Sac State alumni showcase their work in Legit exhibit

Matthew Malone

Sacramento State alumni, students and professors braved the rain Wednesday to attend the opening reception of Legit, an art exhibit in the University Union Gallery, to hear lectures in the Redwood Room from three alumni.

Legit, which has been in the Gallery since Nov. 24 and will close on Dec. 18, features pieces from former Sac State graphic design students. While a few creations are personal projects, the majority were designed for companies and other clients.

Rebecca Vorhees, design, identity and studio manager for the Union, helped organize the event, which she said stemmed from a similar showcase of alumni work last year. Calls for expansion led organizers to invite guest speakers this year.

“We were trying to brainstorm what it was to do work as a professional designer,” Vorhees said when asked about the showcase’s name. She said getting paid for one’s work “seemed to make you a legit designer.”

Matthew Stuart, who spoke at the reception with Adnan Kussair, said a designer might also use “legit” to praise another’s work.

“When we see a design by a peer that we like, it becomes a force and fire that motivates us,” Stuart said.

Stuart and Kussair, both Sac State alumni, started web design firm Transform in 2010 and have worked with clients including the Sacramento County Airport System and Kaiser Permanente.

“The key to running a successful and legitimate design business is to earn your client’s trust,” Kussair said.

Kussair recounted his and Stuart’s experience creating a website and online content for Kaiser Permanente.

Kussair said he and Stuart got all their projects done on time and within budget. They pushed to humanize the content by adding the stories of people who were affected by Kaiser, but had trouble budging the insurance company from its more impersonal, corporate approach.

The second time Kussair teamed up with Stuart to work with Kaiser, he said they had a much different experience.

“They [Kaiser] got it. It clicked. They understood … the reason why they understood is because they trusted us,” Kussair said.

Christopher Riggs, a Sac State alumni who now works as a creative director for consulting firm SYPartners, also spoke at the reception.

“We work with CEOs to really help them transform their companies, to help them shape their company into what they really want it to become,” Riggs said of SYPartners.

He counseled design students to “just start” by showing up with ideas and not dwelling on failures; “move people” by tapping into emotion; and “forget awards” by checking their egos and not focusing too much on recognition.

Graphic design major Curtis Currier attended the lectures and visited the gallery afterward.

“It was really cool to hear from people who graduated from the program share their success after the program,” Currier said after talking with Kussair and Stuart.

Mario Estioko, a graphic design professor who has taught at Sac State since 1999, said he felt “extreme pride” seeing the work in the exhibit, much of it made by people he taught or knew when they were in school.

“I knew them all when they were starting out in the program,” Estioko said.

Design is a time-consuming profession that can be hard to justify to others, according to Estioko, and he said he wanted students to come away encouraged.

“I hope the students were inspired by them [the speakers],” Estioko said. “To see the time and effort they’re putting in was not wasted.”