Parsons’ AAS GD Alumni and Faculty Collaborate to Create re:D Magazine feature.

Hello by Ed Nacional

Hello by Ed Nacional, AAS '09

Guest contributor | Ed Pusz

As a designer and art director for the past 18 years, I’ve become intrinsically aware that a good collaborative process makes for good results. This past October, The New School’s Communications and External Affairs (CEA) Design Studio had occasion to reunite teacher and student for a special feature on the inside back cover of re:D magazine. For this issue, we were privileged to work with Ed Nacional, AAS Graphic Design ’09, and his former professor Katarzyna Gruda, who directs the AAS Graphic Design program at Parsons. We commissioned Gruda to create a photograph capturing Nacional’s diverse body of work and the man behind it.

The concept began over a lunch between Gruda and another AAS Graphic Design grad and former student, CEA Associate Art Director Paula Giraldo. The two discussed shooting a portrait of Nacional surrounded by his work. In her characteristic style, the teacher quickly sketched an idea on a napkin and handed it to Giraldo with instructions to deliver it to me in a somewhat clandestine manner. I offered a few ideas of my own, emailing a response. We were inspired by Nacional’s elegant design language to find a way to showcase his work and the designer himself.

Red-Handed Sketch

Photo concept sketches by Katarzyna Gruda (right) and Ed Pusz (left)

Nacional has a keen eye for typography, and his fresh, interactive illustrations encourage a participatory playfulness. His approach has made him a favorite of art directors and clients seeking thoughtful, communicative design. And his editorial illustrations are genius: At one moment you’re reading the words; the next, you find yourself lost in his visuals. His rise in the field has been impressively swift. CEA’s John Haffner Layden, the editor of re:D, describes Ed’s work and career path in copy accompanying the photograph:

Cranking out work for the oil industry at a Calgary, Alberta, graphics firm, Ed Nacional needed a new design exercise regimen. His technical skills got a daily workout, but his conceptual abilities needed strengthening. Nacional found Parsons’ AAS Graphic Design program while researching options with his girlfriend (who had enrolled in The New School’s Nonprofit Management program). Bootcamping with peers from around the world in a city offering daily design inspiration, Nacional developed the clean, witty, sophisticated approach he is know for today. Behind him in this portrait by Katarzyna Gruda, director of AAS Graphic Design, are illustrations and logos Nacional has created for the New York Times, Friends of Type, and Herb Lester Associates. Other clients include Time, Newsweek, Money, start-ups SkillShare and Liveset, and Live Now.

New York Times Op-Ed illustration by Ed Nacional

New York Times Op-Ed illustration by Ed Nacional

Live Now, by Ed Nacional

Live Now, by Ed Nacional

Once the concept was chosen, an experienced team was assembled to bring it to life. Giraldo and Gruda have collaborated successfully with students and other faculty members many times in the past, designing pieces such as the cover of the Spring 2011 issue (“Design and the Body”) of re:D, which recently won an award from the Type Director’s Club. Working closely with the lead designer of the feature, CEA’s Sarah Daley, Giraldo, Gruda, and I chose to photograph using natural light and studied the sun’s movement through the room. The late afternoon light seemed the most promising, so Daley and Nacional gathered materials in preparation for the shoot.

Conference room daylight study.

Conference room daylight study.

On the day of the shoot, Nacional arrived at the CEA Design Studio with portfolio in hand. Daley and Giraldo went to work selecting pieces to form the background for Gruda’s photograph while Nacional chatted with the team. (You can probably tell this from his portrait in the final photo below, by the way, but Nacional is as personable as he is talented.) Just as the light in the room approached the sweet spot, Gruda arrived and got behind the lens. Chasing the sun, she started shooting frames while Daley and Giraldo rolled the whiteboard backdrop around the room. It took until the last of the light left the room to create a perfect parallel to Nacional’s work: ingeniously conceived, impeccably composed, and utterly expressive.

Read the Fall 2011 issue of re:D online here.

Ed Nacional re:D layout

Final re:D Portrait and composed layout. Photo by Katarzyna Gruda.

Ed Pusz is the art director of the Communications and External Affairs Design Studio at The New School, where he is responsible for creating and directing university collateral across all media. Before working for The New School, Pusz served for nine years as the design director of MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art.