Savannah in Spring

Leading Lights in American Illustration Illuminate the Stage at SCAD

Written by in Events

At SCAD in Savannah, spring is not the only attraction.

Last week the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) hosted a symposium on the future of illustration and graphic design organized by SCAD professor of illustration Julie Lieberman and co-hosted by the departments of design and illustration.  The purpose of the symposium was to showcase the work of leading practitioners who view rapid technological changes not as an obstacle but a challenge.

“We know change is constant,” said Lieberman, whose skills as an organizer and host were in full force throughout the visit. “You can view the changes in our industry brought on by technological advance as a threat or an opportunity. The men and women we brought to speak to our students use technology to their advantage.”


The Panel (L to R) Neimann, Shimizu, Sickels, Kunz, McCarren and Darden.

While understandably nervous after organizing such a complex and rich experience, she had nothing to fear: the assembled cast was all A-List. This group could have filled an entire day at the HOW or AIGA Conference.

•  Tyler Darden, art director of Virginia Living Magazine

•  Anita Kunz, an artist/illustrator whose work has appeared regularly in Rolling Stone, Time and The New Yorker and internationally in galleries and museums

•  Bridgid McCarren, art director of How Magazine

Christoph Niemann, whose illustrations have appeared on the covers of The New Yorker, Newsweek and The New York Times Magazine

•  Yuko Shimizu, an award-winning illustrator and one of Newsweek Japan’s “100 Japanese People The World Respects”

• Christopher Sickels (Red Nose Studio), one of the best all around creative talents whose work stretches all existing definitions of illustration and design today.


Professor Julie Lieberman and Chair Allan Drummond.

A few arrived early to enjoy a fresh and healthful dinner at the beautiful home of Gaye and Allen Drummond (Allan is the chair of the illustration department) in the historic district. After that, “Spooky Lou” led the troupe on a Believe- It-or-Not-like Ghost Tour that was half fact, half fiction — trouble was, you couldn’t tell which half was which.



Spooky Lou with Hearse Ghost Tour: notice his responsible  beverage.


Spook Lou’s ride is a  Buick Regal Hearse: Now that’s scary.

The next afternoon, everyone gathered at SCAD’s Art Deco palace, The Trustee’s Theatre on Broughton Street, where several hundred students and instructors gathered from SCAD’s numerous schools and disciplines including, Industrial Design, Graphic Design, Illustration, Sequential Art and Painting. Professor Lieberman kicked off with an inspiring review of illustration’s influence both past and present, exhibiting the work of illustration’s luminaries.

Next, SCAD students were enlightened by the parade of talent and work. Chris Sickels showed his marvelous models and props that populate his quirky, funny world. Christoph Nieman spoke of his journey from graphic design in Germany to preeminent illustrator in America. Anita Kunz spoke of the arc and evolution of her 30+-year career. Yuko Shimizu told of her metamorphosis from a dispiriting career as an undervalued woman in Japan’s rigid corporate culture into an exhilarating, free-spirited American artist of irrepressible energy. Tyler Darden and Bridgid McCarren offered their valuable perspectives from the client side of illustration, sharing with students vital “do’s and don’ts” that could smooth anyone’s road to success.


Christoph Niemann, Yuko Shimizu and SCAD Professor Mohamed Danawi soak it in.

Were new horizons revealed? Were life courses changed? Did the students learn anything? Let’s put it this way, if anyone left the theatre that night feeling empty, they have only themselves to blame. The buffet of experience, knowledge, perspective and advice was brimming with variety and substance.

After a short break, panelists sat in front of the proscenium to take answers from the students. It was the chance of a student’s career. For those who stayed, let’s just say they left the theatre with a lot of leftovers to take away.  For those who actually posed a question to one of the panelists, their courage and interest might have opened a door that could remain open for the duration of their professional career.

Impossible?  Panelist Yuko Shimizu told the crowd the she had met fellow-panelist Christoph Nieman as a humble student only nine years ago. On this night, Yuko pointed out, she was honored to stand before an audience with her former instructor…as a peer.

Conclusion: A word of advice students fortunate enough to see, hear and meet such an august panel of guests: when the night sky is alight, don’t leave until the sun (or house light) comes up. You won’t regret it.



Had to be SCAD advertising student: contact to help.


  1. 04
    Meg Williams said:

    Mr. Porter, you are so right! this symposium was extremely helpful for a young illustrator! the idea of entering the real world of illustration is already intimidating enough without the stresses of print being limited. the illustrators were very knowledgeable and they helped ease our minds. PRINT IS NOT DEAD!
    it was great to hear from these artists that we admire and they all brought us laughs. Niemann is hilarious! knowing the backstory of an illustrator makes me enjoy their work so much more. ie. the police cloud (could not stop laughing) i feel like Sickle’s work is also a glimpse into the future of illustration.. so innovative! THANK YOU SO MUCH.

  2. 04

    The lecture was a real eye opener for all of us students. The future of illustration is towering upward and its great to have moral support from the best illustrators in the field. This lecture reassured my choice to be an illustrator and it gave me hope for success. Thanks for visiting my school!

  3. 04
    Seo Kim said:

    It was an honor to be exposed to the knowledge and experiences of these incredible illustrators. The passion they had for their work was beyond anything I could imagine and helped in provoking the lost passion in me. Thank you so much for coming to our school!

  4. 04
    Yuko Shimizu said:

    Thank you Matt for a nice post about the event. I had so much fun.

  5. 04
    Addie said:

    Is this symposium available to watch anywhere? youtube or the SCAD website?

  6. 05

    lmao nice info man.

  7. 02

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