Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.
Hunter Wickersham literally left his mark on Arizona State University.
Go into the Technology Building on the Polytechnic campus, back into the print shops and photo studios and press equipment, and there it is, 10 feet high and 40 feet long: the History of Print wall.
Beginning with 105 B.C., when the Chinese monk Ts’ai Lun invented paper, and moving to 400 A.D., when ink was created from lampblack and used for calligraphy, the timeline of text and graphics moves through intaglio, newspapers, lithography and rotogravure until 2017, when the university print lab acquired a Fuji inkjet flatbed.
“They wanted a design that was about ASU and that was very much on-brand,” said Wickersham, who graduates this month with a BS in graphic information technology. “That was the challenge. It had to be approved by everybody, because it was going on a wall. It had to go through a long approval process, because it’s representing ASU. I went through a lot — I want to say 10 different designs — ranging from different styles and trying to represent ASU in the best way I could, and they picked the most simple one.”
Eventually the San Luis Obispo, California, native wants to run his own creative agency. Right now he’s working at a marketing company startup in Chandler. He’s been there three years. The staff has grown to 15 people in that time.
Wickersham started out as a mechanical engineering major, but the art he always liked doing on the side, like painting, drew him away. His first job in high school was in a print shop. “I got exposed to (graphic design) there, so I grew to like it,” he said. He quickly switched majors.
Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
Answer: The program itself has four different focus areas, which is pretty big, in a variety of visual media: animation, print and publishing, web design and photography. Learning all of those four things is pretty eye-opening. Learning about web and photography is something I never thought of, and now I love it. It’s good to know the whole suite of design.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I chose ASU because of the great engineering program.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: About design, I want to say Prescott Perez-Fox. He definitely gave me the tools to go into the industry and be successful. The basis for the whole class was having a professional portfolio, building your resume, building your online presence. I already had a lot of that established, because I had a job, but it was nice to get it very cemented and very structured.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Don’t just focus on your classwork. That’s very important, but go out there and also get jobs in your industry, not just retail. Beg for jobs. That’s what I did. Every year I’d get a new job or a new internship. When I came to ASU I already had a job in graphic design because I applied over the summer. I was like, "I’m going to be ON it!" And I got a job they don’t hire freshmen for, so that was pretty cool.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: The third floor of Santan (Hall) has a really cool lunchroom. I’d go there and hang out. That’s where I used to work, too.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I know that a lot of graphic design programs are underfunded. Helping develop those and giving people the technology they need. ASU has a lot of resources, but not a lot of other colleges have that. Developing assets for them to have, like a bunch of cameras and VR equipment, getting people exposed to all that, is something I’d do.
Top photo: Hunter Wickersham will soon be receiving his degree in graphic information technology and has a goal of starting his own creative agency. He designed the 40-foot-long History of Print wall mural in the Technology Center on the Polytechnic campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now