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The following is an interview by Jack Dempsey, chairman of the Sesquicentennial committee, of Nicky Intralan, student at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit who designed the logo for the commemoration.
N:Assistant Professor, Graphic Design, College for Creative Studies.
J:Member, Michigan Historical Commission Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee.
J: Hello, Nicky.
N: How are you Jack?
J: Good, how are you?
N: Good. I was a little confused with all the options I had to get through to get here, so I had to do it a couple times.
J: Oh, no problem.
N: I’m here now, so it’s all good.
J: Did you hear anything that suggested that we might be recording this?
N: Yes, that’s fine.
J: You’re OK with that?
N: Yeah, I guess. I mean, if you guys are going to use it, like, I assume you guys would be recording it or keeping notes about it anyway, so …
J: Good, good. I probably will try to have this made into a document, and then I’d email it to you, and if there’s something, you know, glaring, we can always revise. This isn’t going to be put on the evening news to embarrass or anything, it’s just more or less to talk about the logo process.
N: Yeah, sure, no problem.
J: OK. Why don’t I ask you some questions? Be relaxed, nothing to worry about here, so – first question.
N: Just a logo.
J: Right. Well, first question – where do you hail from?
N: I was born and raised in London, Ontario in Canada.
J: And how did you get to the College for Creative Studies?
N: After I was done with high school in Canada, I went to the University of Western Ontario to do communications, because I really wanted to be in the media field. Then after that, I felt that I still needed to feed my creative desires. I’ve always been into art and, at the time, my dad was working in the States already in Michigan, in Auburn Hills, because his job was transferred while I was in high school. So I was kind of looking into schools there, and my dad had suggested CCS.
J: And where are you in your educational career?
N: I just graduated in May and, right now, I’m looking for jobs in Chicago and New York. I’m waiting on some studios here, but at the same time, I want to keep my options open and spread my work everywhere right now.
J: Very good. So, why don’t we talk then a little bit about the process at CCS on the logo design? You don’t have to go through too much detail, but essentially, your instructor Chad Richert gathered some students in a practicum, correct?
N: Right. A practicum is a class where students are chosen to participate in projects that have to deal directly with clients or real world design situations. Chad was the instructor that hand picked each student for the class, choosing the students that had strengths and skill sets for the projects he was going to assign for the semester.
J: So we were like your client, and you were the agency?
J: And Chad did some instruction, we provided some materials for you all to look at in terms of the subject of Michigan and the Civil War. What happened then – how did it proceed?
N: After you had given us the materials to look through and research, Chad gave us an outline of what we needed to deliver and when we needed to deliver it. Just like a professional practice, the class had to meet specific deadlines. It began with students being involved with the designing process. After we had all put in our ideas, we had a first critique with Judy Tappero to see what she was reacting to. She eventually decided on three different directions that belonged to three different students, and we went from there. Each focused on different approaches to designing a logo. One was mainly typographic, one was symbolic, and my design was illustrative.
J: Did all 3 of you contribute to this final design, or was this your design?
N: We would all contribute in critiques to help each other make our designs better, but the initial idea and final outcome was my design.
J: And do you remember the names of the other two?
N: Oh yes, for sure. They’re my friends. Stephanie Horodko and Lisa Wallace.
J: And then, as I recall, there were really 2 if not 3 that she got down to.
J: That would be yours and another one?
N: Yes, there was a stamp one that Lisa had come up with.
J: And then yours was the one that won out.
J: (Chuckling) I was going to say, how’d that make you feel?
N: It made me feel pretty good. As a designer or artist, when you make something, it becomes personal. You nitpick at every little thing in the process of making something and so, at the end of it all, it feels good when those efforts are recognized.
J: Now, let’s talk about the logo itself. How did – what was your thinking going into the design? What was it that you were trying to do?
N: Going into the design, I had no idea what I wanted to do. It was mostly in the process of researching the images that I got the idea to make an illustration. It was a deadly war, everyone knows that, but what made the war so memorable was that it united men who weren’t united before. People rose to the occasion and came together to fight for what they believed in. That eventually became the theme I wanted to represent. I wanted it to be emotional and to show the camaraderie that emerged amidst the ugliness of the war.
J: And what were your thoughts about how you would do a logo? What kinds of options did you think about?
N: I guess when designing a logo, the first thing that you have to think about it is the theme or what do you want this logo to represent? When someone sees this logo, what do you want them to know? After the themes are identified, you start thinking about what kind of forms or images can best represent that theme. I immediately was drawn to a silhouette for the illustration because I didn’t want this figure to represent any specific people or race. Then I played around with the type and which words should be highlighted to form a message.
J: Looks like the word “Sesquicentennial” is in a vintage type face, would you agree with that?
N: Yes, it’s more speaking to the past or the posters that were present during that time and has more of a hand quality to it.
J: And then “Michigan Civil War” above it is in pretty much block font.
N: Yes, it has an industrial feel to it, and it’s a little bit more modern. By combining a historical/traditional font with a more modern one, I wanted to speak to the nature of the event and how it is celebrating the past in the present.
J: Then, as far as the image, let’s talk first about these, what I’ll call, rays. Is that what those are?
N: Yes, they are. I was going for the Civil War as a revolution. It was the birth of a new nation, and so I wanted the rays to evoke the breaking of a new dawn, and they have risen above all the turmoil. I wanted the rays to represent the feeling of something emerging, like an uprising of some sort.
J: And obviously you have weapons in there because it was a military conflict, right?
N: Yes, exactly. And that was another part of the process of trying not to make it look too violent. I was trying to make them look as if they were victorious and proud in the way that they were holding up their weapons.
J: Then another feature that stands out is this flag mast, or staff with a flag.
N: Yes, and the one thing to note about it is that it’s not in perfect condition. It’s tattered, and the meaning for that is that it is an ugly war and people have lost their lives, so that kind of flag signifies the hardships that these men had to go through.
J: And why did you stick a flag in at all?
N: Just because it was a very patriotic war, right? It was against the South, and the North, and so these men were tied to a certain location or a certain state, so the flag represents that. Flags represent people being proud of where they come from.
J: Why did you choose this circular – right? – the top half is half a circle, sort of a circular …?
N: Yes, it’s like an oval half circle shape. It went with the flow of the shape of people. I wanted something that would contain them. So that shape seemed almost natural to me. And just rays in general create that shape as they go outward.
J: What are the main messages that you got out of your research and thinking about this that you wanted to convey through this logo?
N: I think I had said before the fact that these men who didn’t know each other came together, so it was about unity, it was about camaraderie, and just pride for their country and wanting something better. Those were the emotions or feelings I want to evoke with the logo. The main message is that they wanted to fight for something, and so to change it, they got together and combined forces.
J: So you did definitely want to invoke emotions
N: Oh yes, definitely. Almost like nostalgia, because this had happened in the past, and you see these silhouettes that represent these ghosts of the past or people who fought for us or the country.
J: Having gone through this and looked into this subject and done this design work, do you think this has relevance to people of your age, your generation?
N: I think that because my generation is so involved with all of our social networks and technology, it’s easy to lose sight of what past generations did and the struggles they went through. I definitely felt a disconnect going into the project, but as I researched more and began to realize the importance of this war to our nation today, it humbled me in a way and gave me a sense of pride. For me to be able to live in this country as a Filipino Canadian woman, and be granted all the rights and opportunities that I have, is definitely something I can’t take for granted.
J: So, maybe to sort of wrap this up, I could say what do you want people that see this logo to take away from it?
N: I guess just to know that there were real people involved. I mean, a lot of people sacrificed their lives for where we are today – our freedoms and our rights today – and just remember that and respect that.
J: Very good. Anything else that maybe you might want to say that I haven’t covered?
N: No, I think I’m good.
J: I really appreciate you doing this with me. I’ll try to have it documented, and I assume I can still email it to you?
N: Sure, no problem. We don’t usually talk about –well, I haven’t usually talked about my logos after the fact that I’ve designed them. So this is kind of an experience.
J: Well, I would assume in the future, not that I’m in any way knowledgeable about this, but if you went into a client who said I really would like a logo, and you present them with one and you say this is exactly what you want, sometimes they’ll say that’s it, let’s go with it, and sometimes they’ll say what’s this represent? Tell me about this. I don’t quite get it. And you might have to explain it.
N: Yes, true. And that’s what I feel CCS has prepared me to do. We always talk about our work, day in day out, that’s what we have to do. I find it easier now than when I first started school, I didn’t know everything had to have a meaning or everything had to be thought out. I thought it was just you make something, and if it looks good, then you’re good. But it’s definitely not like that, and I guess it feels better once you know that things have meaning too.
J: Well great. Thanks so much Nicki. I look forward to talking with you in the future.
N: Cool. Have a good day.
J: Thanks. Bye.
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