Graphic design featured at Foster


Story by Brittni Straseske, Staff Writer

The white walls of the Foster Gallery are covered once again. Not covered by watercolor paintings or photography, but by the graphic designs of John Rieben, a Wisconsin native.

The exhibit, named “Design with Intent: 5 Decades of Design for Communication,” features promotional posters, such as a red, yellow and black design advertising the seventh Classical Film Festival in Keystone, Colorado. Logos, like the one for Summit Films, are also on display.

Rieben’s designs span a period beginning in the late 1960s to the present, said Tom Wagener, Foster Gallery director. Wagener said this is a key
element to the exhibit.

“I think it’s kind of neat to see some of the history of graphic design,” Wagener said. “You can really see where some of the modern graphic design came from.”

In the center of the Foster Gallery is a stand explaining Rieben’s career. It mentions his Master of Fine Arts in graphic design from Indiana University. It also explains Rieben is an emeritus professor from University of Wisconsin-Madison. It says he was the director of design for UNIMARK International between 1968 and 1972 and that he designed for Howe Communications.

Also on the stand is a statement from the designer. He explains that to be an effective designer, one must be a “social scientist” and understand a society’s “taste, opinions, styles, and characteristics.” Elevated above this “effective designer” is what Rieben writes as a “Great Designer.”

“The Great Designer possesses inspired imagination. The Great Designer creates unique and fresh concepts,” the statement explains. “This unique talent is both intuitive and, with a lot of hard work, learned.”

Sandra Leggitt, a senior graphic design student, said this art show is different from many shows the Foster Gallery hosts. The very nature of graphic design makes it different from the fine arts, she said. A graphic designer needs to be intuitive to the needs of a viewer. They need to combine the message their client wants to portray with the wants of the audience, Leggitt said.

“A lot of the time the fine arts are based off the artist’s feeling and desires and wants,” Leggitt said. “Design is what the client wants.”

Zack Scheppa, a senior graphic design major, said being a graphic designer takes patience and observation of the audience you are serving. A good graphic design contains many elements from line to composition and from shape to color. Most importantly, an effective design will be simple, he said.

“People’s attention spans are so short now so you have to be able to grab their attention and hold it within two seconds,” Scheppa said. “If you have anything longer than a sentence, they won’t read it.”

Rieben’s work reflects this simplicity. Many of his designs consist of just three colors. The same font is used for many of the posters, and many ads feature shapes that are simple and repetitive.

Amy Schleichert, a senior graphic design student, said the show tied in with many of the things she has learned in her design classes. The show drew parallels between what is being taught and what is considered successful work.

“For me it was really cool seeing graphic design portrayed in this way and seeing advertisements that have an artistic quality to them,” Schleichert said. “It’s cool seeing the things I’ve been learning about and the things that have been drilled into my head for the past three years.”

It is not just students studying graphic design that should go see the exhibit, said Chris Theo, art and design department chair. A student studying in any field, whether it be nursing or business, benefits from the art, he said.

“If (the students) want to get a well-rounded education … you need to tap into the humanities and the creative side,” Theo said. “You don’t have to totally understand it you can simply feel it and it’s ok to not get it. But at least expose yourself.”

The exhibit will be at the Foster Gallery for students, and anyone else, to “expose” themselves until Feb. 14. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, with extended hours 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays. The gallery is open 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.