Editor’s Note: The graphics display “Does this Make Sense,” featuring the artwork of April Greiman, is on display Nov. 5-26, 2021, in the Cube Gallery, Room N231, at the Lamar Dodd School of Art. This display is part of the UGA’s Spotlight on the Arts.
Chances are favorable that anyone who has studied the role computers have in graphic design has heard of April Greiman’s poster, “Does This Make Sense?”
Students in Kristen Smith’s Advanced Graphic Communication class this semester are not only trying to make sense of the 6-foot poster, but also educate others on campus about the history of the piece as part of the UGA Spotlight on the Arts celebration.
The students have studied the poster since the beginning of the semester and have curated and installed a display including a short video explanation in a gallery in the Lamar Dodd School of Art.
Smith, a senior lecturer with a keen interest in graphic history, has known about the poster for years and found an original edition on the shelves of the main library at UGA.
“This is a really historic piece and it just so happens it was on the shelves of the UGA library,” said Smith, who in addition to her teaching also serves on the UGA Arts Council. “I checked it out and then I told them, ‘you shouldn’t let people check this out.’”
The display features a poster created by Greiman in 1986, considered the first piece of completely digital print design and one of first examples showing the potential that computers have in graphic design. Grieman used an early Macintosh computer and the programs MacDraw, MacPaint and MacVision to create Design Quarterly issue #133. Instead of the typical 32-page publication, she created a 6-foot poster that folded to the dimensions of the journal. This pioneering example of digital design is reprinted in many graphic design textbooks but has to be reduced to the point that it’s unreadable.
Fortunately, the library agreed to let Smith borrow the original version of the poster which services as the centerpiece for the display. A short video was created by two students explaining the importance of the poster, and accompanying text and visuals provide context for the art.
Design Quarterly explains that the experimental poster was composed entirely in the computer: “merging type, still frames captured from video, digitized photographs, and computer-aided illustrations using MacDraw software—a technical feat at the time for desktop publishing.”
Grieman is still a practicing artist through her design studio in LA called Made for Space.
‘Tis the season of political messages. They are on every street corner and what seems like every minute of television commercial airtime.
Most political messages also include a political logo: a visual representation of the values, promises and energy the candidate will deliver if elected.
We asked some experts at Grady College what makes an impactful logo and the importance of a memorable logo in political contests. To narrow down the field, we discussed the two logos of the presidential candidates this year—the incumbent, President Donald Trump, and the challenger, Senator Joe Biden.
Those participating in the discussion were:
David Clementson, assistant professor of public relations. Before teaching, Clementson ran several successful political campaigns for Democrats and Republicans. He specializes in political communication research.
Kim Landrum, senior lecturer, advertising and public relations. Landrum teaches courses in graphic communication, messaging strategy and campaigns.
Kristen Smith, senior lecturer, advertising and public relations. Smith teaches courses in introductory and advanced graphic communication and public relations communication.
Joseph Watson, Jr., Carolyn Caudell Tieger Professor of Public Affairs Communication. Watson has more than 20 years of experience in public affairs, campaigns and communications, including serving as a legislative director and counsel for a former U.S. senator. Watson teaches courses about public affairs communications focused on public policy and politics.
John Weatherford, senior lecturer, New Media Institute. Weatherford teaches courses in digital product design and user experience.
Following are the general themes that were discussed.
From a purely visual perspective, the two presidential logos are quite different. The Biden/Harris logo is straightforward and focused, giving almost equal weight to both names. My eye gravitates to the E which is styled like the stripes on the flag. The letters are kerned, or equally spaced, so the overall look is balanced. The Trump/Pence logo lacks the same visual punch due, in part, to the number of elements with two names, a tagline, the election year, star detailing and a stroke. Where does the eye go first? Placed together, the elements don’t have the same finesse as the Biden/Harris logo and the design lacks a visual focus point. The campaign logo for 2016 had significantly more flair with its integrated T&P but it did lack visual clarity and perhaps that is why it was abandoned. Neither logo is particularly inspired but if I had to pick a winner, the Biden/Harris logo is visually stronger. — Kim Landrum
The Trump/Pence logo for 2020 is fine, but it feels a little homemade. There is nothing daring or original in it. I would advise against putting a red box around the words and then adding some stars at the top because it seems rote. But the stranger thing, from a design perspective, is the vast amount of tracking—space between the letters in both men’s names. “Pence” especially looks like something you’d see in an eye exam. There is a message about importance being sent in the size of their names, too. Both names have five letters, but Trump dominates Pence in the logo. By comparison, the type in the Biden/Harris logo is justified—both words are in equal measure on the left and right and even though “Harris” has to be smaller than “Biden” because it has more letters, the names feel like a solid unit and give the impression of an equal team. There is nothing particularly clever or daring about the Biden/Harris logo, either, but that may be part of the point. It looks professional and stable, and the implication is that their ticket will be too. — Kristen Smith
I have always been struck by the absence of a flag or patriotic motif, aside from four small stars at the top in the Trump-Pence logo, but it is important to remember that the current Trump-Pence logo was adopted after an initial design was widely criticized and abandoned by the campaign. The typeface for both is solid as is the use of the red, white, and blue color palette, but the flag motif for the “e” in Biden makes it much more effective in my estimation. Aesthetically, the Trump-Pence logo is just not as attractive. — Joseph Watson, Jr.
The Message is King
From having run successful political campaigns for Democrats and Republicans, I can tell you that I have never put any thought into the color scheme or shapes or font type or any other graphical elements of a candidate’s logo. The only thing that matters, which I learned long ago from one of Dick Morris’s books, is that there must be a message, not just the name and the office and the party. Voters need a reason to vote for you. So, in addition to—and more important than—the candidate’s name should be a slogan or mantra or motto. A succinct message is more effective. For example, Clinton/Gore materials said, “It’s time for a change.” Obama had “Change we can believe in” and “Yes, we can.” Trump took the motto to new heights with the prominent messaging of “Make America great again,” which was also used by Reagan in 1980, Bill Clinton in 1992, and Hillary Clinton in 2008. A logo is worthless without a message giving voters a reason to vote for you. — David Clementson
Comparing the logos isn’t totally fair because the Biden/Harris logo doesn’t have their slogan, “Battle for the soul of the nation” on it. Actually, is that their slogan? It’s at the top of their website. It brings up associations for me with the Battle of Hogwarts—maybe people have other battles that come to mind but the phrase is heavy with struggle and myth and even morality. The Trump/Pence slogan, “Keep America Great” is hard sell this year no matter who you support for president. — Kristen Smith
The Logo Doesn’t Really Matter
Based on the most rigorous and extensive evidence across the social sciences that has been conducted testing on voters’ reactions to electoral campaign stimuli, we can predict undoubtedly that Democrats like the Biden logo and dislike the Trump logo, and Republicans like the Trump logo and dislike the Biden logo. If the color schemes and styles and fonts were altered, their vote choices wouldn’t change. Voters’ likes and dislikes are driven by partisanship and inconsistent attitudes, beliefs, and opinions follow. — David Clementson
Logos in and of themselves really do not impact electoral outcomes. But bad logos that do not reflect a campaign’s brand and serve its objectives and messaging are often indicative of a campaign that is not well executed. Ultimately, you want to select a logo that does no harm to a campaign and does not generate negative coverage or become a story itself as was the case with logos for the Jeb! 2016 campaign, the initial Trump-Pence 2016 logo and the Hillary 2016 logos. Boring is better than a logo that draws negative attention or has to be withdrawn. — Joseph Watson, Jr.
These logos are both perfectly fine and uninteresting as pieces of design. I care about good design as much as nearly anyone, and yet I couldn’t possibly care less about these logos. I find it hard to believe that a single vote will be influenced one way or the other by either logo. — John Weatherford
The fact that the Trump name in the Trump-Pence logo leaves no doubt that this is not a partnership between president and vice-president whereas the closeness in font size between Biden and Harris and the use of the same color in the Biden-Harris logo conveys more parity between the two with the flag motif re-enforcing that Biden is the top of the ticket. — Joseph Watson, Jr.
More Graphics Background (Bonus)
The typeface designer for Decimal, the type used in the Biden/Harris logo, is Jonathan Hoefler along with his team. Hoefler was inspired by vintage watches when he created this typeface. The Obama campaigns used typefaces by Hoefler & Co., also. The Biden/Harris campaign will not stray from whatever style guides have been determined by their design team because that’s what style guides are for—to maintain consistency. By the way, if you haven’t seen the Netflix show Abstract that features him, you should check it out! — Kristen Smith
Being able to translate messages, issues and grand challenges in a clear, educational manner is a vital skill for any graphic designer. In an effort to bring those lessons to life, students from Kim Landrum and Kristen Smith’s Advanced Graphics classes participated in a project “Our Plastic, Our Problem,” visually depicting the problem of plastic trash in the world’s waterways.
According to Smith, students were given the opportunity to “interpret this information any way they want…to educate an audience, persuade an audience, develop messaging or create public service announcements.”
Students first studied the issues leading to plastics in the waterways and were inspired by actual trash that the Office of Sustainability cleaned out of local waterways. Once they decided on an area to focus on, they had their choice of delivering their messages via a poster, infographic, social media campaign, website, gif or three-dimensional art. Almost all the created work focused on the themes of reduce, reuse and recycle.
For graphics student Kellie Stofko, this project reinforced values she currently practices. She created series of posters about reducing consumption that encourage viewers to use metal or paper straws, reusable shopping bags and metal water bottles. “Instead of focusing on recycling, we need to focus on reducing our consumption,” Sofko explained about her messaging. “I think this is something we need to focus on. The problem is so bad.”
The project was inspired by research by Jenna Jambeck, of the College of Engineering, who recently estimated that eight million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans each year.
The project is part of the University of Georgia Spotlight on the Arts celebration, Nov. 1-11, 2018.
A video about the Our Plastic, Our Problem exhibit can be viewed here:
The graphics projects that many students design in the typical Graphics Communications class may be viewed by a handful of students and by the professor. However, the projects in Kristen Smith’s introductory graphics class this semester have the opportunity for not only a much broader audience, but also a richer research process, as well.
Smith, a senior lecturer in public relations in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, is leading her students in a special session of the graphics class that is working with the University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries. Students were asked to design posters that will be displayed during the annual Spotlight on the Arts festival in November.
Designed by Chelsea Jenkins
The exhibit, “Designing History: Posters Exploring Twentieth Century Design Styles & the UGA Special Collections Libraries Archives,” will feature 24”x36” mounted posters designed by each student based on research they conducted in the library’s permanent collection.
The inspiration for the poster project came after Smith served as an inaugural Special Collections Libraries Faculty Fellow last year. The fellowship program was created by the libraries and the Center for Teaching and Learning to educate university professors about how they could incorporate the collections into their classroom lessons. The fellowship funds classroom projects created using the collections and resources at the library.
“The goal of the poster project was to provide a deep understanding of a local or national treasure, and depending on their project, where that person or thing fits into not only history, but design history,” Smith said.
The assignment features visuals and text about topics in special collections including, but not limited to, Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress; Erté, notably known as the “Father of Art Deco;” Jackson EMC, which led the way in making electricity available in rural areas of north Georgia; and Fred Birchmore, an Athens, Georgia, native who rode his bike around the world.
Designed by Maddie Shae
Chelsea Jenkins, a public relations major from Covington, Georgia, chose to profile Birchmore for her project. Jenkins’s poster features a picture of Birchmore with his bicycle, which he called Bucephalus. She also included a couple of paragraphs that depict his life and some sites he encountered throughout his trek.
“The biggest challenge I faced was trying to incorporate how far Birchmore traveled into the poster,” Jenkins said. “My original idea was to have a map of some of the places he explored as the background of the poster. While that idea didn’t really work out, I feel as though we get a snippet of what he did and where he went in the paragraphs I’ve included.”
Typically, the AdPR 3520 Graphics Communications class spends the entire semester learning about basic principles of design, typography and graphics software. This special class has the same goals, but also applies a focus on learning 20th century design styles, and broadens their resources through using the Special Collections Libraries to understand design styles.
“I have really enjoyed the hands-on experience of working in the Special Collections library,” said student Jamie Yale, a junior public relations major, who chose to profile Spanish artist José de Zamora. “We were given a lot of freedom when creating this poster, from selection of the artist to use of design principles, and I think this really helped me independently create one of my first graphic design posters.”
Designed by Kaitlyn Yarborough
Perhaps the biggest advantage of the special focus graphics class was the knowledge that the Special Collections Libraries is there and has an array of resources.
Kaitlyn Yarborough, a senior journalism student from Albany, Georgia, profiled naturalist and artist John Abbot based on a large book he illustrated that she saw at the library.
“I had never entered the Special Collections Library until this project,” Yarborough said, “and, I discovered that it houses some really interesting collections on the history of Georgia, from Native American artifacts to vintage cheerleading uniforms from the university. It has a huge array of cool things that I would never have known about otherwise.”
The student posters will be on display on the third floor of Grady College during Spotlight on the Arts Nov. 2 – 18. This is the first year that Grady College is participating in Spotlight on the Arts.