Howard York – known around Full Sail as “Dr. Logo” – teaches in our Media Design Master of Fine Arts degree program. Honored in 2010 with three American Graphic Design Awards and three Fexy Awards, “Dr. Logo” wrapped up 2011 with an inclusion in Symbol, a compendium of logos and symbols edited by Angus Hyland and Steven Bateman, and released by preeminent British design house Pentagram. The book, obviously, is about the beauty and utility of iconography and logos, and York had six of his creations featured, two of which got full-page treatments.
Back in Sept. 2010, FSBlog contributor Christine Janesko wrote this profile of Howard York for our student-news site, Propeller. In it, York talks about his decades of work in the world of logo design and wayfinding.
Graphic designer Howard York keeps a SCUBA slate in his shower, a notepad and illuminated pen next to his bed, and a voice recorder in his car. You never know where creative inspiration will strike, says York, who teaches in the Media Design Master of Fine Arts program.
“You have to train yourself to be aware of those moments. And you have to train yourself to be astute enough to say, ‘Wait, I just had an ‘aha’ moment,” explained York. “The creative process doesn’t know 9-to-5. It’s a process which doesn’t have any structure. But you need to sometimes fit it into a structure.”
York has had a lot of “aha” moments in his long career as a graphic designer, working with top-tier design, engineering and architectural firms, and as chair of the Academy Art University in San Francisco.
Some of York’s works are in a permanent collection with the Museum of Modern Art and in the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, both in New York City.
Retail Branding and Wayfinding
He’s well known in the fields of both retail branding (also called environmental design) and “wayfinding,” for which he has won hundreds of awards.
“It’s been a big part of my career doing 3D work and building things like all the Exxon stations – 50,000 stations worldwide,” said York.
As a designer specializing in retail branding for companies like Exxon, BP, Embassy Suites and Crowne Plaza Hotels, Hudson Booksellers, and Taco Bell Restaurants, York designed logos, signage, communication materials, menus, packaging, uniforms, and architectural and Website elements. York also outlined overall strategies and guidelines to ensure quality control and consistency among the thousands of locations.
In the field of signage and wayfinding for hotels, shops, and large facilities like the Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority, Riyadh International Airport, Norwest, and the National Jewish Hospital, York has produced design solutions for helping people find the most efficient way to get where they are going.
“Way-finding is like, how do you find your way in a facility? Somebody has to figure out, when you get out of the plane, where the signs go so you can get to baggage.”
Even though he’s now teaching what he knows to Full Sail students in the Media Design Master of Fine Arts program, York hasn’t stopped working as a graphic designer. He also volunteers as a small business development center adviser for the Disney Entrepreneur Center and the UCF Business Incubation Program.
He was recently honored with three American Graphic Design awards from Graphic Design USA and three awards from the newly established Fexy Awards, in the areas of branding, logo design, and signage.
One of the awards was signage and wayfinding York did for the Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority.
York teaches students graphic presentation skills as a Course Director in the Media Design Master of Fine Arts program, but he also loves to talk about the importance of the creative process.
“You know the famous saying now from the Daniel Pink book [“Living on the Right Side of the Brain”] is, ‘The MFA is the new MBA.’ And it’s really true because many companies now – traditional companies who don’t think of themselves as creative – are starting to hire people who think creatively,” said York.
“That’s what people are going to be wanting more and more in the future. The skill part, you can learn that. It’s the process of thinking, solving problems creatively that’s of real value.”