The Elena Diane Curris
Endowment for Design at
the University of Northern Iowa
This exhibition is the inaugural event in an on-going tradition of design-themed exhibitions at the Gallery of Art at the University of Northern Iowa.
Every two years, the series will feature a major exhibition of remarkable work by designers. Annually, it will also provide for the return to campus (to speak publicly, and to work with current students) of a prominent graduate of the UNI Graphic Design program, within the larger Department of Art.
This series is named in memory of Elena Diane Curris (1977-2015), the daughter of Constantine (Deno) Curris and Jo Hern Curris. Elena lived in Cedar Falls and attended the UNI Price Laboratory School during the years that her father was president of the university. Throughout her life, she was deeply interested in design.
The long-term support for this series is made possible by a generous endowment from Elena’s family, and is supplemented by additional contributions from friends and others who wish to promote the excellence of graphic design education at UNI.
Graphic Design Education at the
University of Northern Iowa
The UNI Graphic Design curriculum is housed within the Department of Art. It offers a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Graphic Design, which is comprised of a sequence of courses in publication design, typography, digital illustration, web design, identity systems and branding design, motion graphics (animation), mobile device and apps design, innovative book design, portfolio refinement, and the history of design. It also provides opportunities for internships and studies abroad.
In recent years, UNI graphic design students have received numerous awards in prestigious design competitions, both regional and national. Three of those students (in various years) have been chosen by the top newsstand design magazines (Print and Communication Arts) as among the nation’s finest design students.
An increasing number of graduates have established their own design firms, while others have earned advanced degrees and are now university professors.
The largest segment have become career designers at regional, national and international firms, among them Apple Corporation, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Red Bull Media House, L.L. Bean, ConnectFive, Shift Global, Grey Advertising, Best Buy, Target, Pixar Studios, Visual Logic, Meredith Corporation, VGM, and many others.
Current members of the UNI graphic design faculty are Soo Hostetler, Philip Fass, and Roy R. Behrens.
Gallery of Art
UNI Department of Art
Kamerick Art Building
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0362
Monday–Thursday, 10 am–7 pm; Friday and Saturday, noon–5 pm; and by appointment.
The University of Northern Iowa does not discriminate in employment or education. Visit uni.edu/policies/1303 for additional information.
We are grateful to the Curris family for their kind support of graphic design at UNI. Thank you to Paul D. Whitson, Jessica Helfand, Dennis Ichiyama, Stephanie Mathena, Danielle Shearer, and Brandi Weis for allowing the inclusion of items that they own or have themselves created. We are also appreciative of Cedar Rock (The Walters Residence) and The River City Society for Historic Preservation (Mason City) for the loan of Frank Lloyd Wright architectural models. A special thanks to Noreen Hermansen for all her help behind the scenes.
City National Bank and Park Inn Hotel / Mason City
The Reach and Richness of Design
The Elena Diane Curris
Biennial Design Exhibition 2018
Monday, October 8, 2018, 6:00 pm
through Friday, November 16, 2018, 5:00 pm
at the Gallery of Art, Kamerick Art Building,
University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa
The opening events for this exhibition will begin at 6:00 pm on Monday, October 8, in the KAB Auditorium (Room 111) with a presentation by UNI graphic design alumna Jessica Barness, Associate Professor of Visual Communication Design at Kent State University, Kent, Ohio. While a student at UNI, she earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1999, and a Master of Arts in 2001. In recent years, she has gained distinction for her innovations in design, her published critical writings, and a growing list of prestigious awards.
Members of the Curris family will be in attendance at the opening presentation and exhibition, and at the reception that follows the talk. Valet parking will be available.
As a later phase of the exhibition, on Monday, November 12 at 6:00 pm, there will be a presentation by Dennis Ichiyama, Emeritus Professor of Visual Communication Design at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. Professor Ichiyama is widely-known for his achievements in graphic design. A selection of his typographic wood block prints are among the items featured in the exhibition.
All events are free and open to the public.
The Gallery of Art is directed by Darrell Taylor, who designed and installed the exhibit. The curator for this year’s exhibition (who chose the theme and the contents) is Roy R. Behrens, UNI Professor of Art (graphic design and design history) and Distinguished Scholar. For the initial exhibition in the Curris Endowment series, it was decided to include a mix of aspects of “the reach and richness of design.” Thus, the items on exhibit represent at least five categories of design: architectural design, editorial illustration, industrial design, information graphics, and wood type and typography. Below are descriptions of the five components of the exhibition, with notes on their significance.
Architectural Design / Frank Lloyd Wright
During a courtroom appearance, Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) purportedly said that he was “the world’s greatest living architect.” When criticized afterwards for such unabashed self-esteem, he replied, “But I was under oath—I had to answer truthfully.” Posthumously, he was named “the greatest American architect of all time” by the American Institute of Architects. In his 70 years as an architect, he designed more than 1000 buildings, of which 532 were actually constructed. Some of his buildings are in Iowa. The Walters Residence (called Cedar Rock), a Usonian home near Quasqueton, is one of the few structures that he signed. In Mason City, the Stockman House and the recently restored City National Bank and Park Inn Hotel are two of his finest early works. On exhibit here are Wright commemorative posters (by UNI alumni Stephanie Mathena, Danielle Shearer and Brandi Weis), architectural models of three of his Iowa buildings, and patent drawings for his furniture.
Editorial Illustration / Ad Reinhardt
To most people, Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967) was an American Abstract Expressionist whose “black paintings” anticipated minimalist and conceptual art. They may also know his writings, published as Art as Art, as well as his famous statement that “Aesthetics is for the artist as ornithology is for the birds.” It is not widely known that Reinhardt was also a graphic designer, a cartoonist and illustrator, with a riotous sense of humor. During World War II, he illustrated Races of Mankind, a public service pamphlet that advocated racial equality, and which was later condemned as “communist” by Joseph McCarthy’s notorious senate committee. Before and after the war, Reinhardt made thousands of illustrations and collages for a provocative daily newspaper called PM. In this exhibition are large-scale reproductions of fifteen panels from his hilarious (and insightful) cartoons on How to Look at Art.
Industrial Design / Pencil Sharpeners / Paul D. Whitson Collection
Pencils are taken for granted. While Henry David Thoreau was living in his cabin at Walden Pond, he made a list of everything he had in his possession there. Oddly, he forgot to list one item—the pencil with which he was writing the list. This was in spite of the fact that Thoreau’s father was a pencil manufacturer. In this highly unusual exhibit are rare and surprising examples from the history of the pencil sharpener, from the mid-1800s to the present day. Exhibited here for the first time are a few of the thousands of sharpeners and other pencil-related treasures from the collection of Paul D. Whitson, UNI Professor Emeritus of Biology. These icons of engineering design are juxtaposed with large-scale close-up images of a selected few. All together, they provide an insightful cross-section of the history of industrial design, as shown by the many variant forms of a single, simple functional tool.
Information Graphics / Volvelles / Jessica Helfand Collection
Volvelles are informally known as “wheel charts” or “information wheels.” They are not so common today, but for many years they were a ubiquitous low-tech way of accessing data quickly by turning two rotating disks, and finding the answers in window-like slots. Many were used to advertise products and services, while others were simply convenient tools. Their themes were all but limitless: Constellations, first-aid, bird calls, history, geography, medical diagnosis. There is resurgence of interest in volvelles, thanks to the notable efforts of designer and author Jessica Helfand, founding editor of the Design Observer website and Senior Critic at the Yale School of Art. A collector of wheel charts, in 2002 she published a book about volvelles titled Reinventing the Wheel (described by Chip Kidd as “the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel”). In this exhibition are large, exquisite full-color images of a selection of her volvelles, and examples of some reimagined as clocks.
Wood Type and Typography / Dennis Ichiyama
The term “wood type” refers to letterforms made from wood, not metal. In commercial printing, they were especially widely used in the 19th century, beginning about 1830. When printing large letterforms, wood type was far lighter than metal. But as technology evolved, its use began to decline around the 1920s. In recent years, there has been a rebirth of interest in wood type, partly inspired by a documentary film titled Type Face (2009). It was filmed at the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and focused on the current use of wood type by artists in creating prints. Among its best-known practitioners is graphic designer Dennis Ichiyama, Professor Emeritus of Visual Communications Design at Purdue University, who was featured in that film. In this exhibition are selections of his wood block prints as
well as artifacts that pertain to his long-term interest in the history of
The Gallery of Art is located at the University of Northern Iowa on the west side of campus. It is on the ground floor of the south wing of the Kamerick Art Building. The building is east of the UNI-Dome, across Hudson Road. Its main entrance faces West 27th Street. For more specific directions, go to this campus map.
Everything that man makes is designed, but not everything is well designed. Good design only comes about when things are made with attention both to their functional and their aesthetic qualities. …good design starts from the premise that living is more than just a matter of existing, and that everyday things which are both effective and attractive can raise the quality of life.
—Sir Terence Conran