50th Anniversary Graphic Photo Wall

As part of Amtrak’s year-long 50th Anniversary celebration, a series of colorful graphic photo canvasses will soon be appearing in stations around the country. Amtrak customers and employees are encouraged to post photos on social media of themselves in front of these 10-by-8-foot “walls” with #Amtrak50 to share their enthusiasm for train travel with their family, friends and followers.

The designs were created through a collaboration with Amtrak and college students. Eleven designers submitted art for consideration as part of a competition that was judged by Amtrak staff. In the end, the works of two Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) students and a recent MICA graduate, along with a submission by an Amtrak intern, were selected as the winning images that appear on the canvasses.

The designers were challenged to create a collection of graphic design mashups that project Amtrak's future-oriented brand (not just a look-back on its history) by conveying a visual message of exploration, innovation, connecting people/communities and employee diversity. The designers were encouraged to create regionalized themes that reflect Amtrak’s routes across the country.

“We encouraged these young designers to create something colorful, memorable and exciting to help us celebrate our 50 years,” said Doug Duvall, Amtrak’s assistant vice president of corporate communications. “They did not disappoint us. They created graphic photo walls that reflect the dynamic evolution of our brand and the regions we serve.”

The Winning Designs

Everything old is new again in a retro design that celebrates Amtrak's past and future.

Artist: Ye Rin Kim

A colorful celebration of Amtrak's history of moving America forward.

Artist: Ye Rin Kim

A modern mash-up of iconic middle America.

Artist: Demond Young

Past and present cross paths in an abstract of Amtrak's logo.

Artist: Victoria Grzesiak

Color and movement come together to pay tribute to the American West.

Artist: Allison Hao

Artist Spotlights

Ye Rin Kim

Ye Rin Kim, a fourth-year student at MICA studying graphic design, submitted two winning designs for the program. Her first design has an early 70s feel that reflects Amtrak’s founding in 1971, while also focusing on the growing popularity of retro art to celebrate the company’s present and future.

But for her second winning design, Amtrak asked her to push her skills to combine elements of two separate designs she submitted. Where others might find that difficult, Ye Rin said she welcomed the challenge. “It was exciting and interesting to get that feedback,” she said. In the end, she was able to combine the colors and fireworks of two separate images she submitted into her second winning design.

As a native of South Korea, Ye Rin struggled to create designs that focused on a specific region of the United States since she has only been able to explore Baltimore, where she is studying at MICA. “I do not have a lot of understanding of other regions,” she said, which is why she particularly appreciated her classmate Allison Hao’s winning design, which used waves to represent a West Coast vibe.

“But I thought all of the winning designs looked great,” Ye Rin added.

Now that she has earned two $500 Amtrak gift cards for her winning designs, Ye Rin is looking forward to putting them to use to travel from Baltimore to other places, including New York, Boston, maybe Chicago. She has lots of options, considering Amtrak serves more than 500 destinations across the country.

Demond Young

Demond Young, a recent graduate of MICA who is now pursuing a Master of Fine Arts from Howard University, created a design dedicated to the Midwest by showcasing some of the region’s iconic images, including farms, the St. Louis Arch and the Chicago skyline.

“I’m from Toledo, Ohio, so I am used to catching the train to travel to Chicago and St. Louis,” Demond said. “I know how easy it is to ride Amtrak between those places so it just made sense to use that in my design.”

Demond used a variety of elements to create his image, including some of his own handwriting, which is seen in the #Amtrak50 in the upper righthand corner. “I always try to incorporate my own handwriting into my work. It’s a way to make it truly my own.”

Although he said his MICA education taught him a lot about the intricacies of graphic design, he found it especially challenging to create a design that would translate to an 10-by-8-foot canvas. “We spend so much time looking at our designs in the digital world on our computer screens that I found I had to pay close attention to how it would look when printed for the physical world.”

Demond won a $500 Amtrak gift card for his winning design. And he knows exactly how he will use it. “I want to go home to Toledo to surprise my mom for her birthday,” he said.

Victoria Grzesiak

As a native of Illinois, Victoria knew immediately the region she wanted to focus on. “From the get-go, I knew I wanted to focus on Amtrak in the Midwest,” she said. “Especially because of how Amtrak unifies the country and because of the history of railroads in the Midwest.”

To do so, Victoria’s winning design incorporates the abstract tracks that appear in Amtrak’s logo and weaves them together with iconic images from the Midwest, including the historic architecture of Chicago’s Union Station and the city’s skyline, farms and families. She even slipped in a retro photo from Amtrak’s early days.

A senior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in economics and design, Victoria used two software programs, Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, to create the digital image. She said it proved to be a great exercise in graphic design, especially since the final product would need to translate to a 10-by-eight-foot format.

She submitted two unique and radically different designs for review. And while others might shy away from critiques of their work, Victoria welcomed it. “It was fun to submit multiple designs and get feedback,” she said. “I’m glad I did it. It was a great experience.”

As Victoria begins to ponder what she will do when she graduates, her internship with Amtrak’s Digital Customer Experience group has proven to be invaluable. “I want to focus on digital design,” she said. And while her career may take her to the ethernet, in her free time, this talented young artist finds joy by creating beauty in the physical realm through her beautiful watercolor paintings.

Allison Hao

Allison Hao, a fourth-year graphic design and humanistic studies student at MICA, set out to create a design that reflects the vibes of her home state of California.

“I wanted to use a wave motif,” Allison said. “Then I found the picture of the Amtrak train riding by the coast with the sun setting and it just seemed to come together: ‘riding the waves’ and Amtrak’s slogan ‘The Future Rides with Us.’”

Allison also gave a lot of thought to the colors she used. “I actually established the color palette first,” she said. “The color teal is representative of the ocean water and the tealish hues of the sage brush you see a lot of in the West.’”

The final challenge was to create a design that would successfully translate to an 8-by-10-foot format. “Since I knew the design would not be hanging from a wall or ceiling but would be on the floor, I wanted to make sure I created a space for people to take their photo in front of it without taking away too much from the design itself,” Allison said.

Allison won a $500 Amtrak gift card for her winning design. Her challenge now is how best to use it: should she explore more of her home state on the Pacific Surfliner or the Coast Starlight? Or maybe travel along the East Coast now that she’s back in school at MICA in Baltimore? “I was so excited to win the gift card because there is so much I want to see,” she said. Because Amtrak serves 500 destinations across the U.S., she has lots of options. But she knows where she’ll start: “I want to go with my sister to New York City to see a Broadway show.”