Today, professors Martin Venezky and Jon Sueda seem like two sides of the same coin. In the Graphic Design courses they co-teach at CCA, they listen to their students before speaking, argue with each other fruitfully and comfortably, then almost always agree on what the student should do next. In addition to their academic work, each has forged a successful professional career. Venezky is one of the most influential designers of his generation. His projects include work for SFMOMA, Reebok, the Sundance Film Festival, and the two-volume, 600-page, award-winning publication for the International Center of Photography's The Mexican Suitcase, documenting recently unearthed Spanish Civil War photographs by Robert Capa and others. Sueda just finished a major international commission, designing the graphic identity for the 12th Istanbul Biennial. He is also curating an exhibition at the International Biennial of Graphic Design in the Czech Republic in 2012. While the rapport and respect between these two designers is solid and obvious today, it's not a relationship that developed overnight. This is the story of a mentorship spanning two continents, four states, and 15 years.
Back in 1996, the 25-year-old Sueda enrolled in CCA's undergraduate Graphic Design Program. A tennis-playing Hawaiian with a BFA from UC Davis and a background in painting and printmaking, he signed up for a class with Venezky. "Jon was extraordinarily shy and basically terrified," says Venezky. "He was also really, really good. He hated the critiques, but when I made suggestions, he followed through and went much further, and I was really impressed with that. His development was amazing to watch." Says Sueda, "I didn't know what graphic design was, and I wasn't sure what I was getting into. At UC Davis, we never really had critiques. So I wasn't prepared, and I found it hard. I didn't even know I needed a computer. I went through the first semester doing everything at Kinko's."