College of Environmental Design Professor Sarah Meyer is known for teaching a variety of subjects from typography to book arts to design thinking.
What some may not know is that she earned a 2021 United Designs Alliance (UDA) Medallion. She received the award in recognition of her exceptional design work, her dedication to intellectual inquiry and cultural engagement, and her commitment to adopting, collaborating, creating, impacting, and influencing creativity in education.
According to UDA, the global design organization nominates the best designers worldwide through an internal review process. Meyer is recognized alongside designers Han Zhanning, Marta Madureira, and Lisa M. Graham.
“I am humbled to receive recognition from a distinguished community of design practitioners and educators dedicated to the exchange of ideas on communication design practices, education, and culture that respects, serves, and contributes to the many facets of society,” Meyer said.
She is passionate about providing opportunities to students in the art field and across the community, which is evident through several of her leadership roles.
Meyer is an internship coordinator for the Visual Communication Design (VCD) program. She works with students to help them get an internship for academic credit or professional experience.
“It is exciting because often this is their first work experience within the field,” Meyer said. “The students are thrilled by the potential, but sometimes they are nervous. I enjoy watching their confidence grow throughout the preparation period, interview process, and work experience.”
She also works with the Career Center to increase awareness amongst industry leaders about the talent CPP students possess and to make internships more accessible to them. Through her role in serving on the College of Environmental Design’s Diversity Assessment and Plan of Action (DAPA) Outreach Subcommittee, Meyer works to increase diversity and communicate the value of the design field.
“Design must be positioned as a professional career option and an academic discipline for which a degree is valued,” Meyer said. “It is a discipline that can address the wicked problems of the future and support an individual’s personal growth, social engagement, and financial well-being. Furthermore, we encourage our students to become leaders, to join professional organizations, and to attend graduate school so that the future will reflect the diversity of thought and inclusive practices modeled by our student body.”
Meyer’s core mission is to increase access for all, which is also reflected in her role as design lead for CPP’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) Academy. She mentors high school students and provides them with a transformative educational experience through design thinking and technology-focused team projects concentrating on the collaborative nature of STEAM.
Meyer also values her passion for teaching and working with students in the classroom.
Tyler Hughey, a current student of Meyer’s, credits Meyer for much of the success he has had as a designer. Hughey is a visual communication design senior, with a minor in marketing management, who is graduating in spring 2023.
“Over the many courses I’ve taken with her, I always walk away from class learning new things and having a newfound curiosity to seek more knowledge,” Hughey said.
Meyer has taught him hard skills related to the design process such as setting up grid structures for a page and the differences between additive and subtractive color spaces, he added. She also taught him soft skills like how to communicate with design clients and how to start building a network.
Hughey also notes that the insight Meyer has given him on what it means to be a successful designer is just as valuable as the knowledge she has passed on to him.
“Day in and day out, she comes to class with a positive attitude, a smile on her face, and a willingness to help others around her,” Hughey said. “She inspired this mindset in me that not only do I want to better myself as a designer, but I want to have a positive impact on those around me as well.”
Meyer has also been influential to her former students that have graduated from CPP.
“When I graduated from CPP and started my professional career, Professor Meyer was always available for me to ask questions on how to navigate the career world,” Cabrera said. “There were so many situations where I felt like an impostor or a failure early on that I was sure it would be the end of my ambitions. She was a person I could call for support and understanding without judgement. I learned from our conversations that sometimes setbacks are just part of the journey to success.”
Along with mentoring students, another of Meyer’s greatest achievements is her research in typographic legibility, which has supported articles, books, and software that fully comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 2018 updated Rehabilitation Act. The research determines the distance at which letterforms and simple symbols can be seen in any color combination to support the needs of people with dyslexia and the visually disabled. The software (Acuity) was the first color contrast checker and distance calculator 25 years ahead of its time.
Meyer has integrated this scientifically accurate information in the courses she teaches to predict the distance of typographic forms, icons, logos, and color on visual acuity for 20/70 (visually impaired), 20/200 (legally blind), and 20/20 (normal vision). In addition, she has acted as an outside consultant to the Ministry of Transportation of Korea in the development of new legible signage systems.
Meyer is also an author and has multiple written works related to her research in color theory, typography, and the management of nonlinear design systems and design thinking.
She is the co-author of the best-selling book series, “Color Management: A Comprehensive Guide to Graphic Designers,” which she co-wrote and designed with colleague John T. Drew. These books are a practical guide to the effective usage of color and are published in multiple language co-editions.
Meyer’s passion for art and design is heavily influenced by her family members, including her father, an architect; her paternal grandfather, a joiner or woodworking tradesperson; and especially, her maternal grandfather. He worked as a house painter and commercial artist in the family company, Tichacek Brothers Painting. His art included wood graining, murals, mosaics, gold leafing, signs, and, most notably, portraiture.
“He had the most artistic influence on me because he was our babysitter,” Meyer said. “He taught all 16 grandchildren to fish, paint, garden, and engineer toys out of whatever we could find in the basement.”