Graphic designers made you look

Mary Park, Scene Editor

On Oct. 3, Sarah Spurgeon Gallery in Randall Hall opened an exhibit. The Poster Show features the works of 15 nationally and internationally known graphic designers and design educators.

Curated by David Bieloh, an associate professor of graphic design, the posters are works done by Bieloh’s former mentors and colleagues that he had either worked with or associated with.

“These posters communicate a variety of themes and concepts and issues,” Bieloh said. “I think good design raises people’s awareness and the way they think about different topics and issues.”

Kyle Wilkinson

Rex Peteet is Bieloh’s colleague and the senior vice president and the creative director of design at Sherry Matthews Group, as well as the founder and creative director of Studio Peteet Design in Austin, Texas. 

Peteet gave a talk before the opening reception, explaining the background behind his work. Peteet said he started out as a designer in The Richards Group, an independent branding agency in Dallas, Texas and worked with mentors like Stan Richards, the founder, Bob Dennard and Woody Pirtle.

“I had the opportunity to learn from all these guys, assist these guys and in some instances, work directly for them,” Peteet said. “And those guys still influence everything that I do today.”

Peteet’s advice to graphic design students is that it’s important to remember that this profession takes hours of practice, but to keep working at finding a good design.

“Graphic design, doing it well is really really hard,” Peteet said. “It rarely comes easy. You’re incredibly fortunate if it’s within your first five or six good ideas, usually it’s the 20th or 30th great idea, that’s the one that’s a home run.”

Throughout his career spanning over three decades, Peteet and his studio have worked for a wide range of clients, such as the Texas Department of Transportation, The Coca-Cola Co., the American Heart Association and Chili’s Grill and Bar. 

Regarding the evolution of his own designs, Peteet said that he now prefers simpler designs.

“At least that’s what I try to do, to distill it, to make it as quick and easy to absorb,” Peteet said. “The challenge is that I want the visuals to work as hard as the words. I want the headline to be clever and be able to be interpreted in more than one way.”

Peteet brought up an example of the FedEx logo and the hidden arrow between the letter ‘E’ and ‘x,’ a twist or something unexpected that can add meaning to the brand identity.

He said that for posters, there’s only a limited amount of time to capture the viewer’s eye and communicate a message.

“So in that instance, you have to be extremely brisk and to the point,” Peteet said. “You want to be original, you want to disrupt in some way, whether it’s with a brilliant metaphor that stops you [and] make you think about it.”

In the gallery, viewers can see posters with a wide range of styles, from a single geometric shape to a jumble of entangled lines, from bold to light typefaces and from grayscale to fluorescent colors.

A large black and white halftone poster by Daniel Jasper, shows a police officer facing directly at the viewer and holding a baton made up of the words: “FORCE IS THE MIDWIFE OF EVERY OLD SOCIETY PREGNANT WITH A NEW ONE.”

Underneath the officer is a message in bold font: “WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE OCCUPATION DADDY?”

For Christian McGirk, senior studio art student who studies and makes wooden sculptures and dabbles in graphic design, said this poster stands out the most.

“It reminds me of my own history,” McGirk said. “[When] I was an angsty teenager, mad at the government.”

Noreen Johnson, a local from Yakima, and Vanessa Bivens, Peteet’s wife who joined him on the trip from Colorado, talked about the simplicity behind some of the posters.

“A lot of them have lots of verbiage on the side because they’re giving you more specifics,” Johnson said. “I like the simple ones.”

Bivens said after hearing Peteet talk, she learned that the simple designs have a lot of work behind them.

“It looks simple, but it’s really distilling a complicated idea down to a graphic design,” Bivens said. “The idea, for me, of making the image simple is really important because you only have a second to grab that person.”

The Poster Show will be on display until Oct. 27. Sarah Spurgeon Gallery is located in Randall Hall on Dean Nicholson Boulevard and is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on weekends, 1-4 p.m. Admission is free.