By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor
“My show I hope proves that graphic art and graphic design is not boring commercial art work,” senior graphic design major Caleb Cole said.
Cole presented his senior art show at a reception February 16, 6:00-8:00 p.m. The show will remain on display through March 17 in Oklahoma Baptist University’s Art Building.
Although the show displays the range of Cole’s artwork while a student at OBU –including paintings and drawings – it heavily features his graphic artwork.
“My show will have commercial art, it will have graphic art, and the difference between when I say graphic design and graphic art [is]: I do have some pieces that are made on a digital platform, but they’re just [graphic] artwork, they don’t serve a commercial purpose at all,” Cole said.
On the other hand, his graphic design work is specifically intended to market or sell a certain item.
One example of this work can be seen on the front of this newspaper, in the form of The Bison’s Masthead logo, which Cole created for a competition the Bison held several years ago.
“Since I’m a graphic design major most of my work will actually be brands and visual identities – so like logos and style guides and promotional posters – which I think is still an art form even though it’s more commercial art, it’s not like high art like oil painting or charcoal,” he said.
However, the commercial aspect of the work will not diminish the final art show.
“The process is still the same, it’ll still fill up a gallery space and look like an exhibit,” he said.
Instead, graphic design art shows can invite viewers to experience an art show in a new way.
“It gives people a chance to see design in a new light, to think about the color, the typefaces, the photography, and also to meet the artist or designer — the visionary — behind it all,” associate professor of graphic design and division chair of art and design Corey Fuller said.
According to Cole, graphic artwork can be appreciated in a show, just like any other art form.
“Just because it’s being sold does not mean that it’s not fun or enjoyable or can bring a smile to someone’s face,” he said.
There are many details that go into these kinds of art projects.
“I’m going to have some packaging products there – fake product that we have created a package for,” Cole said. “And a lot of people when they see a packaging on a soda bottle or any product, they don’t really think about ‘oh, there’s a brand on this bottle, there’s a color palette, it’s printed, it’s all on the bottle where we can read it and find the information we need, it’s all organized and planned and there’s an aesthetic to it’.”
Yet from a graphic designer’s perspective, all of these things are important artistic decisions to make.
“For a graphic artist, it’s important but for the rest of the world they just kind of take it and don’t always appreciate it,” he said. “So, I’m hoping that people who come to my show will get a new appreciation for what graphic artists do.”
But for Cole, when he first planned on attending OBU graphic art was not even in his game plan.
“I actually, when I came here four years ago, I was a history major,” Cole said. “Just cause I wanted to declare a major when I came here, I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”
He quickly decided to change his major to study in OBU’s College of Fine Arts’ Division of Art & Design.
“I had taken one drawing class in high school and I had heard that they had an art department here so two weeks before classes started I went and met with the faculty and had one conversation with them,” Cole said. “They asked me if I wanted to switch my major and I was like ‘sure, let’s try it, let’s just see how it goes’.”
It was only later that graphic art become his primary focus.
“I had no idea what graphic art or graphic design or any of that was,” he said. “But I just started taking the general classes, the basic art classes, fell in love with it and it’s where I am now.”
Switching to an arts major presented new challenges.
“I had to take a bunch of drawing classes – like advanced drawing classes – and I’m the worst at drawing,” Cole said. “But if you draw every single day, even if you don’t like it, you will get better at it.”
Arts classes also require students to determine how to set realistic expectations and goals for themselves.
“So when you get an art project or you get a prompt like ‘make a product for this or make a logo for this’ you’re going to have all these big ideas – things that are amazing, but you don’t have the timeline to do it,” Cole said. “So like yeah if you had three weeks to do it, it would be, you know, a great end product, but if you don’t have the time for it ‘what can I do?’ balancing your time.”
Another challenge he faced specifically preparing his senior art show was preparing all of the individual works.
“We make projects and pieces all the time for school projects, but not all of those – you know, they might not turn out so well, you might not get a great grade on them, but when it comes to your show you have to have A level, you have to have the best work you’ve ever done,” Cole said.
It was important for Cole to selectively choose the work included and make the changes necessary to make sure everything was show worthy.
“A lot of its been going back to old projects and kind of fixing them up, fixing where they went wrong and just making sure everything that’s hanging up in the show that I’m super proud of and I feel like it’s perfect, because you want it to be your best work,” he said.
The process of preparing the show started a long way back.
“There isn’t like an official start date,” he said. “I started working on it the start of my senior year just because I wanted to get things going so for when it was time for me to start actually planning and printing and setting out my show, I’d have more ready for it.”
Quite soon, now though, Cole will have the chance to relax a little.
“Once you get to the show’s opening [reception] all the pressure and stress is off,” Cole said. “Everything is done, it’s all hung up, all the pieces are done. You just get to enjoy the moment with all your friends or family and just have a good time.”
Cole hopes to find work as a commercial graphic designer after college.
“After college […] work in an industry where you can create graphics, marketing or advertising, photograph product and create content for the world to enjoy,” he said.
Other graduates of OBU’s graphic design program have successfully found work in similar fields.
According to the OBU website, “Students find a variety of contexts in which to work professionally — large and small design firms as well as in-house creative departments.”
Cole’s personal history at OBU suggests the potential for great things in his future.
“He’s a remarkable young man, a talented designer and a very hard worker,” Fuller said. “Caleb has served in leadership in Art Club and also has served for a couple of years as our lab monitor in the Mac lab, which is sort of a tutoring role, as he helps underclassmen with projects.”