Design Streak Studio celebrated its 40th anniversary with an opening reception and exhibit at University Galleries that was marked by an appreciative, upbeat mood from the 100 or so people gathered in Uptown Normal on November 3.
Design Streak Studio Creative and Art Director Archana Shekara, a professor of graphic design in the Wonsook Kim School of Art, played host and emcee for the occasion. She welcomed colleagues, former colleagues, friends, current students, and a panel of alumni for whom their Design Streak Studio experience has been integral to their success.
The exhibit, “Designing Discoveries,” runs through December 18 and features Design Streak projects that are familiar to the campus and town communities. Logos for the Town of Normal, Normal Public Library, McLean County, YWCA McLean County’s Labyrinth Made Goods, National Center for Urban Education, and the Illinois Art Station are on display.
Former professor Pam Tannura started Design Streak Studio in 1981 and then led it for almost 25 years before another former professor, Julie Johnson, was the leader from 2005 to 2015. Shekara is the third director, having taken over in 2016. The celebration capped a series of lectures given by well-known graphic designers and educators.
The honored alumni invited to take part in the “Celebrating Alumni” panel discussion included: Caryn Aono ’81; Jeremy Christy ’11; Gabe Gonzalez ’17; John Havermann ’92; Cliff Sack ’83; Micah Vetter ’20; and Tony Williams ’22.
Sack, who has worked in corporate communications most of his career, advised students in the room to never give up. He said everything started for him with Tannura and Design Streak.
“It’s just my honor to be here and show my gratitude,” he said.
Thirty years ago, Havermann designed the Town of Normal logo. He said he was thrilled to see it’s still in use. He’s gone on to work on famous campaigns, including for Allstate Insurance (the “mayhem” guy) and for the McDonald’s Happy Meal ads. He told students not to become discouraged when their ideas are met with revisions.
“Have thick skin,” he said. “Don’t take any of this personally. Keep pushing forward”
Christy works for DESTIHL Brewery and said he went from designing wedding invitations to the world of beer, which he said is a lot more fun. He still uses what he learned in Design Streak.
“I have the same clients every day—my bosses,” he said. “Have a reason, a rationale because you have to convince someone why you’ve chosen a design or a color.”
Vetter thanked Shekara for teaching her to put her clients first.
“Your clients are more important than your design preference,” she said.
Williams, who works for an agency in Chicago, told students not to play it safe with their designs.
“Swing big on your personal ideas,” Williams said. “If you bunt, who cares?”
Shekara, who teaches her students to emphasize cultural understanding in design, spoke to Williams directly.
“We are persons of color. Sometimes we have to work twice as hard,” she said. “I’m so proud of you.”
Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer Dr. Doris Houston described Design Streak as an integral part of the University’s equity, diversity, and inclusion journey.
“We all appreciate the way you, Archana, have led and taught your students to use their own visual creativity to both inspire and drive social change,” Houston said.
Dr. Katy Strzepek, director of the Center for Civic Engagement, offered her congratulations and thanked Shekara and her students for helping elevate the University’s core value of civic engagement.
Aono ’81 is a graphic designer in Los Angeles and a professor in the graphic design program at California Institute of the Arts since 1989. Shekara said Aono initiated Design Streak back in 1981 when she was a student of Tannura.
“It was really a collective idea that came out organically in talks with Pam about what to do,” Aono said. “I didn’t feel ready, and my portfolio was looking weird … like what would I need to put in my portfolio so I could get a job? So, that was the focus.”
Tannura described Aono as beyond gifted. Looking back, she said she was surprised by the program’s longevity and popularity because it was a struggle to get it off the ground.
“This was a long road,” Tannura said. “I fought for this. I fought for academic credit for this. I fought for space for this when I was told we didn’t need it. It feels full circle. It feels good.”
Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts Dean Jean Miller thanked Shekara and described the work produced by her students as “always outstanding.”
“Design Streak Studio is a point of pride absolutely for the college and Illinois State University and will probably be here for another 40 years,” Miller said.
Shekara thanked the panelists for sharing their wisdom, challenges, and hardships. To her predecessors, Tannura and Johnson, she said: “Thank you for starting this, and I promise to keep this legacy going.”
In the moments after the panel ended as she headed into the reception, Shekara summed up how she was feeling.
“Amazing, so gratifying, rewarding,” she said. “Celebrating is an emotional moment for me. I’m just thankful, blessed. I believe in karma and grace. This was meant to be.”