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Student Under Performance Pressure, Creating Designs to Bowl Them Over

University of Cincinnati graphic design senior Travis Lee is having a super co-op. That’s because he’s working an extended cooperative-education quarter with a small Utah design firm facing a mammoth challenge: creating all the city, stadium and airport graphics (banners, kiosks, murals) for the February 2005 Super Bowl.

Date: 1/24/2005 12:00:00 AM
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Andrew Higley and submitted by Travis Lee

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University of Cincinnati graphic design senior Travis Lee, 22, of Eldorado, Ohio, stands about six-feet-two inches tall.  And though still a student, he’s bulked up his resume thanks to UC’s renowned cooperative education program, which means he’s been working professionally ever since his sophomore year.

Graphic design concept for stadium exterior

For all that, Lee feels a little overwhelmed right now, something like a Biblical “David” facing off against a Goliath-sized foe.  That’s because he’s one of a very small handful of people – part of a team of four graphic designers – creating many of the graphics that viewers all over the world will see when they switch on the Super Bowl on Feb. 6, 2005.

“The Super Bowl is the most watched program in the world, and our graphics will be all over the screen.  For me, it’s really great to get this opportunity as I’m very competitive in sports and in design.  Sports are my thing.  Ever since I was little, I played sports like basketball, baseball and football, and I was always interested in art and design and painting.  I loved to draw and was always at work drawing, even in church as a kid.  I was probably the only kid who saw the movie ‘Jurassic Park’ who sat there noticing the park logos and tiger stripes design on the trucks used in the movie…So, this co-op really combines sports and design interests,” explained Lee, who is now working with Infinite Scale Design Group in Salt Lake City. 

Travis Lee in front of Bengals' stadium in downtown Cincinnati

He actually began working on some teaser graphics for the Super Bowl in spring 2004, on his first co-op with the firm.  He then returned this past September to continue the fast-paced work.  Now, Lee and the other members of the firm are creating the graphics that will be used at Alltel Stadium, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, as well as at eight hotels including NFL headquarters and team hotels, at the media center, at the airport and directional signage used throughout the city.

Though still a student in UC’s top-ranked College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, Lee is also an integral member of the Super Bowl team in a firm consisting of only four other designers, all scrambling to complete Jacksonville’s graphics: stadium “murals,” downtown banners; airport graphics and signage; free-standing kiosks; as well as banners and signal flags used by area businesses and also cruise ships which will dock riverside next to the stadium for the event.  In addition, the design team is creating the designs for all the diminutive grab-bag of items needed for such an event: decals, credential badges, hotel keycards, parking passes and seat cushions.

Graphic design concept for NFL hotel headquarters

“Big projects like this usually go to a large firm, a place where I would never have even heard about the project, much less participated in it.  So, even though this is a pressure play because so few people have got to do a lot of work in a short period, it’s well worth it,” added Lee. 

It’s not the first time this group has come through in the clutch:  The company was actually born out of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics when its members similarly created banners, skyscraper-sized murals and other designs for the event sites.

For Lee, that means he’s part of a small, tight team where teamwork in the design studio is just as important as the gridiron.  “We really rely on each other,” he said.  “It’s about teamwork every day, every moment with everyone here.”

Partner Amy Lukas agreed.  Since the team is so small, everyone must work on every phase of the project.  While one person might bring an idea to the table, it then becomes the responsibility of everyone to flesh it out and implement it. Added Lukas, “Travis has been involved from day one, from the conceptual projects onward.  He’s a big part of our team….He’ll go with us to set up all the graphics about two weeks before the Super Bowl.  Travis will have venues all his own that he’ll be responsible for.”

Graphic design concept for stadium interior

Complicating the challenge for this design team is the fact that they won’t even know which two teams are actually in the Super Bowl until just two weeks before the game.  Lukas admitted, “That’s very late in the game as far as design is concerned.  So, we’re having to create everything where we can just plug in team logos and names.  The intensity level is so high for us…and we’re all planning vacation after this project is played out.”

Well, everyone except Lee that is.  He won’t get a time out.  The minute he’s done helping to implement the designs for the stadium field and fence as well as Jacksonville’s airport, hotels and city streets, Lee will be back in Cincinnati for his final two quarters of school, working on a senior project that will draw on all he’s learned in the classroom and on co-op before graduating in June 2005.        

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