Local graphic artist wins prestigious award

Local graphic artist wins prestigious award

May 17th, 2011 by Clint Cooper in Life Entertainment

Paul Rustand, founder of Widgets & Stone, recently was named a Fellow for the American Institute for Graphic Arts. He is the only designer in Tennessee to receive the honor. Staff Photo by Allison Carter


Age: 40.

Hometown: Born in Philadelphia; raised in Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Asheville/Greenville, N.C.

Education: Bachelor in Fine Arts from East Carolina University, Master of Fine Arts from University of Alabama, Yale University School of Management "Business Perspectives for Creative Leaders."

Family: Peg, wife of 19 years, nine children, one "naughty dog and 12 chickens."

Hobbies: All things Italian; following Chattanooga Football Club/international soccer; University of North Carolina basketball.


"Technopoly" by Neil Postman, "Heat" by Bill Buford, "Made You Look" by Stefan Sagmeister.


Another of Rustand's hobbies, he said, is cooking (and eating). "I should mention," he said, "learning to cook from Jamie Oliver TV shows is also pretty important."

Paul Rustand said the most important aspect of a good graphic has nothing to do with the graphic design. The client, he said, is the most important partner to a designer.

Rustand, founder and director of Chattanooga-based Widgets & Stone, knows of what he speaks. He recently was honored by the American Institute for Graphic Arts with a Fellow award and is the only AIGA Fellow living and working in Tennessee.

The Fellow award program, according to AIGA, is a means of recognizing designers who have made a significant contribution to the craft. The areas of education, writing, leadership and reputation, as well as the practice of design are given equal consideration in measuring significant contribution.

"While [his] design work speaks for itself, it's Paul's personality that draws people and projects around the studio," said Matt Greenwell, a Widgets & Stone collaborator.

Rustand's work has been recognized and awarded by the American Advertising Federation, Communication Arts, Graphis, How magazine, the One Show, Print Magazine, Step Inside Design Magazine and the Type Directors Club.

The 16-year-old company's mission under its founder's leadership, according to Greenwell, is to "Design the Right Things, and Design the Things Right."

Q: What does your honor with the AIGA Fellow's Award mean to you?

A: I regard it as a great honor as less than 100 people [out of a national organization with more than 22,000 members] have been named fellows in the past 10 years. But more important than the recognition from the professional association of design is the recognition from my peers - colleagues, clients and friends. ... It is very humbling and rewarding.

Q: What in your early life, education or early career influenced you to go into graphic design?

A: From the age of 3, I found drawing extremely enjoyable - a great tool for getting ideas out my head and into a tangible form - and from then on used that medium as a way of expressing myself. In my junior high years, I became very aware of great advertisements and poster design, but I never knew that it was someone's job to create such things. Only when I enrolled at East Carolina University's school of art did I discover a thing called "design." I was immediately smitten and have pursued design ever since then.

Q: What is the most challenging or interesting graphic design campaign you have done?

A: A significant watershed project for us was rebranding Rock/Creek. We were asked to create a new identity for the best, most successful and established outdoor supplier and outfitter in Chattanooga. We worked very hard to stretch ourselves - as well as our client: presenting only one idea/solution - to help them move successfully into the future. We did it, and we made both the client and ourselves happy and extremely proud of the results.

Q: What advice would you give people who are studying or getting ready to graduate from having studied graphic design?

A: Learn how to learn - about design, of course, but also about anything else. Everything is relevant and useful in design. And most of all, learn people skills. The best designers are very talented at actual design, but they are even more enjoyable to be around. And lastly, learn how to take care of the seldomly mentioned - at least in school - "client." This is the most important partner to a designer.