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UH graphics program a local alternative for design work

Brenda Tavakoli

Staff Writer

As the University of Houston's graphics program gains momentum nationally, many of the university's own departments remain apparently unaware of its affordable, quality services.

"It takes a long time to build a reputation," says Cheryl Beckett, professor of graphic communications.

She said UH students are a formidable presence and are very sought after at the American Center for Design conferences. "We are the only school that has (a consistently large number of) students at the national conference." Beckett added that conference judges seek out UH student to judge their submissions.

The graphics program offers students many chances to learn and develop their skills.

Beckett explained that the program uses "a really good computer lab" and that a supportive environment gives graphics students a real incentive to work with and learn from each other.

Beckett added that students really push each other to strive for excellence, especially in the rigorous upper-level course blocks.

Yet she concedes that "I've come from schools that use their graphics program much better."

Colleges (and their departments) within the university can have the graphic design program do graphics work for them - free of charge.

However, fewer colleges and departments take advantage of this opportunity than might be expected.

Beckett acknowledges that a good deal of the graphics work does stay within UH. "I think that because we have a fairly active office of publications, they (university colleges and departments) tend to use them. Most work is done through them. It is not so much (university) inactivity."

Fiona McGettigan, professor of both graphic communication design and design, said, "The (program) emphasis is on creative thinking. We focus more on graduating creative thinkers, not production majors." She added that the program has a good placement rate.

A lack of use of the graphic design program may actually be a blessing in disguise. McGettigan said that she does not think that students should feel forced to do work for free.

"Students are here to focus on school work. It is not good for students to be forced into doing work for free."

Departments and colleges can pay the Office of Publications to design and produce items like posters, brochures and other promotional items.

Steve Lee, senior (staff) graphic designer in charge of multimedia and UH alumnus, said the publications office "serves all 14 colleges and 20-plus departments. We offer our services for a very, very reasonable set price."

The office of publications employs four designers (including Lee), three editors, one photographer and one UH intern. One editor is an alumnus; the photographer is also a UH alumnus.

Lee acknowledges that "as an alumni and designer, there are some projects that go outside that we'd like to have in-house. It could save a lot of money."

He added that "there are departments that don't even know that there is a publications department within UH."

When asked about the controversial athletic department decision to contract a New York firm to design the athletic logo, Lee said, "I actually like the logo. (But) They spend all of their money on outside firms; they could benefit from coming to us."

Capable as they are, the graphics program and the office of publications do not work together much. However, the addition of one UH graphics intern is a step in a new direction. Lee said, "It has really worked out well for us."

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