SHREVEPORT – Pioneer life and digital arts.

While these two topics appear to be on complete opposite ends of the academic spectrum, these two areas were combined as the foundation for the final project in a digital arts class at LSUS.

The Pioneer Heritage Center on LSUS’s campus features a general store among its seven historic buildings, and digital arts students in a package design class studied product labels, packaging and advertising from the late 1880s to the 1930s.

Students recreated the original product labels before translating that design into two different time periods based on the aesthetics from those chosen periods.

“Students chose a product from the general store, recreated the original package in digital form and then reimagined that package based on design aesthetics from different eras – say the 1950s or the 1980s,” said Rachel McDonald, an assistant professor of arts and media. “Students looked at the old packaging for inspiration and for insight into the design aesthetics of the time.

“You can see how package design has evolved, but you can also see how that packaging still stands up today. Most design principles don’t change. Good design is good design.”

McDonald got the idea from two of her digital arts students.

Heather and Heidi Linn visited the Pioneer Heritage Center as part of a tour with their sorority Phi Mu in the fall semester, alerting McDonald to wide variety of product and package design in the general store.

“Heidi took pictures of all the different kinds of design and posters in the store, and we showed (McDonald) these images because we knew she loved stuff like that,” Heather Linn said. “It was interesting to really zoom into the packaging and what elements were used in this time period.”

Heidi added that design from the late 1800s is her favorite.

“The packaging is so decorative,” said Heidi, who redesigned Maxwell House Coffee. “It feels so organic with a lot of nature represented in the design.”

Marty Young, the director of the Pioneer Heritage Center, said while art students typically visit the center to draw the different styles of architecture, the digital arts collaboration is a first.

“We have some products that are still being produced today, like Tabasco, Campbell’s Soup and Ivory Soap,” Young said. “A lot of LSUS students have never been over here to the center, so it’s a win-win for us to get students in the door and then to have this kind of academic collaboration.

“We definitely try to encourage different classes and departments to use us as an academic resource.”

Students chose products like gin, nutmeg, shoe polish, foot and toilet powder, cough syrup and perfume.

Many of the turn-of-the-century designs showcased the over-the-top floral designs, representing the special feeling of purchasing a product since most families might make just a few purchases each year.

Those designs gave way to facial illustrations used in the 1940s and 1950s, the groovy bubble lettering of the 1960s, and the wild geometric patterns of the 1990s.

“I’m really proud of all the projects that we created,” Heather Linn said.