NYU Stern Orientation Program — inspiration by Erik Nitsche

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(Update: photos of the printed booklet are now up.)

New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business engaged with three steps ahead this summer to create a set of program booklets to be distributed to incoming students at Summer Orientation. Our work for Stern thus far (NYU Stern CACE Poster & NYU Stern IBEX Poster, for example) has leaned towards classic mid-century design meets The Naughties, when compared with designs we’ve done for NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. I’ve felt that Stern evokes a more streamlined, straight-shooting feel than the more expressive and eclectic nature of Gallatin. For this project, however, I wanted to branch off in a slightly tangential direction. The design needed to evoke feelings of: orientation; summer in New York city; a first time visit to the most overwhelming of all American cities; business; and a sense of edginess and fun.

I was particularly inspired by the work of Erik Nitsche, a modern graphic designer whose understanding of form and palette helped him to create some of the most iconic designs of the 20th century. I obsessively pored over the Flickr pool devoted to Nitsche’s work, trying to discern exactly what it was that made his work resonate. In my eventual concept sketches, I was influenced by Nitsche’s use of certain typeface pairs (Akzidenz Grotesk + Bodoni, for example) and graphic motifs, but I did my best to make it my own and keep things feeling of-our-era, rather than co-opting the 1960s zeitgeist completely.

[singlepic id=197 w=320 h=240 float=left]The client had requested that several initial concepts be presented. The first set of ideas that I sketched were less related to Nitsche’s work than they were to some of the 1964 World’s Fair pieces I’ve come across, as well as mid-’60s record album art. These initial concepts had a very playful feel and a color palette that evoked New York City. I also really wanted to specify French Paper’s Dur-O-Tone in Butcher Orange as the cover stock. It’s fantastic. I created two different covers, one with a line-art illustration of Stern’s headquarters, and one with a motif evocative of a New York city manhole cover, a vinyl LP, or a stylized depiction of the summer sun (à la Rocky and Bullwinkle).

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My next set of designs, which would form the foundation of the final pieces, moved more in the Swiss modernist Nitsche direction. I liked the idea of a diagram depicting a literal interpretation of “orientation.” I liked the associations with the summer season and the earth’s axis being tilted at 23.44°. I also liked the concept of a Little Prince-like planet with New York City as a major topographical feature. The colors I had chosen for this group of sketches was a lot more subdued, in contrast with the orange-and-blue palette of the previous concept. The feedback I received indicated that the perfect compromise was to combine the geometry and basic form of the modernist concept with the brighter, happier colors of the World’s Fair concept.

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After selecting from a handful of colorways, we arrived at the final palette and polished the design to completion.

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Interior spreads include several photo-illustrations based on the photography provided by NYU along with an extension of the arrow motif from the cover design. The inside cover also includes a map of the Washington Square Park NYU Campus area with important orientation locations highlighted by color for quick reference.

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2 Responses to “NYU Stern Orientation Program — inspiration by Erik Nitsche”

  1. September 17, 2009 at 11:58 am #

    Beautiful and very thoughtful work, as always!


  1. NYU Stern Orientation Program print photos | three steps ahead — perspectives - December 5, 2009

    […] project has been previously detailed, but I recently photographed the actual booklets for posterity. Here’s how they came […]

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