Video by Sean Logan
Ever since the Lattie F. Coor Hall building opened on the Tempe campus in 2007, the chalkboard that accents the first level hallway has continuously displayed small chalk drawings and even some inappropriate words.
Students and others walking through the hall saw the chalkboard as an eyesore and the drawings as bad graffiti. However, throughout last spring semester, something new appeared on the board. People passing by began to glance again and sometimes even whipped out their camera phones to take a picture. The chalkboard had become a single-piece art gallery, and the artist was somewhat of a mystery.
The mystery of the Coor chalkboard was solved when junior visual communication design student, graphic designer and letterer Scott Biersack realized the ultimate potential of the Coor Hall chalkboard and added his personal signature to the chalk art: his Instagram handle.
Inspiration for the Chalkboard
A year before beginning to create highly creative pieces on the Coor chalkboard, Beirsack was running for the president of the Graphic Design Student Association and used a chalkboard in the design building to advertise his candidacy in chalk lettering. Biersack instantly fell in love with chalk art, and after seeing the Coor building’s chalkboard while walking to class, he decided to pursue chalk lettering even further.
“I instantly became passionate about chalk lettering,” Biersack said. “Then I realized that there was this giant board that no one used except for random scribbles, and that’s when I decided to do my first big piece.”
As part of his personal creative project, Project 365, Biersack pushes himself to work on lettering every day and spends every free minute he has on Saturdays working on chalk pieces, which he calls “Chalkboard Saturdays.”
“I have done about 16 or 17 pieces since the end of last fall,” Biersack said. “I remember my first piece that I created one Saturday morning. It took me around six hours, and when I came back an hour later it was already gone, erased.”
Although facing a setback within literally seven hours of beginning his “Chalkboard Saturdays” project, Biersack’s motivation to continue on with the project never faltered one bit.
“If I started doing chalk art 365 days ago, it would probably be garbage,” Biersack. “But through practicing every single day and staying committed to this project, it has really helped a lot, and I love it.”
Biersack’s hard work displayed on the chalkboard outside classroom number 170 in the Coor building is full of creativity and words of wisdom. Biersack’s main talent lies in hand-drawn typography, which shows in most of his lettering in the form of inspirational quotes. Biersack’s inspiration for the quotes he’s used for Chalkboard Saturdays was fueled by the events in his past that motivate him to keep lettering and designing every day.
“I have dealt with many difficult things in my past. When both my parents lost their jobs, there were times when we didn’t have anything,” Biersack said. “But the quotes I put up on the board are ones that have stuck with me and keep pushing me to keep following my dreams.”
Biersack is definitely no stranger to challenge. While balancing school and multiple professional projects, including his own skateboard design company, ALT Skateboards, Biersack has a high priority for work ethic and said he is always pushing himself to learn more and stay busy with design.
Biersack took a course called “Designing Life” during his freshman year, and he said what he learned in the class still helps him today as a junior design student and professional graphic designer.
“The class basically teaches you how to balance school, work and life … work ethic, essentially,” Biersack said. “Since I love chalk lettering so much, I just want to do it every chance I get and keep learning.”
Dr. William Heywood, assistant clinical professor in the Visual Communication Design program, created the “Designing Life” course with other faculty members to help students set goals and work with their strengths while studying in the intensely rigorous design program.
“The class is designed to create a culture for design students where we teach them to community build and work as a team, which is essential in the design profession,” Heywood said. “We hold our students to high expectations and give them the tools for success. It’s great to see students who went through this class now doing great things.”
Inspiration and Mentorship in High School
Most of Biersack’s motivation to continue learning how to design in chalk lettering stemmed from his beginning days of learning about graphic design. While attending high school, Biersack took a graphic design class that opened up his mind and imagination to the design world. With the guidance of his high school graphic design teacher, Kenna Watters, he began to become dedicated to becoming a successful graphic designer.
“While taking her class, (Watters) had a big passion for graphic design, which helped fuel my love and dedication for design as well,” Biersack said. “She played a major role in my future of becoming a graphic designer.”
Watters, an ASU design school alumna, said she saw potential in Biersack and began to mentor him while teaching him in her high school design class.
“As a teacher, there’s always a couple students who stand out — the ones who are really dedicated and as passionate about your craft as you are,” Watters said. “Scott was certainly one of those students. I knew he was a talented artist before he joined my class the second year I was teaching.”
During Biersack’s senior year of high school, Watters encouraged him to attend ASU after his graduation. Watters said she recognized Biersack had the passion for design and an unique knack for hand-drawn typography and decided to give him an opportunity to put his talents to the test. After starting at Phoenix-based advertising firm Zion & Zion, Watters took in Biersack as an intern during his freshman year at ASU.
“Most of his projects had some type of hand-drawn element to them, a skill that is imperative in the design industry,” Watters said. “As he started his freshman year at ASU, I also started at my firm. I always knew he would be an awesome designer, and I wanted to give him the opportunity to have the work experience early on, like I had done, so I brought him on as an intern.”
This past summer, Biersack accepted a position as associate graphic designer in Zion & Zion’s interactive design department.
Biersack said he is grateful for the guidance of Watters and the design school’s challenging curriculum.
Other Design Pursuits
While working toward his bachelor of science degree in the highly competitive Visual Communication Design program through the Herberger Institute for Design and Arts, Biersack also added various other projects before developing his chalk art project. These various other design projects include creating the logo for the online design blog, Inspirez, to designing the custom-built option graphics and lettering for local bicycle company, State Bicycle Co.’s, new store. He is now doing freelance work for TGI Friday’s.
Though Biersack has many of projects on his plate this year, he is still planning to continue Chalkboard Saturdays as part of Project 365 throughout this semester.
He said the main reason he pushes on is his growing and appreciative audience. Biersack has received many words of thanks from his followers on Instagram as well as from people stopping by when he is working at the Coor chalkboard.
“I feel like in this day and age, there is a lot of struggle in people’s lives, and I feel like motivation and inspiration is needed,” Biersack said. “I’m doing this project because I love it, and if the words on this chalkboard instill the same motivation in people that are walking to class, it’s just awesome.”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @HaleighD_SP
Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this article gave an incorrect location for Biersack’s high school.