Communication design student thinks outside box

September 27, 2007

by Sarah Carmichael

Wes Johnson creates emotional memories, blasted and drawn on torn cardboard boxes; nothing can contain the admiration of Johnson’s art he receives from both peers and professors.

Johnson, a junior communication design and studio art major, said the opened cardboard box is a metaphor for his childhood memories and identity opened up through art.

“[The art] I’ve done recently has a landscape background because I’m at the point where phrases and figures don’t necessarily convey what I thought of the people at the time, but how I feel about everything looking back,” Johnson said.

Johnson dreams of someday sketching for comic books, but suspects he will end up in communication design, designing Web sites.

“If I had three wishes, one would be to go draw for comic books somewhere,” Johnson said. “If I didn’t have that hands-on connection, I’d explode.”

Jonathan Donehoo, director of the School of Art, said Johnson is one of about 300 students enrolled in communication design, the largest art program at Tech.

Donehoo said communication design attracts bright students like Johnson.

“The kind of work ComDes does is very anonymous,” Donehoo said. “Most people could name a famous artist or designer, but not a ComDes, although [communication design] influences and affects people’s lives on a daily basis.”

Donehoo said the art of communication design is evident everywhere, from the cover of books to the letter-type inside.

“[The design] was all chosen by a designer. Everything is, from Web sites to T-shirts, that is why we no longer call it graphic design,” Donehoo said. “We are beyond the days of print.”

Johnson said communication design combines traditional studio art with technology.

“Strip them of intention and there wouldn’t be a whole lot of differences as far as processes go,” Johnson said. “They are both visual communication at the core.”

Johnson said both are aimed at audiences, although in his opinion, studio art is more passionate.

“The whole design aspect is emotionally detached, unlike studio art. I wish there was some happy medium, but there’s not,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the driving force behind all his artwork is his childhood memories and pains, like his first experience with love in the fifth grade.

“People don’t take children seriously. I thought a lot about things as a kid,” Johnson said. “And I hold on to memories that some people think are stupid, and you will see that in my art.”