A few design projects done while at UT
I attended the University of Texas in Austin from fall of 1968 to the spring of 1974. Yes, that's 6 years. But everyone said that one's college years were the best time of their life, so I thought, what's the rush to leave this environment? I also had 3 majors. I began at UT doing what I did in high school - designing stage sets, so I majored in Technical Theater/Set Design in the Drama Department. I then switched to Graphic Design in the Art Department and finally to Advertising in the Department of Advertising. Below are a few design projects I did for class or for free-lance work.

Freshman year, Theater design I projects: 7x14 or 8x16
1. Line: Black & white bands form lines
2. Form: Volcano structures with beams sticking out for King Lear
3. Plane: 3 Boxes of intersecting planes inside

I bought most supplies and balsa wood at the University Co-op on the Drag, across from The Union:


Personalized name tags at UT summer orientation
The summer after graduating high school I attended an orientation session at the University of Texas in Austin. It was fun and gave me a good intro to college life. I admired the advisors as they seemed to enjoy what they were doing. After my freshman year, I interviewed to become a summer orientation advisor. It was a rigorous interview process but I was accepted and began the advisor training. We had a few classes on campus and a weekend retreat in the hill country outside of Austin where we experienced sensitivity sessions, learned the information that would help us mentor students, and had a great time playing and bonding in the hills and rivers of Central Texas. I signed up to serve several sessions that summer. Each session lasted about 5 days. We spent the two days between sessions just resting and kicking back. There were two advisors for each wing of attendees. The summer of 1970 orientation was held in the new Jester Center - at that time, the largest college dorm in the country, housing 3,000 students with 8 cafeteria lines, a mini-mall of shops, bookstore, a post office, and a cinema. The next year we were in Kinsolving dormitory on the north side of campus. Some of our duties: campus tours, advising, floor meetings, and testing sessions. The retreat and the summer sessions still stand as some of the greatest highlights of my life. It was a great group of people, a lot of fun, and a valuable introduction to leadership and teaching.
Session dates: Summers 1970 and 1971
Each Orientation Advisor was issued a standard blank generic nametag. We were to write in our name and position (Advisor). I saw that empty tag (or the blank back) as a canvas to express more than just handwriting, as shown below (you'll notice the tags say Bob, not Jim. My middle name is Robert and I went by Bob for a while).
BTW: nametag spelled backwards is Gate Man.

Above: Wild West theme since we were at Texas. Homage to 1970 peace sign. Exploring typography.
Below: Exploring typography. Larger than life. Computer punch cards used at registration.


The Carriage House
While standing out on the large patio during a Sigma Chi fraternity party, I was talking with the sister of a member who worked for a furniture store that offered interior design services. She mentioned that they needed someone to design a Direct Mail Piece for the store. Unfortunately, I had no idea what a Direct Mail Piece even was. We had yet to cover that in our advertising classes at UT. So, of course, I volunteered to design the piece. What the heck, I could go learn about direct mail the next day. And, I did.

The Zilker picnic
This was an ad in the student paper, The Daily Texan, on November 21, 1972. The name of the picnic was so wordy that I exploited that by rearranging those words within the copy. I did the illustrations in each of these pieces. This is about the time that I accepted I would not make much of a living as an illustrator.

The Red Tomato
A project for friends who bought an old warehouse and opened up a great Italian restaurant.


Avocado campaign
A class assignment in Advertising Campaigns. We worked in teams and while doing research, we discovered that the nutrition in an avocado could enhance learning, brain activity, and intelligence. We exploited that as the USP - the Unique Selling Proposition. Advertising solutions require the designer to find something that makes the product different in the minds of the consumer - something that will set it apart from the competition amid the clutter. Our team presented our comp boards while wearing mortarboard caps to support the creative strategy of the campaign.


An ad, from decades later, for Chipotle.

Texas State Arts & Crafts Fair
How do you illustrate arts & crafts? If one artistic medium (or even a few) is shown, the others might feel slighted. I decided to not show any but to exploit the name and the tagline 'The best of the fairs - the fare of the best.' This A&C fair was one of the largest in the state and was very selective on which artists could participate. The tagline emphasizes that. The cover highlights Kerrville's location in the Texas Hill Country.

Below: The outdoor board. The cover of the program.


Trade ad for kitchen equipment


B&W Recycling ad

Headline: How to improve the environment by not throwing this in here.
Body copy: It's simple. A can made of aluminum can be recycled and used as another aluminum product. Of course, throwing an aluminum can in the trash is better than throwing it on the ground. But simply keeping your aluminum cans and then taking them to a recycling center is even better. Then you're saving the environment from litter and you're not wasting aluminum. We can do without litter and we can do without waste. For more information on aluminum recycling, write Aluminum Company of America, 503-R, ALCOA Building, Pittsburgh PA 15219. Please help.
Tagline: Improve the environment at one of these recycling centers.
(Space for local paper to insert information on local recycling centers.)
Creative strategy: apparent contradiction to grab the mind of an eco-conscious person.
Date: January, 1979
I was already sensitive to type and layout - wrapping the text around the image. I suspect this was inspired by Herb Lubalin. He and his magazine, U&lc, were our design mentors while in college.

Seat belt campaign
This project entailed a tough sell - to get someone to change their addictive habits. Maybe we don't need them to change - maybe if we lose a few stupid people, that's okay. At least, that could be the pitch. This concept was a takeoff of the Survival of the Fittest evolution theory. The ergonomic figures represented crash test dummies and helped convey the technical and scientific aspect of the campaign and helped to lend it more credibility.

Above: Magazine ad. Below: Newspaper ad. Outdoor board.


Burger King ad campaign
I exploited visuals of their food and drink for this class assignment. We hand-rendered all marker illustrations and type. There was nothing remotely like a computer in college in 1970.



Toothpaste ad
The assignment was to create a black & white ad to sell toothpaste. We had to complete in class, in about 2 hours. All toothpastes are alike - some have added ingredients to provide some additional USP (unique selling proposition). Macleans was one of the first brands to add a whitener. The typeface, Cooper Black, adds to the 'ugliness' factor because of the clumsy letterforms in the word ugly. There is a bit more leading between 'Yellow teeth are' and 'ugly' to convey a slight pause - a hesitation before reading the uncomfortable revelation of ugly. The first 3 words form an arrow pointing down to Ugly. The concept was not to announce that Macleans had a whitener, but to touch an emotion about what happens without a whitener. It becomes more personal - referring to the user and not the product.


Identity and packaging for RedKen products
One of the best professors in design at the University of Texas in the late 1960s and early 1970s was Leonard Ruben, a former Art Director from an advertising agency in New York. I took an Independent Study class with him and proposed a major semester-long project to redo the identity and packaging for RedKen hair care products.

RedKen had no successful branding. Their products were sold in barber and beauty shops (that's what hair salons were called back then). They planned to move into retail. Even then, there was quite a variety of hair care products on the shelf, although nothing like there is now. The id and package needed to stand out, make a statement, and grab a potential customer. It needed to convey trust, professionalism, cleanliness, and good grooming. One observation I made during the research phase of the project was the inconvenience of having to rotate a cylinder to read the copy. Since the copy wrapped around the surface, one couldn't hold it and read it without having to turn the plastic bottle. I addressed this by printing the copy vertically up the bottle. One could then hold the bottle horizontally and read without turning. That type treatment would also provide the unique look. The bottle color was pure white to convey cleanliness and the names of the products conveyed the benefit to the user - Clean Hair, Soft Hair, etc.

I comped up several different bottles within the product line and presented them and the sketches for the semester grade. I didn't ever present it to RedKen because I spent too much time in fraternity activities and college life.
I hadn't seen other packages doing this in the early 1970s. The photos below show similar package design from 2011.


Television spot

Storyboard for animated television spot for Texas Monthly

Dobie mall logo sketches
The mark is a stylized rendering of the mall layout with the new 'park' landscaping in the center.


Dobie Mall ads and maps

The ad on the left ran in the University of Texas student newspaper. Three of the malls refer to locations on campus and lists some activities one can do there. Dobie mall is a student-oriented small shopping mall across the street from campus - with a lot more things to do. Even if one doesn't read the copy, the visual of the longer column still makes the point that there's more to do at Dobie Mall. The ad in the middle was a back-to-school promotion. On the right was an ad touting the new McDonald's in the mall.
Below is a Christmas season ad and 3 sketches for proposed mall maps and directories. The maps were later rendered more precisely and installed in custom-built cabinets.

Full page ads in The Daily Texan: Monday, November 4, 1974; Tuesday, December 10, 1974

Dobie Mall map sketches.


A transformation ad for the dorm at Dobie. I let the illustration of the living room breathe more unencumbered, completed the missing parts of the floor plan, used a collegiate-looking font, and aligned the copy with the image.

Sweetheart Pageant

For the presentation ceremony of the UT Sweetheart finalists and coronation, spring 1970, I designed a set resembling a park/garden with a frame arch of abstract trees and a bridge to elevate the contestants in the lineup.




The use of paper for the drops and the visual style were influenced by the Spring Thaw sets from two years before at Hillcrest High School:


TexPIRG

TexPIRG was a political action committee in Austin. The concept was to relate it to the state of Texas with nods to the flag and the panhandle on a state map, use the Texas flag and USA patriotic colors, yet have it work when reproduced in just black. It was all hand-rendered (I don't remember why and now it looks too sloppy and rough).

Logo for pearl magazine

Pearl was the monthly magazine supplement to the student newspaper at the University of Texas in Austin in 1971. A contest was held to name the new magazine. My roommate, Tom White, won that contest. Very much a music fan, he submitted the name Pearl with rationale: it honors Austin native Janis Joplin, it suggests that pearl would be the 'jewel' of student publications, and that it would contain 'pearls of wisdom'. The new magazine now needed a flag and identity. I had been hired to be an ad sales rep for the new magazine (based on my experience as an intern with the Dallas Times Herald newspaper) and asked if I could design the identity.

While the name partly stood for Janis, I didn't want it to convey just her or music, and illustrating pearls of wisdom or jewels would be tough and maybe sorta cheesy. I concentrated on the letterforms and the word. I discovered the round counters in the p, e, and a; that a lower case e upside down is a lower case a; and that lower and upper case letterforms could be mixed without sacrificing legibility of the word. I aligned the free ends of the e and a to visually fill the gap. The letterform relationships create enough intrigue to pull the viewer in to decipher a bit. The curved letterforms were based on a round pearl and the tops of the letters resemble the silhouette outline of a pearl necklace.

The new identity was well received by the pearl staff. I even designed the cover for the first issue (hand-rendered comp above). However, now it looks dated - very seventies - with the thick border and the curved corners.

Protest poster of the UT Tower
The Administration Building at the University of Texas is a well-known icon for the university. The tower had long been considered a phallic symbol, standing tall, large, and erect over the flagship Texas university campus. During the turbulent, sometimes angry, late 1960s and early 1970s, I got the idea to render the tower with a fuck-you attitude. Making the connection to replace a middle finger with the tower was easy. The color was the UT school color - burnt orange, the way the tower looked at night when it was bathed in orange lights for football victories or commencement.
It was common practice for people to sell handmade items, crafts, albums, posters, buttons, and all sorts of stuff along the main drag across from campus. In fact, it was called, 'The Drag'. So I and a couple of fraternity brothers thought we could make a little money by printing these posters and selling them on The Drag, across from the Student Union. We called my high school art teacher, Margaret Hudson, and she guided us over the phone on how to prepare and reproduce the posters using silkscreen printing techniques. We bought a bunch of orange poster boards and set up shop in the fraternity house basement. We weren't very good at this type of printing so we were only able to make a few copies that were decent enough to sell. We took our meager stack to The Drag and set up our space with the poster clearly on display. We sold them all and the image sure got a lot of laughs and nods of appreciation. It was a fun experience for us college students.

'The Drag' - the union is across the street to the right, and the University Co-op is behind us on the left. We set out the stack of posters on the sidewalk up against the building on the left (these were different stores in 1970).
Inspirations and influences
The UT Tower

The closed fist protest

On the winner's stand at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, two black athletes raised their fists and looked down as a show of solidarity and protest of racial inequality. The raised fist was adopted by the war protest movement, the Women's Liberation movement, and other declarations of solidarity.
The Radiator Building painting

Georgia O'Keeffe painted this night view of the American Radiator Building in 1927, in the series of New York skyscrapers, that she painted between 1925 and 1930.


A somewhat-hokey pun on 'The Lion In Winter'.

Sigma Chi work

The Greek letter logo contains an arrow in the negative space between the letters.
Cover and program photos for Derby Day, a field day of events among campus sororities. I was already fascinated by aligning elements on a grid.




Newsletters for Highland Mall



Newspaper ad filler

20-minute ad for The Dallas Times Herald created during my advertising internship there.

Popular fonts in the early 1970s
In addition to Helvetica and Times Roman. Below left: Bolt. Right: Cooper Black. Bottom left: Souvenir. Right: Windsor





Sketch in Aspen

Sketch of a block in downtown Aspen, Colorado in front of Aspen Mountain. A framed version.

Internship and first adult job
Part of the curriculum in the advertising program at the University of Texas was the opportunity to participate in a summer internship. It was encouraged but not required of advertising majors. I had worked with the Chairman of the Department of Advertising, Dr. Bill Mindak, and he had mentioned an opportunity to intern at the Dallas Times Herald newspaper. I interviewed with Mr. John Wolf, Director of Advertising at the paper.
It turned out to be a valuable learning experience. I rotated through several different departments - Promotion, Art, Sales, and Production. I learned about the printing industry, typesetting, paste-up, and how to better prepare work for reproduction.
After the initial few weeks of orientation rotations, I would cover the regular ad salesmen when they went on summer vacation. As I called on their accounts, I would often volunteer to redesign their logo or ad.
As a result of a successful internship, I was offered a full time job in the advertising department at the Dallas Times Herald after I graduated. When I went back to school in the fall, the department chair made a big deal out of a UT student winning the state-wide award. After graduation, I eventually did return to the paper to work. I enjoyed the design portion but I was not a great salesman - never have been. But it was a great entry-level job and a good start to a professional career in design.
Dates: Internship: summer 1973. Award ceremony: fall 1973. Employment: fall 1974-75
Supervisors: Tom Farley or Farland, Casey Cohlmia, John Wolf.
Colleagues: Casca Schade, Debbie Kaufman (another intern), Jean Prejean, Jim Wilson

I won the State of Texas Outstanding Intern Award and Scholarship sponsored by the Houston Advertising Club and the Dallas Advertising League. Entry submissions were from all over the state. My boss, John Wolf had nominated me for the award. I got a letter later that fall informing me that I had won the award and the monetary scholarship. The award ceremony was at the Westin Hotel at the Galleria in Houston. It was a fun day and a highlight of my college career. At that lunch and ceremony, an award was also given for outstanding intern in journalism. It was won by David Powell, also from the University of Texas and also from Hillcrest High School in Dallas. The two award winners for summer 1973 were both from the same university and the same high school. Our names and awards made statewide news.



The full name of the store was the Arnold & Morgan Music Company. Because that was so wordy, everyone just referred to it as Arnold & Morgan. They were so well known that that is all it took to signify the store. I explored how to include both names in one identity - I used an outline font and a solid font of the same typeface. The solid type carried the weight of the more familiar name while the outline font added the missing parts of the full name. I explored all the icons for music - a staff, notes, a guitar, etc. Most were cheesy and if I was to use some, I might have to use all - to fully convey their offerings. The treble clef serves as a generic music icon and I used it in place of the ampersand to provide a barb, a hook to grab the reader and provide a unique treatment of the letterforms. I also redesigned the format for their newspaper ads to help introduce a new look.
I had made my offer to the manager and promised to show him something the very next day so that, if he liked it, the new logo could run in their next ad, which had a fast approaching deadline. I did the mental assessment and some ideation while driving home and began sketching concepts as soon as I got home. Later in the evening I prepared a comp using rub-on letters, the normal way to comp type in the 1970s. I mounted the original art (Kinko's didn't yet exist nor did computers) on a board and presented it to them the next day. They loved it and used the new identity until they went out of business many years later (probably due to Best Buy or Walmart).
Arnold & Morgan had been a regular advertiser in the Dallas paper but their ads were typical electronic schlock - lots of stuff, no hierarchy or eye flow, and a chaotic arrangement of elements. The layout was typically all the merchandise taking up the bulk of the space and the store name and disorganized contact info and address along the bottom. I explored a new format: putting the major sale items at the top and aligning the lesser items in a row along the bottom of the ad. The logo was in the lower center with the contact info on either side. Flush columns, rules, and white space helped organize the info and provide order and hierarchy.



An ad for a furniture store scheduled to run in a special edition to celebrate the opening of DFW airport.


Duffey's Furniture
Yuck, the ad I was given to run in the paper was too tough to navigate - too many different typefaces, different formats of setting the type, and too cluttered with info. I reworked the ad with a guideline of 'flush left, ragged right' set text to provide order and organization. I set the important words, Sale and trundle beds, in all caps for easy scanning. I knew the power of the word Sale (like Free) and put the name of the store in the headline for better memorability - in case someone read only the headline. The border respects the flush left margin and relates to the border around the name (their logo). A great lesson and experience for me was the line above the logo that says "Be sure to see our . . ". That was added by the client at the last minute. I was blind-sided and didn't take the time (as little of it that there was) to educate him about consistency. I asked him what 'excitingly new' meant but got no acceptable answer - he just wanted it. This ad was for trundle beds, not the import and antique emporium. It was also set in italics, centered, and with the first letter of all words capitalized. What a great lesson on what can happen when the designer lets clients make design decisions. Clients think they know better than the designer. I was okay since I had succeeded in changing the layout of the copy and the ad composition. But those two centered lines of copy will always haunt me.


Help Wanted classified ad
While in the promotions department, the director asked if I would design an ad to insert in the paper whenever they had space to fill. This was a 'filler' - you can see these in almost any newspaper. Most ads that promote the newspaper are there to fill space where a client ad was scheduled to go but the client failed to get the ad copy to the paper in time to meet the printing deadline (deadlines are absolutely firm in the newspaper business). So, this ad was to promoted classified ads. It had to be designed so that it could be reduced and enlarged to fit into a variety of sized spaces. Since classified ads are very dull, dry, and boring (they rely entirely on content), the concept with this ad was to be attractive - to be the best looking ad in the sea of set type. This would help it stand out and improve the appearance of the page. The headline was set with swashes to provide flair, border around the copy helped contain the sections of text and provide unity as an island floating in the sea of black ink on the page. It was a hit. The promotions director adopted the ad and used it for several years.




New Employee Manual
As a new 'employee', I had a bit of a confusing time learning all the policies, traditions and organization of the Dallas Times Herald. I proposed to the Advertising Director that he allow me to create a new employee orientation manual. I interviewed people, conducted research, and gathered forms and maps. I designed a binder for the new material with pockets to hold the existing forms. It was a hit. They adopted the idea and general organization. The paper's own art and promotion departments produced the new orientation manual. It felt good to have made such an impact as an intern.

Doodles

One page of many from notebooks - I doodled during boring lectures. Sketch for an ad for a project about busy housewives.

Stadium message

A fraternity brother and I got into the Longhorn stadium before a game and flipped seats up or down to form this message. On the right, cropped out of the picture by the UT photographer, were the Greek symbols for Tri-Delt and Sigma Chi.

Ads and poster, Blithe Spirit, Zachary Scott Theater Center, Austin; 1972
Press kit, Jay Boy Adams, Austin; 1976

www.jamesrobertwatson.com/college.html