Name: Joel Klassen, contract employee
Contract: Wyandotte Services
Title: Graphic Illustrator
Location: Lakewood, Colorado
When did you start working with WAPA? I started working at WAPA as a contractor in August 1983. I was a fresh-faced recent college grad working as a designer at a local t-shirt printing company. A friend of my family was working as the supervisory graphic designer on WAPA's technical services contract at the time and asked me if I'd be willing and able to fill in for a staff member who was on maternity leave. The new mother never returned, and I've been a contractor pleasing WAPA clients ever since. The woman's baby would be about 34 years old by now! Our office was in Building 1 at Denver West Office Park.
What is the most interesting thing you have worked on at WAPA? I was the principal designer of WAPA's most widely recognized logo, in use from 1997 to 2016. I also worked on two short-lived WAPA logos before that and was on the team that came up with the new logo introduced a year ago.
When I started work here, there was no such thing as a desktop computer to complete the many tasks that had to be done. We did everything by hand using pens, X-ACTO knives, process cameras and lots of other stuff you'd only find in museums nowadays. As computers started to come on the scene, we were in on the ground floor, training to use it while cranking out jobs. It took some getting used to, but I can't imagine what this job would be like now without a computer. We produce significantly more work in the same timeframe, just like everyone else who uses a computer at work these days.
What do you wish people understood about your job and the work you do? As publication designers, we have neither a magic wand nor the ability to read minds. I can provide great ideas for layouts or charts, but the core of the product has to be well written and thought through by the client in advance. I've been telling clients for decades, "You provide the cake and I'll do the frosting." A beautiful look to a presentation or poster or brochure means nothing if the core product doesn't relay a message effectively. I'm lucky to work with top-notch editors who are always willing to massage or compose the words when necessary. Sometimes they need to add words, and oftentimes their challenge is to reduce them significantly!
Tell us something about yourself we wouldn't find on your resume. Many HQ employees with whom I've worked know that I'm a car buff and own two giant classic cars that show up at work occasionally. A few others know my life-long passion of collecting and building plastic model cars. My group of a dozen model-enthusiast friends meet in my basement every other week for the latest show and tell. We've been at it for almost 30 years, sharing techniques and knowledge that has made us all stronger as individuals. We attend big model car championships and swap meets together and have loads of fun. One of my creations won first in its class at the Heartland Model Car Nationals in Kansas City in 2015. One of my latest creations won both the "Creative Concept Design Award" and People's Choice Award at the Heartland Model Car Nationals in Kansas City this June. If you love cars, and lots of them, we find it is more practical to love the kind that are one twenty-fifth the size of the actual vehicle. You can indulge yourself with a vast variety, keep a hundred vehicles in one room, they don't need to be licensed or emissions tested and they are easy to move around!
How is what you do tied to WAPA's mission? I help with the messaging Public Affairs works on every day. If the layouts, designs, charts and illustrations I create can hold a viewer's interest long enough for a message to sink in, then I've done my job properly. From visuals in high-level PowerPoint presentations to simple inner-office flyers, the message has to be clear and concise. I apply WAPA's branding theme of specific fonts and colors to assure WAPA's printed products have a consistent look and feel. Interacting with coworkers and clients with a smile and a positive attitude helps keep everyone happy and in a good mood. I believe that maintaining a professional yet playful attitude goes a long way in making my job easier and interactions with clients memorable in a positive way.