I wanted to take some time to credit my personal inspiration for my love of graphic design. From a very early age, I have always had a love of art. I was always drawing and doodling. My dad even took the time to archive one of my school book covers, made of a folded and taped brown paper grocery bag that I doodled logos and icons from advertisements and clothing lines of the day. In middle school, I created my first piece of original art. We had to take an image from a newspaper and create a two color piece in a simplified fashion. I chose to recreate an image of a golfer in mid-swing. My large-scale acrylic black and white painting took home first place in a local art fair. As far as I know, my teacher at the time, Ronald Heath, is still a practicing painter in the Northern Virginia area. I will make a mental note to catch up with him sometime…
In high school, I continued my love of art with a course in general art courses for the four years I studied at Loudoun Valley with working artists as instructors. My freshman and senior years involved the one and only Mr. Paul Shaver, who inspired so many budding artists. Mr. Shaver turned us on to sketchbooks and the importance of documenting our every artistic thought. His idea was that no matter how “unimportant” the thought, any creative thought can turn into something big. We also opened most classes with a paintbrush drum-along with “Paint it Black.” Beyond the every day stippling and shading, we also experimented with pinhole photography, further expanding my depth of creative resources. I still love pinhole photography today. During my sophomore year with Mrs. DeMary (whose first name I cannot remember to save my life) I was introduced to the one and only Adobe. Basic knowledge of Photoshop and Illustrator turned into a small obsession. At home, we didn’t have a serious computer or the internet, but I got what I could in after school practice. This evolved into a PageMaker obsession in my extra-curricular Yearbook editorial duties with the award-winning Saga staff. I became a layout diva and a habitual magazine and book reader/critic. Still am. I also saw the potential for the oversized pages of the yearbook to translate into posters. Posters are a true love.
After getting in to the School of the Arts at VCU, I experienced a whole new level of mentorship. Professors were not shy about showing their personal work and using their own lives as examples. I was fascinated and stunned by the possibilities out there. My college influences are impossible to rank, but way up on the list was definitely Sandy Wheeler, who lectured and critiqued based on her first hand experience with graphic and exhibit design and typography. She has a true love for the graphic arts that is impossible to ignore. She encouraged me to apply for and take my first real internship with the National Park Service Harpers Ferry Center where design magic happens, based on the classic standards set by Massimo Vignelli. Sandy was fabulously low key and modest, quietly leading by example and offering critique that really spoke to each individual personality in the class. She was not a one-size-fits-all type of professor. I also had the opportunity to take two typography courses with Matt Woolman, who has written several modern texts on the subject. I have never met anyone who loves the letterform as much as he does. He encouraged us to explore the typeform from all angles and took the time to have us learn “old school” hand lettering techniques. Every designer should know this artform.
I also had the unbelievably fortunate opportunity to study design history with and by critiqued by the incomparable Philip Meggs. I could never have asked for a better introduction to the beautiful world of design than I had with this master. He wrote the quintessential book on graphic design history that I saw my fellow design students studying at colleges around the country. If you love design or are a designer, you need to own this book. There was absolutely nothing better than listening to Meggs tell his personal anecdotes to supplement his already thorough text. He had a way with words in print and a way of bringing the text alive with his tales. I am only sorry I won’t be able to hear him lecture again. My most memorable and meaningful critique to date was a really lovely and unexpected complement from the one and only Meggs.
So there’s the shortlist. These people truly changed the shape of my future for the better. I owe them everything for continuing to keep me inspired through the memorable critiques and stories, and their continuing forward movement in the art and design world.