A Good Life
Renowned graphic artist Peter Good ’65 (SFA), who received the University Medal for his work designing the University’s oak leaf logo and is perhaps best known as the designer behind the enduring Hartford Whalers logo, died at home in Chester, Connecticut, on May 3 at age 80.
I was immersed in Peter Good’s art just through my existence.
I come from a small family. Both of my parents were artists — my dad, Paul Zelanski, was a professor at UConn for almost 40 years. He taught Peter; my mom, Annette (Harding) Zelanski ’65 (SFA); and Peter’s wife, Janet Cummings Good ’66 (SFA). We chose friends to be our family, and the closest were those connected through UConn, both faculty and alumni. I grew up with the Goods — some of my earliest childhood memories were playing at their house. We shared meals and attended parties, concerts at Jorgensen, and so many art openings.
I remember always being in awe of Peter’s work and knowing I ultimately wanted to work for him. I kept in touch with Peter while I was at UConn. When I graduated, I wanted to make sure I earned my spot at Peter Good Graphic Design (which was the business before he and Jan started Cummings & Good). I got his advice before I took my first job at Newman Design Associates, and when I was ready to leave there, I essentially showed up at his office like a stray cat that they fed and never left. I would find a corner of a desk to work at just to be close to his greatness. Peter was so incredibly generous and kind, and such a thoughtful teacher.
He would let me come with him to client meetings and presentations. He confessed he never liked public speaking, and I quite enjoyed it. I know how lucky I was that he allowed me that experience as a young professional. I have so many memories of driving over the river and through the woods together, just talking about ideas, design, concepts, books, music, and art. Those are my most treasured memories, the quiet moments. It’s not the published work that I remember the most — yes I smile every single time I see the Hartford Whalers logo, especially on a young person, the next generation appreciating his design — but for me, it was always the process. It’s the thinking, the research, the discovery, the humor, the making of things.
From a set of Christmas stamps issued in 1993 to the UConn oak leaf symbol to the Hartford Whalers logo, the work of one of UConn’s first graphic design majors lives on.
Through the duration of my career, the tools we use as designers have advanced beyond our imaginations. I worked for Peter as computers transitioned into office spaces, but were yet to be fully embraced. We always started with a sketch pad, and I still do to this day. We spent so much time making things in the studio — design was very tactile. One of the things that I learned from Peter was that a good idea will always last. I think that’s what makes Peter’s work so timeless. Certain design, you can look at and immediately know when it was created, like fashion. There are trends within design and typography that date it to a time period. Peter always avoided that, his work started with the purity of an idea balanced with the art and craft of execution. It was never design for the sake of design. There’s a capacity with digital tools to make things look polished, but sometimes when you strip it down, there’s nothing there. Peter’s work was successful as a drawing on a piece of paper — it wasn’t the application that made it interesting. It’s special because it’s smart.
You can recognize Peter’s work because his artistry came through so strongly. I understand that passion and love. I understand that joy for design wasn’t bound by time or hours that were billed to the client. That’s the life of somebody who lives as a graphic designer. Peter was truly looking for the best idea, the best solution — sometimes that took a great deal of time, even if the outcome looked relatively simple.
Peter Good ’65 (SFA) and Noemi Zelanski Kearns ’89 (SFA) at a wedding in 1993.
The very last time I saw Peter, we were planning on having lunch together at my studio. I told him then, as I told him every time I talked with him, how incredible it was for me to work for him and that it changed the trajectory of my life. I told him again that I hear his voice every day. I’m still surrounded by him. I’ve owned Ink&Pixel Agency for more than 29 years, but I continue to recognize his favorite typefaces, glyphs, and ligatures. He’s over my shoulder when I kern type, when I force line breaks.
Decades later, I hear Peter. He was so incredibly talented. He loved what he did, and he never compromised. It wasn’t work, it was the passion he had for life. That’s why his design will live on, and that’s why people recognize it even at a glance, because that’s how brilliant he was. That’s the mark of an artist whose work comes from their being. It’s not just a job. He taught me to be a designer for life. I miss him terribly. I truly, start to finish, admire him.
By Noemi Zelanski Kearns ’89 (SFA)