LU graphic design program brings author’s vision to life
Please forgive 2020 Lakeland graduate Alyssa Gabrielse if her graphic design portfolio has a few more pages than those of her peers.
Her primary showpiece is a whopping 383 pages, to be exact.
Gabrielse and Lakeland Assistant Professor of Graphic Design Monique Brickham helped create Abraham Lincoln expert Steven Rogstad’s book “Lincoln Among the Badgers: Rediscovering Sites Associated with Abraham and Mary Lincoln in Wisconsin.”
As a student, Gabrielse, who now works as a senior graphic designer at Sun Graphics Media, created layouts for the text and images on each page, while Brickham advised her work and also designed the book’s cover.
Rogstad, who serves as director of development at the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center, is a member of Lakeland’s School of Humanities & Fine Arts Board of Advocates. He heard a presentation by Brickham about Lakeland’s graphic design program and approached her about working with a student graphic designer to design his book.
“I immediately thought of Alyssa, who had a knack for page layout and was already working for me as my graphic design intern,” Brickham said. “I knew this would be a gigantic undertaking, but I also knew she had the skills, motivation and professionalism to see it through and knock it out of the park, which she did.”
Rogstad’s book is the first scholarly treatment of the five visits Abraham and Mary Lincoln made to Wisconsin. Abraham Lincoln entered Wisconsin for the first time in 1832 during his military service in the Black Hawk War, returning in 1859 to make speeches in Milwaukee, Beloit and Janesville.
Lakeland’s involvement with the book started in August of 2019 and wrapped up in July of 2020, with the book hitting the shelves in November of 2020. Rogstad provided text and images for each chapter, and Gabrielse worked on a few chapters at a time, showing the author her progress and making edits and adjustments.
Rogstad said he feels fortunate to have worked with Brickham and Gabrielse.
"Collaborations require patience, trust, and compromise,” Rogstad said. “I had total trust in Monique's and Alyssa's design judgment, and they exercised great patience with me when I made last-minute corrections or revisions. The resulting compromises made for a superb working relationship and a finer book.
"It is one thing to write a book and have a vision of how that book will look after it is published. It is quite another matter to have that vision become a reality - and to be completely satisfied with the finished product. I felt I was in the most capable hands throughout the entire project. They made my dream come true.”
Gabrielse was involved in the entire publication process, from setting up master page grids and defining text styles, to figuring out how to lay out a significant amount of content so that everything is cohesive and engaging, to learning how to frequently communicate with the client and discuss changes.
“What motivated me to say yes was having the ability to gain experience designing a book,” said Gabrielse, who earned academic credit for her work. “The most fun part was seeing the book come to life. After inserting the text for the captions, everything felt real.”
The most daunting part of the project was the sheer amount of content. In the beginning, Gabrielse experimented with a few different layout styles and design elements to determine what made the most sense.
“This was a huge undertaking with many moving parts, lots of edits and changes, and Alyssa handled it all like a pro,” said Brickham, who came into the project with a lot of experience with publication design and printing.
“The most fun part of this project was to watch Alyssa gain experience. The final product is cohesive, visually compelling and easy and fun to read. I couldn't be more proud of her. Not every student could manage a project of this scope, but I knew she could, no problem.”
The cover features an acrylic painting by Oconto, Wis., artist David Hipwell entitled “Lincoln Cheesehead,” and Rogstad knew he wanted the image used somewhere in the book.
“There wasn't an obvious place for it to go, so when we started talking about the cover design, a lightbulb went off and I suggested that we use the painting for the cover image,” Brickham said. “This is a book about all the sites across Wisconsin that are related to Lincoln, and this is a painting of Lincoln wearing a cheesehead. It doesn't get much more Wisconsin than that.”
Gabrielse added, “The inspiration to put it on the cover was simple since it screams Wisconsin.”
Brickham said in one of her typical 14-week courses her students might layout one magazine article or a 12-page booklet, so projects like this book are welcome additions to her curriculum that give students real-world experiences.
“Some outside projects work well in a classroom setting, and others, like this one, are better suited for one student as a Co-Op or internship,” Brickham said. “It's a balancing act, and really about matching up specific projects with the right classes and the right students.
“I’m thankful to Steve and the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center for reaching out and trusting us to layout and design this book for them.”
To purchase the book or learn more, visit the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center website. Learn more about the Research Center at https://www.schrc.org.