The Man Behind the Design:

Profile on John Schall

In the Marketing department at Los Medanos College a man in Adidas sneakers giddily shows off his newest design for a winery which features an uncommon and non-traditional design: an octopus wrapped around a wine bottle.

John Schall’s official title at LMC is Media Design Specialist — a title he says is an outdated version of Graphic Designer. Which is what he is, a graphic designer; he creates and captures the image and the face of LMC.

After getting to know Schall, it’s clear that his passion, dedication and personal investment contribute not only to the school itself as an institution but to its faculty and the student body.

The creative and modern designs he creates hold a truth and inclusiveness that reminds the community in and around LMC of what a fantastic institution of higher learning it is.

As Schall talks of his past experience, jobs and expectations, he reveals that LMC’s intricate grand design didn’t come about by chance. It has been 47 years in the making and is tied directly to the character of Schall and of course the leadership and guidance of Barbara Cella, the Director of Marketing and Media Design, and Eloine Chapman, the Senior Web Administrator.

Many things contributed to Schall’s success, and his beginnings and foundations played a strong role in attracting him to LMC. It may also show how important a strong foundation and sense of security is in getting good results in graphic design.

As a young boy growing up on the peninsula of Foster City, California, he would draw company logos just for fun. Although at the time he had no idea what that could mean for him as far as a career path, his parents sure did; they told him that he should become a graphic designer, but he was not to be interested in that at the time.

Schall had his heart set on photography from his childhood up until his early 30s.

After receiving a B.A. in photography from San Jose State, finding work as a photographer was extremely difficult.

From graduation until he was about the age of 32 he was working two jobs – one in a photo lab and the other as a bartender. It was unfulfilling work. He worked in various custom photo labs after graduation, and even spent some time in Santé Fe, New Mexico assisting photographers. Sadly, it eventually became clear to him that photography might not be the best field to continue in.

His biggest hurdle was finding clients as a photographer. The search for clients, shadowing photographers and bartending — sometimes full-time — took a toll on him.

He quit his bartending job and by 33 started taking classes at a local community college, including Photoshop and Quark classes. With no set career path, he was advised again by a teacher to think about being a Graphic Designer. That’s what brought Schall out of his period of self-exploration and into his calling.

It was during the time that Schall was working as a bartender that he met his wife, a cocktail waitress. She was supportive and inspirational at a much-needed period in his life, but most importantly, she provided the wakeup call that encouraged him to go back to school.

At 34, he went back to school and got a degree from The California College of the Arts, which he said was “the best decision of my life. It felt right.”

“Pretty much what everyone wanted to do when we were going through school was work for a high profile firm that had big clients, interesting clients and did interesting work,” Schall said, relaying his experience working at a high profile graphic designing firm in San Francisco.

He started at the company as an intern while attending school at CCA. He got hired immediately after graduation. After seven years, the reality of working for a big firm began to set in.

It’s a workforce with an intense competitive atmosphere, with clients such as Nike, Champs, Footlocker, the NBA, Levi’s, Sketchers, Lady Footlocker, etc. But work was sparse in the early 2000’s due to the dot-com bust that lead to a lot of design firms closing, especially high tech firms.

Schall felt lucky and elated to land such a good job in his field of interest.

But after working with one client after another all featuring similar designs – often including street art and graffiti, a popular advertising theme at the time – boredom hit Schall like a train you can see coming from miles away. It was a slow progression, but when it hit, it hit hard. About six years into his eight-year job at the firm he had an epiphany.

“The Nike episode was long, and … it was long. And we were doing the same thing. At first it was really interesting and it was great, and we were pushing ourselves as designers,” said Schall, adding, “and then it just got really old because we were just doing another shoe and another shoe and another shoe. And it was also kind of discouraging because the shoe’s where the same thing. They aren’t special in any way.”

“And it was really discouraging to see that… And I just wanted to do something more, something that meant something, that helped in some way, that had an impact.”

Schall started applying for other jobs, one of which being a position at LMC. Initially the job was given to someone else who ended up leaving.

That’s when Schall got the call that he was part of the top 3 qualified candidates for the position. After talking to Barbara Cella, Director of Marketing and Media Design for LMC, he got the job.

A graphic design firm and a community college are two different work environments, regardless of Schall’s skill as a designer. It’s important to not forget just how much of the LMC Community is affected by the success or failure of its image.

The way someone looks at their institution of higher learning can impact the decision making process of choosing a school to attend.

Being comfortable in an environment plays a big part in forming the experience one goes through.

LMC has a presence that can appeal to everyone from those fresh out of high school to those who want to go back to school at a later stage in life.

Ali Cameron interned for LMC’s Marketing Department last fall. She witnessed firsthand the dedication Schall puts into his work.

“He comes at it from a different angle … It might not be like his own personal style, but he’s still gonna be like ‘No, we’re gonna make this look awesome and look cool’,” she said.

Cella, Schall and Eloine Chapman have helped re-imagine the entire identity of the school. The students have always remained the main priority throughout every process.

Nick Garcia, LMC’s Dramatic Arts Department chair, has known and worked with Schall for six years, having started at LMC around the same time.

Marketing coordinates with drama every semester to do posters for two different plays being shown; Garcia comes up with the ideas, concept, feelings, textures, colors and general direction he wants the play to be presented as and Schall creates the images, tweaks them together and creates a tangible physical manifestation.

The poster for ‘Rent’ happens to be Garcia’s favorite so far. That can be attributed to fact that Garcia and Schall are constantly trying new things and creating new challenges, this process results in turning out fun and fresh posters.

The care that goes into the design of the posters, Garcia feels, is one of the most important aspects in promoting a production. It is also the biggest form of marketing that the Drama Department has right now.

Every poster design has the same challenge: figuring out what the concept is going to be so that it captures the feeling that the play wants to give its audience. They also have to be aesthetically pleasing because the more professional the poster looks, the more professional the production seems, which sets the standard and raises the bar for the audience’s expectations and the actors respect for their work.

The success of the Marketing and Drama department collaborations is clearly based in part to the fact that Schall has such a strong work ethic, which Garcia admires.

“Schall’s works is the most visible work, besides Eloine’s who works on the web. It’s work that every student has access to and sees,” said Garcia, adding, “I think a lot of times it might be subliminal or subconscious because they just see it and it says Los Medanos, I go to school there, but when it looks really nice then you’re more proud to say that.”

In Garcias eyes, Schall’s dedication to his work has paid off.

“I feel that each flyer and every single thing that we do as a college is a piece of art, and it needs to be selling, it needs to capture an audience, it needs to promote the school and it needs to give off a vibe that things are exciting and fun and new and current,” Garcia said in response as to why Schall’s work is imperative to the school’s image.

This appreciation and thirst for an understanding, a connection between the students and their learning facility is evident when in Schall’s company.

He’ll ask you what the trends are today for the young crowd, trying to draw strings from young high school students to adults with jobs and children.

“He’s definitely not afraid to try new things. He’s constantly searching for new things,” said Cameron, adding, ”He’s not stuck in this shell of like a comfort box, he’s very open to just being like ‘Hey what’s this over here and what’s this and what’s this!’”

Seeing how invested he is in making sure his job is done right shows that he not only cares for the students on a deeper level than just creating images and graphics, but he also wants his work to cater to them and he won’t allow for any misrepresentation.

“We all have a part in a student’s education, no matter what position,” said Schall.