DINFOS Instructor Designs Armed Forces Day Poster 2000
By Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Therien, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md., May 16, 2000 For the first time in recent memory, the Department of Defense's Armed Forces Day poster has been designed by a service member.
This year's selection, a tribute to the men and women who have served in the military since the first Armed Forces Day in 1950, was designed by Air Force Master Sgt. Douglas Sanderson, a graphic artist and graphics instructor at the Defense Information School here.
"It's pretty neat," said Sanderson, a native of Colorado Springs, Colo. "When I did it, I guess I didn't really think they were going to select it. It turned out to be a pretty big deal."
The poster selection is part of the annual Armed Forces Day program coordinated by the Department of Defense through the American Forces Information Service. In past years, commercial artists were contracted to do the poster artwork, but Lois Nutwell, a visual information specialist at AFIS, said the agency decided to try something different for the 50th anniversary.
Nutwell went to the information school with past posters, talked to instructors and tried to recruit them into designing a 2000 poster. Sanderson said the response was lukewarm.
"It didn't look like anyone wanted to contribute," he said. "Nobody was raising their hands. I thought the school should be represented." His previous Armed Forces Day experience was limited to producing flyers and seating charts at the graphics shop of Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., but he took a chance. He called Nutwell and volunteered his services.
"In the beginning, they were saying there was a possibility of it becoming a stamp," he recalled. "I thought, 'Why not?'" He knew the project would give him and his command good exposure, he said, so, using photographic and illustrative computer programs and working mainly at home, he created a mock-up and sent it to Nutwell. She in turn forwarded the proposal to Bill Harris, the DoD Armed Forces Day coordinator.
"I thought it would be apropos for somebody wearing the uniform to be the one who designed the poster, so I contacted Doug directly," Harris said. "I asked him to send me a couple of samples. What he sent me was good, very similar to the one we have now."
Sanderson's original submission contained an American flag as a backdrop, with the names of different campaigns and battles laid in over the top, in the style of the Vietnam memorial, and bordered by various campaign ribbons.
But the real work began once Sanderson's submission was selected.
"I worked on it for about three months with Mr. Harris," Sanderson recalled. "He was like my art director. He'd send me an e-mail about every other day suggesting a change." He'd make the change and send Harris a digital photo of the modified poster. His original, for instance, had all the service logos on it, but no people.
"They wanted to make it more personal," he said. "I got the idea of putting the faces of the troops on there." Sanderson removed the service logos and then spent many hours at libraries, on the Internet and looking through compact discs to find images of military people of various services, nationalities and sexes over the last 50 years.
"I tried to get every service and nationality represented from every war or conflict -- pretty much did a lot of research," he said." The result is 18 ghost-like representative service members overlaid on the flag background.
"I don't know if you can see it, but if you look at the shape of the heads, they form a rainbow," he said. "Most people probably won't notice that."
And the border of ribbons changed. Sanderson's original submission contained only campaign and operational ribbons.
"I went back to him and said, 'You know, that's a great idea, but... ,'" Harris said. He pointed out a lot of service members being honored didn't see combat, but earned medals for service by controlling the DMZ in Korea, or patrolling the Cold War East German border, or flying supply missions into Greenland.
Sanderson added ribbons for service medals and service awards. He still wasn't done. "Mr. Harris was adamant about me putting reservist medals in there. He said, 'You don't have any reservist ribbons,' Sanderson recalled.
"My hat's off to him for going back and doing the research and finding all those ribbons," Harris remarked.
The last change involved the text denoting the different battles and campaigns.
"Eventually we came to the conclusion that putting the inscriptions of all the different campaigns in the background looked too busy," Harris said. "We asked him to take those out, which he did."
But, according to Sanderson, not without some reluctance.
"I had the Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, all that stuff on there like it was a reflection in a wall, and that looked pretty cool," he said. "I guess they thought it was too busy, but I liked it." Even with the compromises, he said, he believes the poster's message is clear.
"It all comes down to the soldier, the pilot, the actual people who served their country," he said. "It's a celebration of what they've done."
After some fine-tuning, Sanderson had created a finished product that DoD accepted, then printed in 70,000 copies for distribution to military installations and activities nationwide. The image also graces the front of 50,000 cachet envelopes that will be distributed from the Pentagon bearing a special Armed Forces Day 50th anniversary stamp cancellation. Four 8-by-4 panels made with Sanderson's flag backdrop will become part of a permanent display at the Pentagon.
"We're getting a lot of mileage out of it," Harris said. "Everybody likes it. It really does represent the military, and especially the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Armed Forces Day. I think it's a great tribute to the military to have someone in uniform actually design the poster."
"This is probably the most exposure for anything I've ever done," Sanderson said. And recognition: He will receive the Joint Service Commendation Medal in a May 17 Pentagon ceremony from Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
(Navy Petty Officers 1st Class Mark Therien and Mark Kettenhofen are photojournalism instructors at the Defense Information School, Fort Meade, Md.)