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

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


Top and above left: The outdoor board. Above right: The cover of the program.

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.

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

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


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.

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.

Sigma Chi Fraternity

Above left: cover for the program for Derby Day, a field day of events among campus sororities. I was already fascinated by aligning elements. Right: The Greek letter logo contains an arrow in the negative space between the letters. Below: Campaign brochure for Brad Lollar.

More Sigma Chi design work.

Sweetheart Pageant at UT

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 Tower at UT

Full story.


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

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.

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

Design projects for Sigma Chi fraternity.

www.jamesrobertwatson.com/college.html