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News . Feature Stories . Illustration student creates winning design for museum’s big birthday


February 10, 2020

Illustration student creates winning design for museum’s big birthday

Illustration major Rebecca Santo took a graphic design class to improve her skills and ended up creating a new logo for the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's centennial celebration.

Group photo of Santo with other key players

From left: John Nottingham, John Spirk, Rebecca Santo, CMNH President and CEO Sonia Winner, and Greg Luvison, chair of Graphic Design at CIA.

In 1972, when John Nottingham and John Spirk set out to develop a logo for the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, they sketched more than 100 ideas before settling on a few simple lines depicting Happy, the museum’s iconic dinosaur. As graduates of CIA’s Industrial Design department, they understood that effortless-looking design often requires considerable effort.

CIA Illustration major Rebecca Santo ’20 and her classmates experienced the same principle at work last fall, when they were challenged to create a special logo for the museum’s centennial. But the effort paid off. Santo’s design is being used as the museum celebrates its 100th birthday.
Now Santo has a new, strong addition to her portfolio and the pleasure of seeing her work in the real world. “It’s thrilling knowing that I was able to contribute to the museum’s community right here in University Circle,” she said.

The opportunity arose when the museum decided to tap the talent in its own neighborhood for its centennial branding.
“The energy we see in University Circle is really because of these students,” said Sonia Winner, President and CEO at CMNH. “And this collaboration presented us with a wonderful opportunity to harness that energy as we approach our centennial celebration.”

The assignment became part of a community projects class in CIA’s Graphic Design Department. All the students in the course earned a stipend for their work; Santo also earned a commission because her design was selected.
One of the objectives was to incorporate the Nottingham Spirk-designed dinosaur while adding something fresh for the celebration—in this case, dominant text treatment of “100” with interlocking zeroes. To maximize creativity, Santo said, she pushed herself to sketch a range of ideas, “from safe and obvious solutions to really experimental.”
Among the lessons she learned was “go with your gut and be confident in your decisions,” she said. “This being my first time designing a logo, there were times where I began to overthink if some of my ideas were too simple or overly complex. But I was lucky to have lots of feedback from my classmates and professor before the final presentation.”
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