The Academy of Art University Alumni Awards recognize the accomplishments of outstanding graduates. Annually, four grads are recognized in the categories of Distinguished Alumni, Emerging Artist, Distinguished Service and the President’s Award — the latter selected by Academy President Elisa Stephens. The 2011 recipients are Jason Sperling, Jan Philip Cramer, Alice Bybee and Melissa Marshall.
The Distinguished Alumni Award is for graduates who have shown leadership, integrity, influence, success and significant commitment to creative excellence and innovation. This year the award goes to Jason Sperling, MFA98, School of Advertising. Sperling spent the first decade of his career working for a number of agencies in San Francisco and Los Angeles. His work spanned a wide range of clients and media, some glamorous, some not. In that time he put together arresting campaigns for California Avocados, Fox Sports, Wherehouse Music, Suzuki Motorcycles and Red Tail Ale, among others. And although the work wasn’t highly visible, he garnered several awards — which got the attention of TBWA\Chiat Day.
It was when Sperling started working on the Apple account at TBWA\Chiat Day (the Apple group would later form TBWA\Media Arts Lab) that he truly made his mark in the advertising world. There he helped define several new revolutionary new devices, including the iPhone and iPad. But where he left his most indelible mark was with the relaunch of the Mac computer, and the simple, now iconic Mac vs. PC ad campaign. It ran for nearly five years in three different countries and spawned countless imitators, satires and parodies. Sperling also created the Mac vs. PC online campaign, which brought Mac and PC into contextualized spaces on the web. Both campaigns became cultural phenomena and critical successes. Some of the more notable awards these campaigns earned included the Cannes Gold Cyberlion, four Cannes Silver Lions, The Grand Effie and dozens of One Show pencils. Ultimately, it was named Campaign of the Decade by Adweek.
He recently left TBWA\Media Arts Lab to become senior vice president and group creative director at RPA, an integrated agency in Santa Monica, Calif. Here he spearheads traditional and digital work for Honda Automobiles North America.
The Emerging Artist Award goes to alumni within five years of graduation who show outstanding promise and creativity within the art and design community. For 2011 the recipient is Jan Philip Cramer, BFA05, School of Animation & Visual Effects. After graduating cum laude, Cramer started his career at Sony Pictures Imageworks in Culver City, Calif. At Sony, he worked as an animator on projects such as Ghost Rider and Spiderman 3. His success on those films led to his recruitment by Weta Digital, the famous Academy Award-winning visual effects studio in New Zealand. There he continued his career as lead animator on James Cameron’s record-breaking film Avatar, animating over 100 shots and overseeing multiple sequences. Once Avatar was completed, Cramer was promoted to supervise animation on The A-Team. In 2010 he returned to California to work for Digital Domain as an animation director, where he is currently working on a film of “giant proportions” (yet to be announced).
The Distinguished Service Award is for outstanding alumni who have made significant contributions through volunteer work in the spirit of art and design. The recipient for 2011 is Alice Bybee, BFA01, School of Graphic Design. Bybee is a passionate advocate for nonprofits and social responsibility since making her move from full-time do-gooder to graphic designer. With her in-depth knowledge of design for social good, she created AIGA San Francisco’s Social Impact Chair and “cause/affect,” a graphic design competition for social causes. Her experience includes branding, corporate communications, packaging and interactive design. She has spearheaded projects for the Marine Mammal Center, Boys and Girls Club San Francisco, The de Young Museum, NewSchools Venture Fund, Microsoft, Levi’s and The North Face, among others.
Bybee is currently design director at Iron Creative and serves as president of the San Francisco chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design, one of the largest and most active chapters in the country.
For 2011 Melissa Marshall, BFA75 and MFA76, School of Illustration, was selected by Dr. Elisa Stephens to receive the President’s Alumni Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the Academy, demonstrating commitment to education, mentorship and the future of the university. Marshall worked for the Academy’s School of Illustration under the tutelage of Director Barbara Bradley. After Bradley retired, Marshall eventually headed the department, a post she held until 1997.
At that time that she accepted an offer from Walt Disney Feature Animation in Burbank, Calif. While with Disney, Marshall served as the training manager for incoming artists, training new animation hires in the drawing skills needed to help create the quality products for which Disney is known. In addition to training new artists, Marshall also provided portfolio assessment and oversaw the company’s continuing education program. In 1999 she returned to San Francisco and was invited by the Academy to become the school’s executive vice president, in which capacity she presently serves.
Work by the 2011 Alumni Award recipients will be on display at the university’s annual Spring Show (opening May 25, with work on exhibit May 26–Aug. 15) and will be profiled here in an upcoming report.