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Students Design Skateboard Art for Major Retailer

by University Relations

When 55 APU art and design students, faculty, and alumni competed for the honor of creating the hottest new skateboard art for Utility Board Shop, customers, community members, and classmates gathered to catch a glimpse of the winning designs. On November 8, 2011, the retail store in Downtown Covina filled to capacity for the big reveal and celebration.

The idea for the event came to Jim Daichendt, Ed.D., professor of art and design, when he visited the store last summer. “In the History of Graphic Design course, we study different art movements,” said Daichendt. “When I saw the boards hanging in the store like a gallery, it dawned on me that this might be a great way to engage the students and work in the community.”

In return, Utility Board Shop agreed to host an art show and offer blank skateboard decks at a low cost. To amp up interest, Daichendt opened the contest to all graphic design students, faculty, and alumni. The response exceeded expectations as contestants transformed their interpretations of movements such as Art Nouveau, Bauhaus, Abstract Impressionism, Graffiti, and more into appealing skateboard art.

The hard work paid off for contest winner Mark Johnston ’12, a graphic design major. “I’m a skateboarder and hope to work in that industry someday,” he said. “This was a great opportunity to see how it works in the real world, for a real product. I got a chance to push the envelope.” Johnston’s design, which depicted an edgy street-style panda and cleverly incorporated the Utility logo in the form of a pendant hanging from a gold chain, stood out as the winning entry. Along with bragging rights, Johnston won the privilege of creating a four-board series for the retail chain. At the end of the year, Johnston chose to include the skateboard in his portfolio show. “I highlighted this piece because it represents who I am and where I am going.”

The Utility staff, impressed by the scope, caliber, and success of the event, invited APU to hold another contest in spring 2013. “Beyond the opportunity for our students, this project really connected us with the community,” said Daichendt. “We helped the store with sales and branding just by bringing the energy of the show to their doorstep. More than simply a fun assignment, the collaboration helped students see the connection between their education and their profession,” said Daichendt. “What they do in class today directly impacts their marketability when they graduate.

Originally published in the Fall '12 issue of APU Life.