I was always around graphic design, even as a child. My dad was in the business.
One of my favorite things to do as a kid was take apart watches and put them back together. At fifteen, I was doing the same thing with cars. By the time I reached high school, I already knew ArtCenter was where I belonged.
My friends and I at ArtCenter were often brutal in our critiques of each other. Sometimes, it got a little spirited. Really, though, that’s the way it should be. You don’t grow as a person or as an artist from someone holding your hand all the way through life.
The projects that I remember from ArtCenter were intense. The good professors were intense. The things I was constantly being asked to do were intense. All of it was intense, and intensely demanding. As I said, personal evolution rarely comes from being told that you’re great all the time.
I also don’t believe in the process of selling design, and it’s rare that I find myself talking about my work at great length. Let the work speak for itself.
The truth is that designers are not always happy with their finished product. The process of design is a constant, ongoing effort to do better than you did the last time.
Even going back to my high school days, design always made sense to me. Thankfully, my school had a stellar graphic design program. Senior year, I was doing enough screen-printing that I managed to turn it into a sideline business. I’ve always been creatively winging my way through life.
To some degree, it matters that creatives follow trends. If you’re in fashion, for instance, you have to be aware of whatever the current zeitgeist is – even if you’re trying to actively push against it. However, creating something like the ArtCenter Donor Wall, I was striving for a timeless design. There are logos that were designed fifteen to twenty years ago that still work on their own (such as the Huntington Hospital logo block, which I worked on with my father back in the 1980s). With the Donor Wall, I was considering the idea of what ArtCenter represents, and how I could express that in my design.
Sometimes I worry that creativity is a lost art. Our culture is increasingly fast-paced, with a high emphasis placed on turnaround and results. The motto in the social media-saturated climate of today seems to be “get it done, and get it out the door.” That’s kind of sad, if you ask me. I love computers, but I still do a lot of drawing off the computer. It’s important to stay in touch with that primal side of the creative process, and to not get lost in the margins.
I see what I do as fighting on the frontlines for creativity: keeping the fires lit so that this way of life stays integral to our modern lives. My favorite people in this world are old school, to-the-bone creatives. I’ve been at this long enough that I understand the game, and I know how to work with people in different fields of studies, be they welders, illustrators, or graphics people.
My work on the ArtCenter donor wall is both a reflection and also the natural result of my wide variety of experiences. It is an homage to the generous individuals and organizations that have enabled ArtCenter to flourish. For that reason alone, the work that I’ve done has been well worth the effort.
Upon finishing my concept design for the ArtCenter donor wall, I found that we needed a gift idea. In my second meeting with David Brown and Gaylord Eckles, David emphasized the importance of each gift having a specific resonance. That’s how we came up with the idea for the ponor pencils. A pencil is a tool used by all kinds of creatives: be they fine artists, car designers, or musicians. It is a kind of universal equalizer: one that unites us all, regardless of what we choose to pursue.
BFA 91 Graphics/Packaging
Dennis S. Juett and Associates