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An Artist's Journey

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Chapter 6: Design Resources

 

Shortly after I began to work at Ski Haus, we arranged to form an independent graphic design studio, Design Resources. I was provided office space in exchange for advertising design for Ski Haus and it's various interests. This allowed me to take in work from other clients, some of them Vance Campbell's friends in the business community.

The Design Resources office was originally a workshop and ski rental outlet for Ski Haus.

I designed a simple logo and stationary package for the new business

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As usual, I designed and built my own work areas. This counter and shelf were suspended from the ceiling beams with cables.

On the left is one of two identical free-standing work stations I built. They could sit independently or back to back, depending on space requirements. On the right, my assistant, Terri Good, is coordinating a project.

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This VGC (Visual Graphics Corporation) machine was a self-contained camera and film processor that we used to make reproduction prints of black and white line art and photos. In the pre-computer era, this was an essential production tool that saved the time and expense of ordering prints from a typesetting service or print shop. We also made film positives of art and logos that Natural Duck needed to prepare their silkscreens.

My neighbor was the Art Company, a frame and print shop that Vance Campbell started with Mary Peachin. Mary was a Levy, the same family that owned Levy's department store where I first worked after graduation from the UofA. I designed the Art Company logo and print advertising as part of my arrangement with Ski Haus.

Mary Peachin in front of the Art Company, and the wall plaque for the Ski Haus corporate offices a few doors east. One of the first projects for Ski Haus was to design their new logo.

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I painted the logo behind the reception desk of the corporate office and created a project display board for Vance Campbell's office.

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The ad on the left is a newspaper tear sheet. On the right is a paste-up of another ad before the final print was made to send to the newspaper. A big part of our job was cut and paste production work. It involved ordering type from a service, making prints of the photos and logos with the VGC camera, then pasting everything onto a board with rubber cement or wax according to the layout. This was a craft in itself.

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I would first draw up an idea in layout form. After the layout was approved by Vance and the buyers, I would gather the products and schedule models and a photographer. I directed the photo sessions, looked through the lens viewer to make sure we had the right shot, then the photographer took the photo.

This ad sold a lot of shorts whenever it ran. The manufacturer, Sportif, purchased rights to the photo from the photographer to use in their national advertising..

A few more routine ads for Ski Haus.

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These are typical designs for Natural Duck. The idea behind this business was to silkscreen the logo of the customer—ski shops and ski areas—onto a line of canvas boot, ski and tote bags. The shops could use the customized bags for their own promotional purposes or sell them.

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These duck photos were taken at the local zoo. It took much coaxing by me and the photographer to get a duck to peek into a bag.

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I made these simple display modules from poster board and tape for use at trade shows.

These are typical ads for the Art Company.

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I took in work from a variety of outside clients to keep Design Resources afloat but there were months when my assistant made more money than I did. As much as I enjoyed the work, the numbers were not adding up in my favor. I emptied my savings in 1980 to get through a slow summer.

A few examples of work for other clients.

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In 1980, Vance decided to expand Ski Haus. He renamed it Sportstuff to include a broader range of sports equipment rather than rely almost entirely on skiing. I designed a logo, ads and other graphics for the new store.

Here's how the logo translated into signage.

I used the stripes of the "S" to decorate the building's exterior.

Then, western winters became unusually warm and lacking in snow. The new business still relied heavily on skiing, and suffered. Change was in the air. I realized in January of 1981 that I couldn't keep Design Resources going and I left the business in the spring to work at home as a free-lancer. I thought, "If I was going to go broke I'd at least be more comfortable at home than in the office."

Sportstuff struggled on for another year or two before filing for bankruptcy and closing. Natural Duck was sold and continued for a few years before also closing. The Art Company remained viable for several years until it was sold and eventually closed.

 

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