How great is it that second-semester freshmen in Cazenovia College’s Visual Communications program connected with an alumnus at Hemmings Motor News on a class project that showcased their logo designs to a national audience?

For the freshmen in Professor Scott Jensen’s Concepting 112 course, along with seniors in the VC program and some Caz Advertising Design students, that rare opportunity is just what happened this month.

It began with alumnus Joshua Skibbee’s idea for an article for the Hemmings Motor News web site, where Skibbee is a graphic designer. Hemmings Motor News is well known and highly regarded in automotive enthusiast circles; it calls its platforms “‘the bible’ of the collector car hobby since 1954.”

A 2013 bachelor of fine arts graduate of Cazenovia, Skibee has recently been writing more articles for the Hemmings site in addition to his web and publication design duties. He wanted to develop a story showing how designers might revamp the logos of defunct car makers. The idea came to him during the buzz about General Motors’ new electric-vehicle line logo and Kia’s redesigned brand imagery.

Understanding he’d need a number of different designers to make the piece work, Skibbee contacted his former Cazenovia professor, Scott Jensen, to ask if the idea would make an interesting class project. “Knowing that Scott has an unlimited knowledge of—and passion for—logo design, I knew he'd jump at the opportunity to join me on this quest,” Skibbee observed. After a few conversations to tune up the plans, the project was introduced to the class.

Jensen was aware that the combination of the students’ young age and the number of years since many of the car companies had been operating might create a familiarity gap regarding the older and now non-existent car makes and brands, such as Pontiac, DeSoto, Edsel, and Hudson. However, he said he also felt that the course’s research elements provided the solution to that issue.

Students met with Skibbee, who works in Benington, Vermont, virtually via Zoom, then did their research. They then spent a short time designing the logos.

Jensen said that working with Skibbee was a highlight of the project for students. “I am always thrilled when one of our alums ‘pays it forward’ by helping our students, and the project Josh came up with was a great example of that,” Jensen said. “Having the students interact with a graduate of our program who’s made a successful career involving something he’s passionate about is really helpful. They see that it’s possible for them to do the same.”

The level of real-world interactivity the project provided students was also a great experience, Jensen said. “How cool is it that you’ve just designed something that looks really sharp, and it’s been featured in a story published on a prominent web site for all to see? Wouldn’t you think you landed in a great place? That’s how we want [these students] to feel, and projects like this sure help,” he noted.

Skibbee said that he was pleased to have the students’ involvement, and happy with the project’s outcomes. As a graphic designer, he always wants to incorporate more design elements into the Hemmings website and newsletters, and this allowed him to do that.

“I’m happy with the results. There were a couple surprising logos, and some of the work of the freshmen really stood out, especially because they had just theoretically learned about the design programs. I didn’t expect fully polished logos and was thinking we’d just see concepts. But the class put together some really polished logos. It all worked out and I was able to incorporate everything,” Skibbee said.

In total, 28 designs were showcased, including 26 of the students’ work and two of Skibbee’s own. The logos accompanied the March 11 article, “Budding graphic designers reinvent past and present automotive brands, starting with their logos,” to a high level of reader enthusiasm. Among comments left on the website reflecting their thoughts were:

“Great to see the creativity and interest in automotive history and heraldry”

“Some great-looking renditions and clever ideas from these young artists.”

“Fantastic! All the students did amazingly well on this exercise. I can't pick a winner.”

“Kudos to everyone. Having seen designs from professional firms back in the day on Oldsmobile committees I can say the work shown here is far better than what I saw! Great article!!”

“I'm an old ad guy and car nut. If I wasn't so darn old (retired from Mad. Ave. in '92), I'd hire all these folks!”


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