspirational prints “for warriors.” A warrior, she says, is “anyone who faces particular challenging circumstances in their life that requires them to dig deep and learn to be resilient in ways that other folks may not have to.”

HumanPlusKind Co. is the follow-up to a “100 days” challenge she completed in 2017, lettering about matters related to health and chronic illness. For people who live with chronic illness, daily tasks that seem simple to the healthy and able, like getting out of bed on a given day, can present challenges. Being a warrior, Batta says, “doesn’t mean (someone needs) to be ‘winning’ or crushing it all the time.”

“People said it was helpful for them to see people sharing hard experiences,” she says. “I wanted to do more with that idea. It’s a space for me to share things about my health experiences and connect with people.”

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