Saturday, May 09, 2009

New Article in the Sun

I've gotten another article published in the Naperville Sun. This one concerns a restaurant owner who turned to high school graphic arts students to redesign his rather boring menus. See below or click here for the link.

Senior's menu design No. 1

North graphic arts students gain real-world experience at Grumpy Bulldog

April 22, 2009

Every successful bar has three things in common: great beer, good food and a stylish menu to show it all off. Chris Bauer, co-owner of Naperville's Grumpy Bulldog, had the first two covered.

And since the Bulldog is Naperville's only choice for a wide variety of microbrews and craft beers -- there are more than 100 to choose from -- he wanted a menu to match the unique character of the bar.

First he tried the traditional route.

"We hired a Chicago firm and just hated it. There wasn't any creativity to it," Bauer says.

His next step? High-schoolers, of course. Bauer reasoned that having students work on the problem might provide a new perspective -- for him and for the students.

Dave Hayes, a graphic arts teacher at Naperville North High School, welcomed the opportunity. He says he's constantly looking for authentic experiences for his students.

"The nature of the class is to get them into some very hands-on types of experiences, as opposed to imaginary things," Hayes said. "This is something they want to pursue after high school."

Hayes introduced the project to his advanced graphic arts class as a competition, and Bauer decided to offer a $500 scholarship to the winning student.

"There are a lot of very creative kids out there who just aren't recognized, and this gives us a way to recognize them," Bauer says.

Knowing their designs might be seen by more than 500 customers a week motivated students Kristen Danowski and Cody Hardine to put extra effort into the project.

"It was cool knowing that you were doing something for real life, rather than just yourself," said Danowski, a senior at North. "I tried harder to make it look more professional."

Hardine adds, "Because I knew this was going to be for an actual cause, I wanted to make it look as good as I possibly could."

Hardine welcomed the creative freedom Bauer gave to the students.

"He didn't want to tell us what to do," Hardine said. "He wanted to see what we would come up with, and then have his customers pick what they wanted."

A survey of customers and neighboring businesses determined the best fit for the restaurant to be the menu design of senior Brittany Broaders.

When asked what she thinks about her work being seen by hundreds of people each week, Broaders sheepishly glances at the floor, trying to hide a smile.

"I just thought it was cool to design a menu for an actual restaurant and the possibility of it actually being used," she says. "I tried to reflect the atmosphere of the place -- laid-back and casual."

Next year, Broaders plans to study graphic design and business at the University of Illinois. If there's one thing the Grumpy Bulldog project has taught her, it's this:

"I can actually do this -- I actually have the ability to be a graphic designer," she said.

There's not too much grumpy around the Bulldog these days: Bauer has his menu design, Hayes' students have had an authentic experience in graphic design, and for Broaders, the future is bright indeed.

Editor's note: To see Broaders' menu design, visit the Grumpy Bulldog at 7 Jackson Ave., Naperville.

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