Assignment: promotional posters

For our fourth assignment in my GRC 41 class, the instructor asked us to design a series of promotional posters for three very different events– a hardware convention, a symphony orchestra benefit for a botanical garden, and a student film festival.

The assignment said that the images should be dominant in the composition and communicate clearly by themselves. The text needed to be supportive both conceptually and compositionally. And although the poster subjects were very different, each 11×17 poster needed to family together as if they were displayed all at once. The assignment was to be composed primarily in Adobe Photoshop, with some typographical help from Illustrator and/or InDesign if we chose to use it.

I spent the entire first week researching the three events and conceptualizing the audience and purpose of each poster. I also brainstormed simple, iconic images for hardware and retailing, orchestras and botanical gardens, and movies and film festivals.

I decided that my unifying element would be a simple studio photograph composed and made specifically for each poster. But there was one problem, though: I don’t know anything about studio lighting and photography! So in the second week of the project, I enlisted the help of my friend Craig Kohlruss, a longtime photojournalist at The Fresno Bee where I used to work. Craig very graciously volunteered his time to compose, light, and make the photos. Craig also arranged for the photos to be taken at the downtown Fresno studio of Ryan C. Jones, a commercial photographer with tons of cred among Fresno creatives, so I could make a new connection.

Having a chance to work with Craig inside Ryan’s studio, and then take the two of them out to lunch afterward to pick their brains about photography, was truly a gift. I especially appreciated their encouragement in pursuing photography not only as “art” but as a real job that demanded and deserved real compensation. I loved hearing their stories about their own struggles to get started in the business.

The studio photos would not have been possible without the help of several good friends who loaned me their props. Thanks especially to Tracy Stuntz, my wife, for the flower arrangement; to Ana Marin, an investigator for the USDA, for the trumpet; to Reaz Mahmood, a multimedia artist and journalism instructor, for the violin; and to Joy Quigley, a filmmaker and the president of Fresno Filmworks, for all of the film items.

Finally, back in the graphics lab, I worked last week to typeset the content and work the typography. Using InDesign, I matched the font and color choices to what the organizations had on their respective websites, and then I converted the text to outlines and placed everything into Photoshop, where I did the final scaling and design. I think the results are clean and simple, especially since I don’t yet know a lot about Photoshop.

Above all else, this assignment taught me that asking people for help can yield unexpected and inspiring results. The concept of the posters was mine from start to finish, but without a lot of help from my friends– especially from Craig behind the lights and the camera– I would not have been able to execute that vision.

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