Smile Politely

10 reasons not to miss the Parkland College Graphic Design Show opening this Wednesday

I’ve been a fan of this show for years. I came to support friends in the program and left astonished by the creativity and skill of the students. Years later, finally submitting to the siren’s call, I signed up for classes myself and was humbled to have my work on the Giertz Gallery’s esteemed walls. This year’s show is particularly significant, and bittersweet, as it celebrates the achievements of the program and its students, and marks the retirement of program director Paul Young. I urge you to make room on your Wednesday evening calendar for the opening reception, where you’ll feel the buzz of excitement, the pride of parents and friends, and see Young in his element as he bestows this year’s awards and expertly leads a gallery tour and talk. 

Now, l’ll channel my inner student once again and support my bold thesis with these 10 supporting reasons not to miss this year’s Parkland College Graphic Design Student Show. 

It’s not everyday that you get to experience graphic design work in a fine art gallery environment

In the world of graphic design, every choice is deliberate. And this is no exception. Young observes that “students feel a sense of accomplishment when they see their work professionally displayed in the gallery.” But there’s much more to it than that. Like the local Champaign-Urbana Design Organization’s Pro Show, the Parkland Graphic Design Student exhibition elevates graphic design by placing it into a fine arts context. Taking the work out of its functional day-to-day context and installing it in an interactive exhibition forces viewers to see the work (and the field of graphic design) differently.  In many cases, when design is good, we barely notice it all. In service to the message, it does not draw attention itself. But this show upends those notions.  Here you can bask in the talent, the creative vision, the potential, and the hard work made to appear effortless. 

Check out galleries of previous student shows on the Parkland website


There’s more to graphic design than you think (part one)

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the words “graphic design.” Logos? Business cards?  Giertz Gallery director Lisa Costello reminds us that the range of work displayed here is wide, representing “traditional print media, motion graphics, logos, branding, packaging, menus, books, publications, posters, brochures, websites, video and illustration.”

Expanding to show to include “new media” forms as well as “traditional” ones is another example of Young’s leadership. During his tenure, as program diretor, Costello notes, “he has been an integral part of the program; under his direction, user experience design, website design and interactive design were introduced into the curriculum, and students now graduate from Parkland with samples of fully developed websites in their portfolio.”

There’s more to graphic design than you think (part two)

Parkland’s Graphic Design Program does more than teach you how to use design tools (both digital and analog). It is takes you on a challenging and transformative creative journey.  You are guided through a process that works when you work it. It is a type of creative bootcamp that requires you to dig deep. Creative professionals (which graphic designers are) must train like ceative athletes in order to maintain inspiration, sharpness of skill, and most of all, clarity of vision, and resiliency. Research, ideation, planning, refining, responding to feedback, rinse and repeat till the client is happy. This is the marathon that is a designer’s process. And there is no finer coach to have by your side than Paul Young.  

Designers, as a breed, are a fascinating and diverse breed. And Parkland’s program attracts a wide rage of traditional and non-traditional students. These students shows expose their viewers to a broad spectrum of viewpoints.  Young has noted that he’s met “some of the most interesting and diverse people from this community in the classroom. I’ve challenged them as they have challenged me, and together we’ve grown and evolved.”

The gallery tour and talk are a mini-design school seminar

If you or someone you know is considering graphic design classes, you definitely won’t want to miss this. Young, along with a few chosen students, will explore the design process and principles behind a given work. Get ready to kiss the muse goodbye and say hello to the tried and true steps designers follow. 

In many cases, like the one above taken from last year’s show, students are charged with real life projects from real life clients. This experience allows the students to get a taste of the client-designer relationship and allows the client to better understand what designers can do.  

Maybe after the talk you’ll even begin to notice things you’ve never noticed before. You’ll learn what it’s like to see the world through a designer’s eyes. And you’ll get a deeper appreciation of the design work that is everywhere in our world. 

Opening night is a who’s who of local design celebs

If you’re looking to talk to movers and shakers in the local design scene, the opening night reception is the place to be. This is bound to be even more so this year, as it marks Young’s last show. If you’ve ever appreciated a local logo or illustration, there’s a good chance that its creator can be tied back to Parkland’s program.  Just check out the alumni section on their website. While faculty jury the exhibit’s entries, the awards decisions are made by local designers. This year’s jury includes Evelyn Shapiro, Promotions Manager, Champaign Public Library, and Robb Springfield, Creative Director, Flex-N-Gate.

Come to celebrate Paul Young’s contributions to the program and to the local design community 

Herewith are what Parkland Graphic Design Program alumni and fellow faculty members have to say about the show, the program, and, its fearless leader (reasons, 7 through 9)

I attended and graduated from the Parkland Graphic Design program a few years ago as a beginning of a third career. Paul was my advisor, primary teacher, and mentor, and he was nothing short of exceptional in his teaching, genuine concern and caring about his students and their future as graphic designers, his vast knowledge and talent (too many areas to list), and his calm and gentle way of teaching so very effectively. I truly loved my classes and the graphic design program community, and this is largely due to Paul’s role in all of that. His expectations were very high, and I learned so much from him! The skills I learned and the portfolio I built with his guidance got me the perfect graphic design and marketing position that I love so much. One thing that really stood out was that Paul’s priority was to prepare his students for the real world in a graphic design job. I have so much admiration, respect, and affection for Paul, and I wish him much joy in his retirement.

Paul, thank you for everything you did for me and countless other students! I really miss being your student and will always remember those two years with great fondness.

—Gloria Roubal, alumna and graphic designer at the Champaign Public Library



Paul has designed Parkland’s Graphic Design Program to carefully balance the creative with the functional, the artistic with the technical, and the rational with the intuitive. 

He has been my teaching mentor and friend at Parkland for the last four years. His dedication to his students has been unparalleled. He’s made an amazing impact on the CU design community that will continue far into the future.

—Liza Wynette, Parkland Graphic Design Program alumna and part-time instructor (pictured above)


I will forever be impressed by Paul’s devotion to his students. He is always available to offer feedback or answer questions. He might be the fastest email responder ever.  Graphic Design Department at Parkland will miss him!

—Sarah Marjanovic, instructor and former student 


Last, but not least, design principles are life lessons

Ever since I studied with Paul Young I’ve been compiling a mental list of ways that design principles are actually “pretty damned good” (to quote Paul) life strategies. Now’s my chance to share it. So whether you are designing a poster, a website, or the next year of your life, consider these gems. 

  • Everything you bring into your design/life should be there for a good reason, if not, remove it.
  • Study history so you can understand what has come before, how we have arrived at this point, and where we will go from here. 
  • Study history to find your place in it. 
  • Efficiencies save everyone time. Whether they happen on a keyboard or in a kitchen
  • Just because something is a good idea doesn’t make it the best solution for the problem at hand.
  • Discover what makes you stand out.
  • Design a system that works and stick with it. Be consistent.
  • Take inspiration from everywhere and everything.
  • Criticism should be specific and constructive.
  • Things will take longer than you expect, plan accordingly.


Parkland College Graphic Design Student Show
May 13th through May 30th
Opening reception: Wednesday, May 15th, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Giertz Gallery
2400 W Bradley Ave., Champaign
Gallery hours can be found here

Top photo from Giertz Gallery Facebook Page. Second, fourth and fifth photos from Parkland Graphic Design website, third photo by Debra Domal


Arts Editor

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