The assignment: design and create a functional jacket for a book in Shafer Library that accurately reflects the content and character of material that can range from murder to the Reformation.
Anne Beekman, associate professor of graphic design and illustration, has given this not-so-easy task to her Art 305 and 405 students for the past four years. Consequently, and unbeknown to most, more than 60 books in Shafer Library’s stacks are adorned and protected by original student art.
The latest results from one of the spring graphic design classes are being displayed in the library’s case near the entrance throughout the summer.
Beekman said she chooses the books and takes into consideration each of her students’ interests and background before assigning them. For instance, one of her students, whose husband attends Winebrenner Theological Seminary, was assigned “When Church Became Theatre: The Transformation of Evangelical Architecture and Worship in Nineteenth-Century America” by Jeanne Halgren Klide.
All of the assigned books are nonfiction; some are textbooks.
This year’s crop included titles such as “Winning is Everything and Other American Myths” by Thomas Tutko, jacket design by Ryan Skonieczny; “Sugar and Slavery in Puerto Rico: The Plantation Economy of Ponce, 1800-1850” by Francisco Scarano, design by Janko Radmanovic; and “Learning Limits: College Women, Drugs and Relationships” by Kimberly Williams, design by Melanie McCaffrey.
The students don’t have to read the entire book that’s been assigned to them, although Beekman said many find them fascinating enough to do so. They are required to peruse the book and research its topic to inform their design, she said.
“They have absolutely no constraints other than including the title, any subtitle and the author’s name” on the jacket, said Beekman. They must also include the library code on the spine, the bar code on the back, and their own name on the inside flap.
The finished product must, of course, wrap around the book well and be an original work. Many students choose to use their own photos or illustrations, which they can then manipulate using software of their choosing or create a freehand piece. They must also consider typography in terms of font, size, color and positioning.
Part of the assignment requires the students to critique each other’s work, and from that input consider making changes, before they submit it.
The fundamental elements of design apply when grading, Beekman explained. “Good design is good design. The way I grade is, I consider technical skills – have they manipulated these images? Have they used the software for design aesthetics to make something with a really powerful look? Does it have originality? Does it communicate effectively? It could be beautiful, but if it hasn’t conveyed the message appropriately it hasn’t succeeded,” she pointed out.
The books, with their new jackets, stay in the library for the duration.
“The library always gets excited to see what’s been done,” said Beekman. “The level of professionalism is really outstanding.”