University of Georgia
November 2016
The Arts
Graphics students designing display

These posters were designed, from left, by Kaitlyn Yarborough (of naturalist John Abbot), Chelsea Jenkins (of Fred Birchmore) and Maddie Shae (of Jeannette Rankin).

Graphics students designing history poster display

Students apply graphic communications lessons to special collections libraries research.

This semester, students in Kristen Smith’s “Graphics Communications” class had the unique opportunity to learn about 20th century design history and have their work showcased in an exhibition as part of UGA’s Spotlight on the Arts Festival.

The exhibit, “Designing History: Posters Exploring Twentieth Century Design Styles & the UGA Special Collections Libraries Archives,” features 24- by 36-inch mounted posters designed by each student based on research they conducted in the library’s permanent collection.

The class typically teaches students about basic principles of design, typography and graphics software. This special class has the same goals, but also draws on resources from UGA’s Special Collections Libraries.

The inspiration for the poster project came after Smith served as an inaugural Special Collections Libraries Faculty Fellow last year. The fellowship program was created by the libraries and the Center for Teaching and Learning to educate university professors about how they could incorporate the collections into their classroom lessons. The fellowship funds classroom projects created using the collections and resources at the library.

“The goal of the poster project was to provide a deep understanding of a local or national treasure, and depending on their project, where that person or thing fits into not only history, but design history,” said Smith, a senior lecturer in public relations in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication

The assignment features visuals and text about topics in special collections including, but not limited to, Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress; Erté, notably known as the “Father of Art Deco;” Jackson EMC, which led the way in making electricity available in rural areas of north Georgia; and Fred Birchmore, an Athens native who rode his bike around the world.

Chelsea Jenkins, a public relations major from Covington, chose to profile Birchmore for her project. Jenkins’s poster features a picture of Birchmore with his bicycle, which he called Bucephalus. She also included a couple of paragraphs that depict his life and some sites he encountered throughout his trek.

“The biggest challenge I faced was trying to incorporate how far Birchmore traveled into the poster,” Jenkins said. “My original idea was to have a map of some of the places he explored as the background of the poster. While that idea didn’t really work out, I feel as though we get a snippet of what he did and where he went in the paragraphs I’ve included.”

Jamie Yale, a junior public relations major, said she really enjoyed the hands-on experience of working in the Special Collections library. She chose to profile Spanish artist José de Zamora. “We were given a lot of freedom when creating this poster, from selection of the artist to use of design principles, and I think this really helped me independently create one of my first graphic design posters.”

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the special focus graphics class was the knowledge that the Special Collections Libraries is there and has an array of resources.

Kaitlyn Yarborough, a senior journalism student from Albany, profiled naturalist and artist John Abbot based on a large book he illustrated that she saw at the library.

“I had never entered the Special Collections Library until this project,” Yarborough said, “and, I discovered that it houses some really interesting collections on the history of Georgia, from Native American artifacts to vintage cheerleading uniforms from the university. It has a huge array of cool things that I would never have known about otherwise.”

The student posters are on display on the third floor of Grady College during Spotlight on the Arts Nov. 2-18. This is the first year that Grady College is participating in Spotlight on the Arts.

—Sarah Freeman, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication