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Designer Among Journalists

The first weekend of March was eventful for the Commuter. As the Commuter’s newest graphic designer, I had the opportunity to join the team on an adventure to sunny Long Beach, California for a conference. Armed only with my reporter’s notebook and a pen, I embarked on a journey into the unknown. The first thing I realized upon entering the conference was that I was a designer among journalists. Most of the presentations were aimed at the other members of the Commuter, the ones who can confidently transform their thoughts into pleasing sentences and articles. However, I did stumble upon a few presentations that satisfied my desire to learn more about my field of choice, graphic design. The content from the handful of presentations I attended taught me about color, packaging, and even how to find inspiration and new ideas.
Color has always been a huge part of my life, so, naturally, I attended a presentation Called ‘64 Crayons with a Built in Sharpener.’ I was like a sponge; sucking in all of the information like it was dish water. Each slide, presented by Kevin Fullerton and Linda Puntney, was about a different color, and the positive and negative effects associated with that color. For example: when people see green, they tend to think about nature, restfulness, and wealth; yet green can also be seen as jealousy, decay, and toxins. Each color had its own set of tips and rules, like how a little red goes a long way, and how blue seems to go with everything.
Sara Quinn, an instructor at Kansas State University, made a presentation about the importance of packaging. She explained how people’s attention span has decreased over the years, and how important it is to catch the reader’s eye with interesting content or headlines. Quinn showed the room a spread that had photos of individuals holding up signs. These signs had their hand-written responses to important questions on them. One that stood out to me was about racism, sadly I cannot remember the exact quote, but I think it was something like ‘You think saying the N word is a joke, but if you say it around me I promise I won’t laugh.’ Seeing this young woman’s expression while holding her words immediately caught my eye and drew me into the rest of the article. Her expression and even the way the words were written brought me closer to the situation and put a face to powerful words. Listening to Quinn passionately speak about packaging made me realize how important visuals are in papers. The Commuter would be a lot more interesting with more graphics, photos, and illustrations to draw the viewer’s eye into the article.

My favorite presentation helped me realize that artists’ block is okay, and perfectly normal. While listening to a presentation called ‘Borrowing from the Pros,’ Randy Stano, an instructor at the University of Miami, taught me to embrace artists’ block, and to simply search for inspiration in idolized media such as the ‘New York Times’ or ‘The Guardian.’ I can remember Stano telling a large group of designers to be playful with their designs. He explained that if they, as a designer, are not having fun designing and creating, chances are the viewer isn’t going have much fun either.

As a designer, there has been an extensive, and surprising amount of information gained from a conference intended for journalism students. My reporter’s journal is now filled with many
scraps of information gathered from specialists all over the nation. Color and packaging is only a small portion of the knowledge gained to help the future development of the Commuter’s design. I’ll miss the bright California sun, but I’m glad to be back home in Oregon.

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