The Kennedy Museum of Art opened an exhibit — “Legacy: Don Adleta and Karen Nulf, 60 years of graphic design” — this week, marking the reopening of the museum.
“Legacy” chronicles the contributions of two professors emeritus of graphic design, Don Adleta and Karen Nulf, and their 60 years of combined teaching and creative ventures at Ohio University, according to an OU press release. The use of letterpress as a source of design fulfillment is embedded in this visual history that provides a path to the future of graphic design.
Adleta is one of the four professors of design at Ohio University, the OU release stated. He arrived in 1994 and served as the chair of the graphic design area for 17 years, until 2012. Prior to arriving at OU, Adleta served as professor of design and letterform at the Rhode Island School of Design from 1982 to 1987; taught at Western Michigan University from 1989 to 1992; and was a senior art director for The Upjohn Company from 1987 through 1993, where he received several Special Recognition Awards for his design and working process. Adleta received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design from OHIO in 1975 and completed his post-graduate studies in Graphic Design at the Basel School of Design in Switzerland.
As a faculty member, Adleta continued to build the graphic design curriculum and initiated and implemented the master’s degree of fine arts in graphic design. His book, Focus Drawing, is a case study of one of his drawing classes and includes the taxonomy of his teaching processes. His Adleta Perpetual Calendar has been recognized nationally and has received multiple awards worldwide. The calendar rests in the permanent collections in Novi Sad Museum of Art and Design, Serbia, and in Zurich’s Museum für Gestaltung. Adleta continues to work with his mentors from the Basel School of Design in Switzerland.
Adleta traveled to Bali with students from the School of Art + Design for several years until 2000 to visually translate the color experienced close to the equator. In 1996, he joined two of his colleagues and 25 students in a study abroad program in Prague and has led students to visit renowned professional designers in metropolises around the world. He has taught and lectured at the National Institute of Design in Ahmadabad, India, and the Wellington Polytechnic in New Zealand, according to the release.
Nulf, EMERT ‘99, began teaching graphic design at OU in 1967 and became chair in 1994. She retired in 1999. Nulf received her bachelor’s degree in graphic design in 1955 from the University of Cincinnati, the OU release stated. She received a master’s degree in fine arts painting in 1963 from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in Film and Video in 1976 from the University of Iowa. Nulf’s vast body of work includes graphic design, photography and film.
After visiting Legacy, viewers will take away an understanding of how, as graphic designers, Adleta and Nulf were able to simplify complex problems, Adleta said.
“Karen and I share a profound appreciation for details,” he said in a press release. “When we create the intended message for our clients, it’s like developing a visual algorithm for others. We have to think of the sender as well as the receiver of the message and make a pleasing message effective in the given context.” Adleta also said he and Nulf share a similar thinking process when creating their personal artwork.
“It is evident that Karen and I are so comfortable in design thinking that even in our personal drawings and photographs we enjoy the art of doing,” he said. “Our aesthetic and our knowledge of how to translate content into form resides within us.”
Nulf said visitors will note a sense of excitement in both her graphic design work and in her photography and film works, all made by technology that is generally no longer used by today’s graphic designers.
“That excitement about the letterforms and what they did and how much they could say by being a visual thing is sort of the same of what I was looking for in my pictures,” she said. “That excitement, the excitement of different places, the color, the shape, the form, what it said…” is what the viewer will take away from the exhibition, she said.
Legacy: Don Adleta and Karen Nulf, 60 years of graphic design is on view until March 28, 2021.
Reservations are by appointment and gallery viewing aligns with Ohio University’s COVID protocols. Please contact Lori Spencer at 740-593-0952 or [email protected], with questions.