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Local non-profits receive help from graphics students

By Sally Jongsma

Senior art major David Kreykes says it was a thrill to design the Tornadoes' logo and see it slowly develop into its final form.  He received encouragement and direction from Art Professor David Versluis.

Senior art major David Kreykes says it was a thrill to design the Tornadoes' logo and see it slowly develop into its final form. He received encouragement and direction from Art Professor David Versluis.

The Tornadoes, a USA youth hockey team in Sioux Center, are sporting professional-looking new jerseys thanks to students in a Dordt College graphic design class.

Members of the class were asked by their instructor, David Versluis, to come up with a logo that could be used in a variety of ways by the Sioux Center Hockey Association’s youth hockey teams.

“I felt badly that we couldn’t use all of them. They were very good, very impressive,” says Dr. Jim Vanderwoerd, professor of social work, father of three sons in the youth hockey program, and coach of the thirteen- and fourteen-year-old team.

“I thought this was a ‘made in service-learning-heaven’ opportunity,” continues Vanderwoerd, who has asked Versluis and his students to design posters for social work in the past.

The design the youth hockey board eventually selected was done by David Kreykes, a senior from Sheldon, Iowa, but it was modified to include typography from another student’s design.

“They offered us a range of color schemes and creative designs,” said Vanderwoerd. In the end, the board chose the logo they did because it was unique and simple. In fact, its simplicity was a major factor because it made the cost of printing the jerseys more affordable for an organization with few resources.

“I wanted to make something that looked professional, something that the city of Sioux Center and the players would be proud of for a long time,” says Kreykes.

Kreykes began by sketching images that he felt related to tornadoes, looking up photos of real tornadoes for inspiration. He then took his best sketches and began illustrating them with Adobe Illustrator. Eventually he picked what he considered the strongest one and continued to develop it further.

“The logo took about two weeks of work,” Kreykes says. “I worked on it for about an hour or so each day tweaking it and adjusting it until I thought it looked just right.”

Kreykes says he wanted it to depict "rushing in tough and strong against opponents.” He also wanted it to look clean and show the agility and speed of skating.

The Tornadoes project was not unusual for Versluis and his students. Versluis regularly uses real projects so that his students can experience working with and for a client. And he usually doesn’t have any trouble finding them.

“I’m always getting calls from people who are looking for help designing something,” he says, but adds that he can’t accept all of them.

“The request has to fit,” Versluis says. “You can’t just go from one project to another with no control over how it fits into the course.” He makes sure that the projects he assigns allow his students to build on what they’ve already studied and gives them an opportunity to use skills and techniques they’ve learned in previous projects. They have to contribute to what he wants to achieve in the course and what he wants his students to learn.

“I pick and choose what I’ll accept,” Versluis says.

A second consideration is who the request comes from. Versluis gets requests from both non-profits and for-profits, but except in special circumstances, he accepts only those from non-profits. He realizes that his students can perform a valuable service for many people, but he does not want to undercut local professionals who must earn their living too.

Versluis underscores how valuable these opportunities are. Interacting with a client is very important from Versluis’s perspective.

“It takes practice to learn how to ask the right questions to get the information you need to put together a design that meets their needs,” he says. Interestingly, asking the right questions can also benefit the client. Versluis recalls a time when he was working as a professional graphic designer that a client changed the name of the company based on probing questions he asked about what the company did and who its market was.

In the past, Versluis’s students have designed such things as hallway signs for Orange City Christian School, an anniversary book for Sioux Center Christian School, websites, and posters for various college departments and events.

They regularly design the fall Pops Concert poster.

“That’s a good exercise because it deals with popular ‘art’,” Versluis says, adding, “art with a small ‘a’.” Students learn at the outset how to deal with copyrights and public domain issues and work them into a design.

They have also created an identity logo for the Student Activities Committee on campus to give it more visibility. The project was similar to creating a corporate identity for a company. Students are asked to design logos and typography that can be used on everything from uniforms to signs and letterheads to company mugs.

Versluis is committed to training his students in classical design structure—emphasizing the role of rhythm, unity, harmony, and variety in a design—so they have the tools to be fresh and convey visual information in the best way they can. One of Versluis’s strong emphases is on typography and how to select and orchestrate type that works with a project.

“Only when they’ve learned the basics, can they begin to break the rules or vary them,” he says.

Like Vanderwoerd, Versluis, too, was pleased with his students’ work for the Tornadoes. And the students themselves enjoyed it, he says.

Being of genuine service to a client ignites a little more of a spark in them, he says. And they value the material it gives them for their portfolios.