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Course Focuses on Power of Political Posters

Re-posted from this website.

Shepard Fairey may not be a household name, but his iconic “hope” poster helped Obama get elected. Assistant art professor John Stanko wants his UNK students to learn from stories like Fairey’s while designing their own political posters.

Stanko says it’s important that students understand the major role of designers in communication. “That’s what we do. We’re communicators,” Stanko said.

Political posters made by students in Stanko’s design illustration course, in conjunction with the American Democracy Project, were put up on April 22 in the student union’s Fireside Lounge. Acorn, child labor, the Patriot Act and the drinking age are just a few of the topics covered by the posters.

People can vote for their favorite by casting a ballot in the Fireside Lounge. Dr. John Anderson, ADP coordinator and professor of political science, hopes to see most popular, best design and best political impact awards given out based on popular vote and professional selection.

However, Stanko says that this is not the focus. “The whole point isn’t really so much the competition as much as the project itself. That’s the most important thing.”

For Stanko’s design illustration students, the project included much more than just design. At the beginning of the project Stanko sat down with each student to discuss their ideas and sum up what they were thinking.

Two weeks of research followed this conversation, and culminated in a 10-minute, in class, PowerPoint presentation. Everyone was instructed to play devil’s advocate, and “some of the debates got a little spirited, but they were good. Nobody lost their temper,” Stanko said.

To ensure the posters were more than simply design, professor of political science Dr. Joan Blauwkamp also helped by offering her opinions on the posters, Stanko said.

Students were instructed to focus on a specific issue instead of a Democrat, Republican or liberal, conservative blanket position. The political poster project is expected to show students what can be done as a designer. “It’s just an opportunity for students to understand that there’s more out there than just designing a logo, or brochures for companies. As a designer you can make a difference in the political world,” Stanko said.

Stanko also hopes these posters will benefit, not just his design students but also people who view them.  He wants students to be motivated by the posters to think and inform themselves. “Just the idea that it might inspire conversation among two kids eating Taco Bell would be awesome, as opposed to talking about Britney Spears or whatever else,” Stanko said.

Brandon Pettigrew, a senior political science major and communication studies minor from Kearney, said he liked the posters, which made him think about all the various issues. Pettigrew believes the posters are an effective way to raise political issues and interest.

“I think the posters bring political issues to a level where you can understand the severity of the issues. They make you interested enough to research the issues online and see what needs to be done about them.”

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