Ah, those long nights in the campus computer lab working endless hours on design projects. It was the early 90s, and graphic design majors worked in INT rub down letters, Rapidograph pens and Pantone® markers, but also on Apple® beige boxes loaded with Aldus® Freehand, Adobe® Illustrator 88 and Adobe® Photoshop 1.5. Those were the days when pasteup met computers, analog met digital, and hand craft met automation.
On class projects we fulfilled every role, wore every hat: art director, production artist, illustrator, photographer, copywriter, and project manager — often roping our classmates and friends (or even ourselves) into modeling for photoshoots. We were learning the tools and techniques of the trade and we were loving it!
As students, we enjoyed unbridled creativity not yet reigned in by tight budgets, impossible deadlines, and client feedback. The sky was the limit. Felt like using lime green in your design? Why not! Moved to set Brush Script as your headline font? Well, okay, the professor might frown on that — the use of Brush Script, that is.
My career has spanned 25 years in print and digital design for many top brands and big-time agencies, but when I think back my student work, I smile. While class assignments are pretend, and student concepts a bit naive, there’s a purity and creativity in these projects that I haven’t had many opportunities to express in my professional work. I wax nostalgic.
So, without further ado, here are some examples of MY student work circa 1990–1994. Try not to laugh!
“Fashion Funk” Hosiery Catalog Spreads
I actually still like these spreads. They’re FUN(ky)! Does the copy include pricing and ordering information? There aren’t many products on the spread, so it’s not a practical catalog. I guess that wasn’t the point of the assignment.
“Pharoah Phorms” Puppet Kit
My friend, Craig — who happened to be an Egyptologist — came up with the concept of these articulated/posable puppet kits, conceptualized as a product that would sell in museum gift shops. I decided to use it for a class project, so I scanned his drawings, recreated all the puppet figures in Illustrator 3.0, and then took it a step further and designed a box, handouts and activity sheets.
This concept wasn’t without controversy. When I came up with the name “Pharoah Phorms” (note the alliteration) the head of the honors program was aghast! He couldn’t abide by spelling the word forms incorrectly. I argued it was a more trade mark name. I think he finally relented, but he didn’t like it. Square!
To this day I still think this is a cool product idea. One day I’ll see if I can get someone to produce it. Craig, where are you man? This kit concept could even be expanded to include Norse gods, Greek and Roman gods, Hindu deities—it’s a concept with legs, posable legs.
“DRESCO: It’s Not Your Father’s Leisure Suit” Marketing Collateral
I have to admit this is one of my personal faves. At that time, I was totally into 70s polyester. I actually think this concept could work today—gender neutral leisure suits. I’d wear one!
“Howard Stern” Illustration
I used to listen to a LOT of Howard Stern in those days, so I thought it would be funny to draw him and include his “microphallus” as a repeating pattern. I can’t believe my professor let me turn this in as an actual assignment.
This assignment was challenging. Using this “Immaculate Collection” CD sleeve photo as a model, I created this layered illustration made of painted, die cut and glued art board. Let’s just say I went through a LOT of X-acto blades!
One downside to today’s design industry is the loss of hand skills. From cut and paste to inking to using a special heating device to adhere metallic embossing film to toner, we basically created these one-of-a-kind masterpieces by hand. One false move and you were screwed! The computer did come in handy when it came to typesetting and manipulating photos, but the printing technology was still a bit primitive, so we basically had to collage these projects together. We may or may not have learned to be Saul Bass-grade designers, but dammit, we learned hand skills!
Were you able to keep a straight face, or are you ROFL? So there you have it. My student designer soul laid bare. Hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself too badly.
To all those young design students out there, be grateful for the tools you have at your disposable these days. You’re waaaayy ahead of the curve. That said, don’t forget to pick up a pencil and sketch sometimes. Keep up those hand skills!