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Graphic Design

Alum's Honored Project Is Inspired by her Grandfather

An accomplished set of painting implements designed by 2015 graduate Aaron-Harper Lee is endorsed on as one of the site’s highest-rated examples of student design. Lee’s Ambrose & Harper Powder Mix project is suffused with the endearing presence of her grandfather Ambrose, who guided the artist along her own path, leading to her MFA degree from the Academy of Art University School of Graphic Design.

Lee freely acknowledges her debt. “My grandfather Ambrose is the source of my inspiration as a designer and for this product—his presence in my life as an artisan, teacher and beloved community member has strongly influenced what I value in this world. Each handcrafted component of this product is made from reclaimed wood, fabric or leather, staying true to the principle of tradition—passing heirlooms from one generation to the next,” says Lee, who completed the concept for instructor Tom McNulty’s  Package Design 2 course and, inevitably, her own graphic design portfolio.

She wasn’t kidding about the kit being handcrafted: Every piece is carefully managed in form, palette and tactile quality, expressing a uniformity of vision that is painterly in and of itself. The austere wooden box each item is packed in sets off the understated sophistication of each wrapper, tag and carton to bring the whole set alive with an early-20th-century flavor.

“With the niche market of craftsmen in mind, I branded a line of sustainable paint motivated by principles of legacy and tradition,” says Lee. “The craft of painting is resurrected as an artistic ritual and mindful practice. Starting with compressed blocks of eco-friendly paint powder, the compact package includes all materials and tools needed to hand-mix your own paint, creating the perfect tints in small batches—just add water. With Ambrose & Harper, preparation of the paint becomes as much a part of the process as the painting itself.”

Lee’s attention to detail is confident and thorough, with every surface embodying a bit of history or artfully conveyed technical information. Each element is edition-numbered and clearly individual. The evergreen silhouette logo works fluidly as leather embossment, as a printed logo, or even as a laser woodcut, all while retaining an iconic presence that is crucial to establishing a brand.

See just a sample of the truly impressive iterative process Aaron-Harper engaged in to arrive at her final conception of the paint set. Her explorations of form, rhythm and typography are strong indications that she has a vital imagination for expansive aesthetic possibilities.

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