Joel Clifton ’89, Chris Hanson ’99, Emily Beckmann ’09

Somewhere out there is a young person who will graduate from Simpson in the year 2019. Might we suggest he or she investigate the career possibilities at Lessing-Flynn Advertising in Des Moines?

The agency, whose clients include Vermeer, Roto-Rooter, Bankers Trust and the Iowa Corn Growers Association, employs three Simpson graduates. There’s Joel Clifton, an art director. Simpson Class of ’89. There’s Chris Hansen, also an art director. Simpson Class of ’99. And, finally, there’s Emily Beckmann, a project manager who also works in client services. Simpson Class of ’09.

Do you spot a trend here? Every 10 years, like clockwork. “All of our offices are right in a row, and I’m in the middle of these two,” Beckmann says. “Often we find ourselves in conversations that begin, ‘Well, when I was at Simpson….’

“For me, it’s kind of neat, because I feed off of them, because they obviously have more experience than I do. So whenever  I have a design-related question, I always pop in and say, ‘Hey, Chris, can you show me how to do this?'”

When the Simpson trio compare notes, they can discuss the technological revolution that has swept through the art of graphic design. Clifton, the veteran, can remember a time when the work was done by hand, not on a computer. Computers had just been introduced when he was on campus. There were no classes on desktop publishing.

“It was such a difficult job because it required a lot of technical skills,” he says. “When I came here and we sat down to do a catalogue, we had to have physical boards with each one of the pages. You’d have to order the type, or have somebody set the type, and put down galleys and hope everything fit. There was a lot of hand cutting, which is kind of a fine art in itself. Now all of that is done on the computer.”

He looks wistful, saying, “I can still remember the smell of the waxer.”

Beckmann stares at him, then laughs. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” she says.

For Hanson, the late 1990’s on campus ushered in a Mac Lab and computer programs like Photoshop. “We were talking about this the other day,” he says. “You look at some of the projects we did on the computer and you just think, ‘How did we think that they were any good?’ It was just the simple fact that you could do them on a computer that made it really awe-inspiring.”

All three credit Simpson professors for focusing on basic art concepts, which provided the proper foundation for doing their own work.

Beckmann, who majored in Spanish and corporate communications, remembers how Art Professor David Richmond had students spend six weeks drawing, with compasses, protractors and rulers, before they could advance to computers.

“We had to start with the basics,” she says.

Nodding to Beckmann, Clifton says, “I look at her, and the advantages that she had coming out of school, but it was the same thing when I got out. We had all the advantages at the time when we came out, too. It’s just that the world has changed.”

For the record, you don’t have to hold a Simpson degree to work at Lessing-Flynn. The agency also employs two Central College graduates.

“We push them over to the other side of the office,” Hanson jokes.

See? Not everything in the world has changed.

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