Joe Wynne: Designing UHD
By Sheryl E. Taylor
A Brief History Lesson
In 1974, the University of Houston acquired the assets of South Texas Junior College and opened the University of Houston-Downtown College (UHDC) at One Main Street as a four-year institution. By the end of the '70s, the Texas Legislature had approved UHDC as a distinct university in the University of Houston System. By the early 1980s, it was clear that UHDC was more than a college and the word, 'college,' was officially dropped from the institution's name. UHD moved into the '90s as the state's third-fastest growing university and focused on becoming a premier, metropolitan university, appealing to traditional and non-traditional students as well as working professionals.
Enter Joe Wynne in 1991.
The Man Behind The Design
With a Bachelor of Fine Art degree in hand from the University of Houston (UH), Wynne began his career in Downtown Houston. In the late '70s, his first job was as a graphic designer in the oil and gas industry. After 14 years with the former Texas Eastern Corporation, he ventured into the private sector under the moniker, Joe Wynne Design.
After a few years of being his own boss, he decided to accept an opportunity at the University of Houston-Downtown.
One of his first assignments? The UHD logo.
Given a one-year deadline, Wynne worked on hundreds of color and font combinations using the entire Pantone® color wheel as his palette. How did he come up with the logo? First, the contrast of the letter forms and the strength of the "D." The "UH" is Times Roman bold and the "D" is a custom font that Wynne created.
"I really wanted the "D" to represent forward movement with a bit of dominance…so it's clear that you know it's the University of Houston-Downtown," he added.
When he presented his logo design, the "UH" was blue with a green "D." Once finally approved by the UH System Board of Regents, the green "D" morphed into a red one, which is deeper in tone than the University of Houston's red. The winning combination—Pantone® colors: Blue 294 and Red 193.
"My goal when creating the logo was to change the perception of UHD and distinguish us as a stand-alone institution. We are a university that serves a specific and special community of students, unlike no other," said Wynne. "The logo helps to help tell our story."
Wynne's logo design is featured on literally EVERYTHING that is UHD—from campus signage to posters to brochures to magazines—which the students, faculty, staff and the city of Houston have come to know since 1996.
"It's amazing to see your work come to life through so many mediums," said Wynne. "I love that the logo has stood the test of time. It makes me proud."
More than 20 years later, the logo is still going strong and will continue in a new marketing tagline for the University, FinishUHDStrong.
His Next Design Phase
His love of art began at a young age.
"I wasn't the athlete," he said. "I was the little kid in class that could draw."
During his childhood, he fondly remembered a crayon drawing he did in first-grade. Wynne's teacher wrote on his picture: "Better than Picasso." He still has the drawing from 55 years ago.
"I didn't know who Picasso was back then," Wynne said. "But, I held on to that memory because it was the first compliment I had from an adult who pointed out something positive. Every kid needs that. If they're good at sports, music or art…whatever, they're good at…the adults in their life need to tell them that they're good. That's the only way they're going to realize their potential."
Both of his parents had artistic abilities; however, they never pursued it. Wynne's parents were hesitant at first with him pursuing a career in art; however, once he was accepted to UH, his parents were extremely supportive. Wynne's UH Fine Art degree is a concentration in painting, drawing, ceramics, and sculpting.
After 25-plus years at UHD, the director of Creative Services, is retiring to live a lifelong dream by going back to his fine art roots.
"I've had a wonderful experience at UHD. It's been an honor to be a part of this University," said Wynne smiling. "It's absolutely the right time to live my dream as an artist." In lieu of a desk and computer, the Santa Fe, New Mexico skyline will be his inspiration.
His sage advice to future artists: "You've got to follow your heart."