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New Book by DAAP Alumni Earns National Press Attention

A photo book by two UC design alumni has received attention from The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Huffington Post, Dwell magazine and other outlets.

Date: 3/12/2011 12:00:00 AM
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Provided by Dan Becker and Lance Wilson

UC ingot   If you’ve never looked at a beer can from a design perspective, you will after reading a new book by two alumni from the University of Cincinnati’s internationally ranked School of Design, part of UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP).

Dan Becker, originally from Cincinnati, and Lance Wilson, originally from Louisville, Ky., are 2009 graduates from UC’s graphic design program. While both are living and working in the San Francisco Bay area – Becker for Odopod, an interactive design agency, and Wilson for Apple Inc. – they’ve also co-authored and designed a book that documents and showcases nearly 500 vintage beer cans.
Cover to book

They began the project less than a week after their UC graduation in June 2009, examining a collection belonging to Josh Russo (who also happens to be Becker’s stepfather).

The book is a look at 20th-century design and advertising as seen through the lens of a very common, unlikely object. “Spanning more than 60 years and 30 countries, the cans are organized alphabetically by brand, so it’s interesting to see how much – or how little – certain brands have changed over time,” explains Becker.

Since its release in January 2011, their book, Beer: A Genuine Collections of Cans, has received feature coverage from a number of national media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Huffington Post and many others.

The pair took on the challenge of finding the place of origin, brewer, and era of production for each can included in the book. For about a year, they spent nearly every evening and weekend working on the project.

Admits Becker, “A lot of work goes into making a book and completing a project of this scale, and doing so while working full time was particularly challenging."
Wunderbrau can
This premium German beer was designed to appeal to the largely German population of Cincinnati in the mid-1950s. Even the beer's slogan, "Das Trocken-Lager" (The Dry Lager) was printed in German.

"As far as actually creating the book, the curating process proved to be one of the most challenging and time consuming aspects of the entire project," adds Wilson. "Initially, we photographed Josh's can collection in its entirety- more than 1,400 cans in all. What took three days to photograph took months to curate into the final 480 cans that made it into the book."

"Our goal was to include the most visually interesting and unique cans of Josh's collection, while maintaining a breadth of brands from a range of countries and eras," says Becker.

DAAP and the college’s elite connections in the design world – as well as UC’s vaunted co-op program – helped bring the book about in the first place. "One thing we both learned at DAAP was the value of the connections we made while at school and on co-op," says Lance. Both he and Becker maintain a robust network of fellow design professionals thanks to their required UC cooperative education quarters.

Cooperative education – or co-op as it’s often called – is the practice wherein students alternate quarters or semesters in the classroom with quarters or semesters of paid, professional work. UC, the global founder of co-op, houses a nationally ranked top-ten co-op program, as ranked by U.S. News & World Reporter, and UC design students graduate with about 18 months of paid, professional experience on their resumes.

 It was one of Becker’s co-op colleagues at international design firm, Pentagram, first put him in touch with the book’s eventual publisher, Chronicle Books.

“And,” states Wilson, “When we started working with Chronicle, it was a DAAP graduate who coordinated the design process for the book itself. We learned just how small the design world can be, and just how far reaching the DAAP network is."

Now that the book is out, the pair hopes to continue the project in other venues, perhaps a digital book and/or a museum exhibit.