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Student Spotlight: Alex Gilbert

May 15, 2014 Alumni News & Events, Awards & Competitions, General, Graphic & Comm. Design 0 Comments

Student Spotlight: Harrington December 2013 Graduate Earns Runner-up In Sustainable Chicago Poster Design Competition

Harrington talked with Alex Gilbert, December 2013 graduate, about his recent achievement as a runner-up in the Sustainable Chicago Poster Design Competition: CITY IN A GARDEN, where designers were asked to create a powerful, attention-grabbing, and memorable poster incorporating what it means for Chicago to be a sustainable city. Alex’s design will be displayed on JCDecaux bus shelters and City information panels throughout the city.

Harrington Alex GilbertHere he shares his inspiration behind his winning design, what he’s achieved since graduation and advice for current students pursuing a career in the graphic design industry.

Name: Alex Gilbert
Age: 25
Graduated: December 2013
Hometown: Cedar Falls, IA
Current Employer and Job Title: Ranquist Development Group, Graphic Designer

Why did you pursue design?
I was always interested in art from a really young age. I was always drawing or coloring. In high school, I took as many art classes as I could; ceramics, drawing, painting and the one computer graphics course they offered.

Why did you participate in the CITY IN A GARDEN contest?
The idea of promoting sustainability in Chicago…The whole nature of the contest is what drew me in, the good purpose behind it.

What was your approach to the project?
It’s a very minimalist poster but it’s actually homage to a very well-known Chicago graphic designer John Massey. He was the design director for the Container Corporation of Chicago and in the 50s and 60s they kind of changed what the current attitude was towards design for packaging and the importance that design could have for a corporation. They produced a variety of different advertisements and all sorts of packaging that was very design savvy. This garnered them international attention, they have a very distinct style…so it has this very strong tie to the city and its history. And I thought that was something that was really important to have.

John Massey’s style was very minimalist. It very focused on shapes and the interaction of shapes and the space around shape and how they work together to create an overall message and a meaning within the shapes. And I think color was a big part of his design.

The hardest part about the entire design of the poster was the color…The red and the blue come from the Chicago flag and the green is in reference to sustainability and the environment. The green plane is intersecting with these artichecturally stacked elements that make up the skyline and make up kind of a nod to Chicago’s architecture and the city and kind of how a natural plane and the city can live harmoniously.

How did Harrington help you achieve success?
I feel lucky that I’ve had a lot of instructors that are very passionate about what they do …They tell me about design events that are going on and encourage me to pursue the professional field. It’s something that’s engrained in the curriculum. It’s something that I think helped convince me to put myself out there sooner than I would have if I had waited until graduation to start networking.

What has been your proudest achievement post-graduation?
I’m really happy about the poster award but I do have a poster that’s going to be in a show coming up actually, CHGO DSGN. It’s going to be held at the Cultural Center and features a bunch of well-known graphic designers, object designers, furniture designers from Chicago. I think that’s one of the things I feel the most honored about to be involved in. It’s basically current graphic and object design from Chicago that’s all focused on current work that’s pushing the boundaries of what’s been done…it’s a very future-focused exhibit.

What is your advice for design students pursuing the industry?
The most important thing that I learned… is to be passionate about what it is you want to do. So if you want to be involved in the field on a professional level, then be passionate about it. Go to events, talk to people, email people that you admire or that you want to see where they work, their studio…and see if they’ll give you feedback on your portfolio. More often than not, you’ll get positive responses from them and a lot of people are very receptive to students who are reaching out and taking that initiative because not a lot of students do.

In all honesty, that’s the only reason I think I got involved in the Chicago Design Museum. The director of the Chicago Design Museum I met two years ago at an AIGA event…and we’ve maintained the connection ever since.

What other projects are you working on?
I just joined the Chicago Design Museum as Membership Director and am in the process of setting up a membership model. The museum started up two years ago as a pop-up museum featuring exhibitions, lectures, community events – it’s a very grassroots non-profit organization. Now that they’ve gathered support and financial resources, they are opening a permanent space in Block 37 (in Chicago).

Want to hear more from Alex? Follow him on Twitter at @alexggilbert

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