Design student creates award winning poster


 It is letters printed black on a background of white. Brushstroke by brushstroke, it blurs more and more until it fades into oblivion.

This is senior graphic design major Levi James’s favorite project. This is Alzheimer’s.

A couple of months before the Cause Poster Project was assigned, James’s grandmother passed away from the disease after struggling with it for five years. He took on the task of trying to visually convey the essence of Alzheimer’s to the best of his ability.

Approximately three weeks were given to complete the Cause Posters. The Alzheimer’s piece began from sketch after sketch of the text. Doodles resulted in nothing. James turned to writing down the effects of the disease and looking through definitions of the words. Yet that proved fruitless.

The Alzheimer’s poster almost never was.

“I thought about it a lot,” James said, “and I couldn’t think of anything. So I went to another design that would be easier.”

But his instructor, Randy Clark, associate professor and program coordinator of graphic design, discouraged him from the new design and steered him back toward Alzheimer’s.

“I was playing around with the blurring,” James said, “and my teacher was walking around and I said, ‘What do you think of this?’ and he immediately saw the potential. And from there I just kind of knew that that’s what I would do my poster over.”

In October, the poster received the title of “Best of Show” at the 45th Annual University and College Designers Association national design competition in Orlando, Fl.

“Randy was sitting behind me and I looked back at him and he didn’t even make eye contact,” James said about when he found out his piece had been named best of show. “He was just shaking his head ‘yes.’”

That was pretty special because I had no idea,” James said. “I look back and he’s shaking his head and I look forward and just can’t believe it. I was looking around to see if it was actually happening.”

He thanked Clark for his help and encouragement.

“He really helped me and pushed me a lot,” James said, “not only in that project, but in the class and generally. He really pushed me a lot and gave it to me straight and discouraged me from doing some of my first ideas.”

James’s fondness of art began in his childhood years since he has always loved to draw and create things.

“I kind of feel like, looking back now, I was kind of discouraged from art and designing,” he said. “The focus was more on math and science.”

Math and science were what he originally pursued in school, but then he took an introductory animation class.

“I just didn’t want to be in anything else,” James said. “I wanted to do the creating art, just making things. It’s so cool seeing your work make an impact, and only visually, and I think it communicates so much easier and better a lot of the time than words.”

Growing up in the ‘90s, Disney movies had a big impact on James’s love of animation, motion graphics and the concept of movement integrated into design.

“Design is universal,” James said. “Everyone needs designers in some sort of way, and it’s really cool just to see creativity in other fields. Creativity is recognizable no matter where you are, or what field you’re in. I don’t think it’s pushed enough, creativity, and it should be. Don’t be afraid of doing something that is insane or that breaks the rules.”