~By Erin Doherty, Student Communications Assistant
There is a large, well-lit office on the second floor of Memorial Library whose outer window reads “Graphic Design” in bold letters. It has enough space to house several desks, a large table, and a computer station. The window offers a picture-perfect view of the Wisconsin Historical Society and Memorial Union. Daniel Joe, who has resided in the office for nearly 28 years, says that the view is even better without the construction.
Joe, a UW alumnus, is a professional graphic designer. His involvement with the library dates back to his days as a student, when he pursued and earned a degree in K-12 art education. When he graduated, his predecessor left the job and encouraged him to apply. The rest is history.
When we asked Joe what a normal day was like for him, he laughed. “There’s no such thing as a normal day,” he said. “There are some projects that are ongoing, that take weeks to do, and there are some that somebody will just come in and say, ‘Hey, I need a sign. Can you help me out?’ So the day is pretty much broken up. Usually, I’ll work on three or four things at once.”
Joe’s work is much more extensive than most people might think it would be. Graphic design is the art of visual communication. A professional in the field such as Joe might design logos, posters, advertisements, and much more. Something that Joe particularly enjoys working on is the Libraries Magazine. To do the job well involves a great deal of skill, creativity, and artistic talent. Joe characterizes graphic design as being made up of three major parts called the “three Cs:” concept, components, and composition. “Graphic design is a form of visual literacy,” he said. “The human eye looks for order, and when it doesn’t find it, it gets annoyed and shuts down…people come to me with an idea and I make those three things work for them the best I can. If I do it right, it looks incredibly simple and logical.”
One of his biggest pet peeves, he says, is when people see him as a librarian with an interest in graphic design rather than a professional graphic designer in a library system.
“People equate knowledge of a program with expertise in a field,” he said. “It’s just not so. What a desktop program does is allow you to do on a computer what you could do before computers. The design process is just the same.”
The field in question is made up of much more than just a few computer programs like Photoshop or InDesign. Joe told us that his job has changed quite drastically over his many years at the library. “I got my entire graphic design education, my BFA [Bachelor of Fine Arts], before computers,” he said. “And the first day on the job here, LTG [Library Technology Group] rolled in a computer and said, ‘your predecessor ordered this but we don’t really know what she was going to do with it.’ So I’m totally self-taught. I started out with the PageMaker desktop publishing program and now we’re into Adobe InDesign.”
Before computers played a large role in his job or anyone else’s, Joe worked as a freelance graphic designer. He also worked for a studio that did projects for a number of large companies, one of which was Harley Davidson. He eventually went on to teach graphic design at Madison Area Technical College before coming to work at the libraries.
Despite how much it has already changed, Joe does not see his job changing all that much in the future. He does hope to be working on a more statewide or global level in the future as the libraries continue to grow and expand.
And the most rewarding part of his job? “Working with such nice, diverse people,” he said without hesitation. “I work with different people every day; no project is the same…they’re all knowledgeable, they’re all professional, and they’re all committed.”
Without a doubt, Joe is one of the most knowledgeable, professional, and committed among them.