Yunyun 'Winnie' Gu

Yunyun 'Winnie' Gu ’19 ’21G wears a mask as part of Lehigh's safety precautions to fight the pandemic. Gu created Clutch mascot illustrations to help promote safety measures among students.

‘Be Clutch’: Grad Student’s Art Helps Launch COVID-19 Safety Campaign

Yunyun 'Winnie' Gu ’19 ’21G creates mascot illustrations to help promote safety measures among students.

Photography by

Christa Neu

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In each drawing and gif, Lehigh’s mascot Clutch practices ways to stay healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic: Clutch wears a Lehigh mask, stays home in his nest when sick, practices physical distancing, washes his hands frequently and takes a daily self-assessment to make sure it’s safe for him to be on campus.

The illustrations and animations were created by Yunyun “Winnie” Gu ’19 ’21G, who has been integral to Lehigh’s “Be Clutch” safety campaign that was launched for the start of the Fall 2020 semester. The campaign, which includes posters, gifs, stickers and buttons, aims to raise awareness among students about Lehigh’s safety procedures and protocols by delivering the messages in a relatable way.

“Bringing students back to campus safely this fall required an overwhelming amount of communications,” said Lindsay Lebresco, director, brand and digital marketing. “Winnie's work on the ‘Be Clutch’ campaign helped us add some lightheartedness and even a little fun to parts of those communications. It was great to bring her illustrations to life by creating stickers and buttons and even gifs that could be used on social media.”

The Be Clutch animations on Lehigh’s Giphy page have received more than 10 million views.

Gu and Lebresco worked together to figure out the best way to combine Gu’s artistic and story-telling skills with the University Communication’s goals. 

Gu said Clutch was chosen as the messenger for the campaign because he is the face of Lehigh--many people recognize him as the mascot of Lehigh’s athletic teams, the Mountain Hawks. Gu felt that most people only know about Clutch in relation to athletics, but that the university could broaden his appeal to get out the campaign’s safety message. 

“Adding Clutch is a more humorous, more friendly way, a more cute way, to tell people to follow the rules,” Gu said. 

To make the illustrations, Gu used the application Procreate. Depending on the comic and whether it was animated, a Clutch illustration could take one to two hours to complete. The animations are drawn frame by frame. 

“First I would draw a draft of it, outline it, color it, and in order to animate it, I would use animation assist.” Animation assist helped her to work frame by frame by showing her various layers of artwork. 

Her favorite moving image for the campaign showed Clutch staying home in his nest when he’s sick. Lebresco and Gu worked together with the athletics department to perfect Clutch’s final look. 

Illustrations of Clutch following safety measures

Yu's illustrations of Clutch following safety measures

At Lehigh, Gu is pursuing a dual certification in elementary and special education. As an undergraduate, she majored in art and architecture.

She has worked in various departments on campus, including the Admissions Office, the Office of International Affairs and Graduate Student Senate. As a graduate student, she accepted an assistant position working with Lebresco and Lauren Furrer, director of undergraduate recruitment marketing. 

In her personal time, Gu creates comics and posts them on her Instagram account, @thirdculturechinese, which has garnered more than 48,000 followers. Her comics follow her multicultural upbringing--being raised in China, later moving to New Jersey, then Singapore and back to the United States to attend college. 

She said her Instagram comics explore her multicultural life of meeting new people, experiencing discrimination and other topics. After seeing her posts, Gu said, Lebresco reached out to ask whether she’d be interested in creating official content for Lehigh. 

“Because of my recognition on Instagram, I have a following from students from Lehigh, faculty members from Lehigh, staff members from Lehigh, and that’s how communications reached out to me,” Gu said. 

Gu will continue helping create content for Lehigh through her graduate assistant position and working on Clutch illustrations for Lehigh’s general social media accounts, “I don’t know if I will be doing new work for the Be Clutch campaign, but I'm still illustrating Clutch in new ways - look out for a Clutch rocking the vote!”

Gu’s illustrations can be found across Lehigh’s social media platforms, in Instagram stickers when you search “LehighU,” and on her personal account. 

Story by Ally Wolloch

Photography by

Christa Neu

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