2017-07-05 / Spotlight


Lanny Sommese Emeritus Professor of Graphic Design | Penn State
Maggie Anderson

In 1961, Lanny Sommese was in the library wandering through the stacks as a freshman at the University of Florida when his future career practically landed in his lap. “I kicked over a book and the damn thing was about graphic design,” he says. “It was called Gebrauchsgraphik, one of the major publications for graphic design. I opened the book and I was looking at my future. I said, ‘This is what I want to do.’”
That was the spark that ignited a long and successful career for the image-maker, who has been creating posters for the annual Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts since 1974. Before this year’s Arts Fest kicks off on July 13, we sat down with the retired professor, who shared five things from his enormous collection of vintage game boards, toys and masks, to try to piece together an image of this designer.

What inspires you? “When somebody does something that I think is a hell of a lot better than I can do. I’ve got to step on the gas.”

Published in 2010 in China, Lanny Sommese: X-ray Vision explores the designer’s career and work. “It’s about ideas. All of graphic design is about problem solving and it’s always problems for clients, not art.”

“That’s an old bottle opener. I love both of the eyes. Most of my work depends on metaphor, so this has the same appeal to me as the image on my book does.”

“I started collecting in the late ’70s. I just always loved rummaging around. I started with game boards and then I got all this other stuff. I love all of it. They energize me every day.”

“I love my in-laws and they gave this watch to me.”

This year’s Arts Fest poster features a free-flowing design. “I try not to have a style. I work in all sorts of different kinds of things, drawings, paintings, whatever. Early on I knew I didn’t want to have a style because styles get old.”

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