Sol Sender offers artistic advice to College of Design students


Sol Sender designed the logo for the 2008 Obama campaign. Sender came to Iowa State to talk with design students.

Solomon Keithley

Several students in the College of Design were in for an unique experience when Sol Sender, an American graphic designer and brand strategist best known for his work on the 2008 Obama campaign, stopped by for a visit on Tuesday, Oct. 16.

Sender introduced himself to his audience of about 60 by telling them where he was from and what he is currently doing with VSA Partners. He explained that VSA Partners is a group of thinkers, creators and artists who help businesses solve problems. They have worked with companies such as Nike, McDonald’s, Harley Davidson and Target, just to name a few.

Students volunteered to show Sender what they were working on in their class: designs created for a company they had to make up. Sender went down the line and critiqued each student’s work.

Micah Hartmann, senior in graphic design, further explained the projects they are working on.

“It’s a parody project, so we take something that we think is ridiculous in real life and take it to an extreme,” Hartmann said. “For example, mine is based on the concept of obesity and being overweight and how in society today you have to be really skinny. So my project is a fitness center for babies, so you can get in shape when you are really young and get started off early. We have to make a letter head, business cards and envelopes, and the signage, and a website, iPhone app, and additional promotional pieces that you can choose.”

Sender went around and gave his advice to the students individually on what they could improve on for their projects and what he liked and did not like. He also gave specific examples from his career and explained how they related to some of the projects the students were working on.

Students were eager to hear about what he had to say as well as his suggestions for their projects.

Jacob Gerhardt, senior in graphic design, also had his work critiqued by Sender.

“He has a lot of knowledge, so it was good to hear his perspective,” Gerhardt said. “He is dealing with good clients like IBM, and obviously he dealt with Obama so that’s a pretty cool client story.”

Sender talked about what it is like when he is working with students.

“It’s a nice break for me,” Sender said. “I used to teach a class now and again, but it’s hard to work full time and teach because teaching is really hard I find. So I enjoying working with students quite a bit.”

Sender also discussed how he was chosen to work on the 2008 Obama logo.

“A former classmate of mine in graduate school, Steve Juras, worked for sort of an advertising firm, but they were doing the initial video work for the campaign, and the campaign said: ‘Hey could you do the logo as well?’ And he said we don’t do logos but we could bring in a partner.”

“He called me and that was basically it. It was super exciting; it was different back in 2008. The climate about the candidate was pretty unique and unprecedented. I don’t think it would be the same today working on the campaign, but it was extremely exciting at that time.”