December 11, 2023


Immortalizing Ideas

Two retiring faculty customers reflect on how they improved UofL’s graphic structure method

Steve Skaggs and Leslie Friesen are the two retiring from the graphic style and design office.

If you set Steve Skaggs and Leslie Friesen in the similar area, likelihood are they’ll tag group full discussions with enthusiasm, finishing just about every other’s sentences and frequently lobbing compliments again and forth.

This was the scenario not too long ago when the two collected in the “red chair room” in the basement of Schneider Hall to chat about UofL’s graphic style program. They talked about what defines a visual item and semiotics and other granularities unfamiliar to individuals not in fact in the globe of graphic design and style. 

They also talked about the historical past of the plan – its ups and downs – and how each other’s strengths ushered the office into a contemporary era. 

This friendly, thoughtful dialogue has been happening concerning them for more than 20 many years now, often in the pink chair room, occasionally above a cup of coffee at McDonald’s. But these discussions will before long turn out to be fewer regular as both of those school customers not long ago introduced their retirement.

Professor Skaggs is the head of the graphic design BFA monitor. He acquired his degree from UofL in 1973, then worked in style and design in Atlanta just before heading off to grad university at the Pratt Institute in New York. He then invested three years as an assistant professor at the University of Kansas before getting in excess of the UofL method in 1983.  

Skaggs followed a really deep bench. In reality, the first graphic design professor hired at UofL was Malcolm Grear in 1950 (if that identify appears acquainted, it is due to the fact Grear built the glimpse for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta). Grear was adopted by Robert Doherty, underneath whom Skaggs analyzed, and Daniel Boyarski.

By the time Skaggs took over, he quickly identified improvements he preferred to make and was capable to conceptualize how he needed the system to grow.

“There weren’t a ton of adjustments designed to the curriculum right before then and graphic layout was boxed jointly with media,” he said. “It was not meant to be a graphic style and design method but somewhat a structure imagining collection of classes.” 

Skaggs used decades scribbling down his thoughts and was at last capable to articulate them to then-President John Shumaker. He wrote his first vision statement in 1984. 

“I did not assume our college students were fully well prepared and I wanted to guideline them to do much more than just think and determine daily life out on their have,” Skaggs mentioned. “I knew if we ended up going to do this appropriate, the minimum we required was curriculum that expected possibly 4 or 5 adjuncts or a next entire-time man or woman.”

The eyesight statement eventually gets a actuality

His eyesight, nevertheless, didn’t turn into a actuality right up until almost 18 yrs later on. Enter Friesen, who joined the department in 2002 as the Electricity Agency Designer-in-Residence. Skaggs calls her hire the “big turning point of the software.”

Friesen, also a UofL graduate, stated her position was especially focused on three goals – instructing, facilitating internships and serving as a professional liaison. That latter directive was the catalyst for Portfolio Working day, an once-a-year function for graduating learners to showcase their style portfolios to regional and regional gurus.

“The to start with Portfolio Day was in 2003. Suddenly it’s a significant celebration now, with companies and gurus coming from all about. Now folks are coming to us and they are hiring our learners,” Friesen mentioned.

In fact, Portfolio Working day has heightened the profile of the software. According to Skaggs, it also allows our pupils to superior hook up with the metropolis.

“Louisville is a vibrant metropolis. I felt that we required to put much more horsepower into that piece and Leslie has accomplished just that with Portfolio Day,” he said.

Collectively, Skaggs and Friesen have also shifted the program’s curriculum to improved go well with personal students’ improvement and specialised parts. These improvements are necessary to maintain tempo with the industry at big.

“As a final result, our pupils are superior equipped to compete in opposition to substantial art university applications that have four moments as many structure courses we have. We’re able to punch above our fat and our learners are extra well prepared since we’re now ready to customize the plan to them,” Skaggs explained.

Exactly where the method goes from here

Notably, Skaggs’ eyesight assertion expanded over and above just two full-time school and, for a quick moment, there ended up a few professors bouncing tips off of just about every other and complementing every other’s strengths. Meena Khalili was introduced on board in 2016, even so, moved in December 2019 just in advance of Covid-19 grinded any prospective for a alternative to a halt.

Skaggs would like to get back to at minimum 3 total-time faculty members to hold the method shifting ahead. For now, having said that, with Skaggs and Friesen phasing into retirement, the office has introduced on Trysh Wahlig, assistant professor in graphic design and style and program head, and Sheri Squires, designer-in-home. They’ve received the chops, as Skaggs says. Wahlig is a graduate of the prestigious Illinois Institute of Technological innovation and was most recently employed by Humana.

Squires has been an adjunct for several many years and is a graduate of the College of Cincinnati’s Style and design, Art, Architecture and Setting up application. She has publication and agency expertise and has served as president of the Louisville Graphic Style Association.

Despite the fact that Skaggs will remain on a different 12 months to assist them transition, and Friesen may possibly be called up to adjunct, both of those are comprehensive of retirement-induced reflection on how their get the job done has made an impact for their pupils, for the department, for UofL and for the metropolis.

Friesen effortlessly ticks off an considerable checklist of alums from the system who have gone on to complete major points, for instance, performing for firms like PepsiCo, LinkedIn and the College of Chicago Push.

“I could go on and on and on. I just take excellent pride in our pupils. They have confirmed they can definitely go considerably,” she reported.

Skaggs admits he’s not automatically an excitable particular person, but that changes on a dime when he talks about his college students, specifically their ambitions and concepts.

“It’s not ample for pupils just to be making something really. What will get me billed about the plan is to have pupils with a aspiration and attempt to make it and to have all those desires be sensible – they can make it properly as a designer,” he claimed. “Ideas is the other section. The earth of style and design is about concepts and that exchange of tips involving learners and faculty excites me.”

No question that exchange of ideas will continue on concerning the learners, Wahlig and Squires. Questioned what else he’d like to see from the application after his retirement, Skaggs merely states “it’s not my simply call anymore. The application is in fantastic palms.”

That’s not to say he doesn’t acquire delight in where by the software is now, all many thanks to his eyesight scribbled on a piece of paper in the 1980s and a solid functioning connection with a person who shared that eyesight.

“If this plan is an animal, it was in variety of a nymph phase for a era and then it all of a sudden became a butterfly,” he reported. “Once it turned a butterfly, it was not the major butterfly. But it was a really attractive butterfly.”