The average Hillsdale student walks past more than 35 posters on the way to the Grewcock Student Union from Lane Hall.
But the posters that students actually stop at, read, and point at for a nearby friend to read are the work of Hillsdale’s own Artist and Teacher Bryan Springer ’94.
“That’s the challenge,” Springer said. “To create something very bold and eye catching, yet also simple and organized to communicate effectively.”
Since arriving at Hillsdale’s campus to teach full-time in fall 2008, Springer has designed an overwhelming majority of the colorful, unique, and informative student organization posters that adorn Hillsdale’s bulletin boards and doors.
“I had this desire to communicate with art, not just have it be art for art’s sake,” he said. “I wanted to express either a story or a visual language.”
Students unknowingly encounter Springer’s work as they scan the bulletin boards looking for campus events. He frequently creates posters for the Tower Players’ productions, such as his Pablo Picasso-esque poster advertising the shows for “Death of a Salesman” on campus. He’s also the man behind the Fine Arts calendar of dancers and pastels, which is sold to benefit the department.
“I love his posters,” Professor of Art Sam Knecht said. “He carries a great deal of taste into every project he takes on. But he’s not locked into a single look. He’s not afraid to be creative or different. He’s got a lot of pizazz.”
Springer’s posters have received more than just praise from students and staff. In 2014, Graphic Design USA magazine honored Springer’s posters for the Hillcats Faculty Jazz Ensemble by using them as the masthead in their July issue and awarding Springer an Inhouse Design Award also awarded to other major organizations such as the United Nations advertising department.
According to Knecht, Springer is known as the digital and visual guru among his fellow instructors in the art department. Each semester, Springer teaches a variety of digital design courses including Graphic Design, Color Theory and Design, and Web Design.
“I’ve never seen anyone be able to combine so many diverse and different designs into his posters,” senior Mikel Eatough, one of Springers students, said. “Yet they are all so different and so unique.”
A 1994 Hillsdale graduate, Springer came back to teach at Hillsdale part-time in the spring of 2008 after former art teacher Patrick Forshey had a heart attack. Forshey passed away that summer, and Springer came on full-time for the art department in the fall of 2008.
“Bryan is an incredibly valued colleague, and I’d put him in my top 10 students of all time at Hillsdale,” Knecht said. “What made Bryan such a great student is what makes him such a great colleague. He has laser focus, he never complains. He’s always been his own man, but he never ignores advice.”
Springer followed an unconventional path to teaching, but one he said he was grateful for. After graduating from Hillsdale, he received his Masters of Fine Arts at Savannah College of Arts and Design where he fell in love with illustrating.
He then immediately jumped into his field by taking a job at Kinkos, where he helped generate made-to-order designs for business clients.
“We humorously titled it the McDonald’s of desktop publishing,” Springer said. “Most of what we did was resumes, simple business cards, nothing really creative. It was a task in rigorously producing text and type in an informative and organized way.”
Springer said the process of creating a poster is pretty straightforward, but relies heavily on input from the client. For example, when creating the poster for Hillsdale’s performance of “Death of a Salesman” this week, he said he talked extensively with the directors to get key elements of the set and the play’s characters.
To present the broken quality of a character’s personality, Springer decided to use Picasso’s famous method of cubism to show a fractured image of one of the main characters, which also mirrors some of the set design.
Springer typically spends two to four hours creating posters for what he calls an easy project, but with more creative license, he might spend closer to four to five hours.
“Sometimes those restrictions can be very limiting to a designer,” Springer said. “I really like to have fun with it and run with concepts.”
Springer said he developed a passion for illustration at a young age, tearing through pages of Marvel comic books and immersing himself in Marvel’s stories of alternative worlds and superheroes.
From comic books to Kinkos to Hillsdale’s campus, illustration has been a love of Springer’s throughout his life. While many students simply view his posters as a way to quickly absorb campus news, Springer has always seen them as a common but extraordinary medium for his artistic expression. Students might find themselves staring at a poster longer than normal on their way to lunch, and that was Springer’s goal all along, he said.
“It should cause the viewer to ask some questions about it, engage the viewer, and make them want to know more,” Springer said. “While really informative, it should have a slight bit of ambiguity to it to move the viewer to participate with it. The poster has become a really important medium to me, because I can express singular ideas at a glance.”