Thomas Elder
he / him / his
Faculty, Tenured, Graphic Design,
Boise State University,
Department of Art, Design and Visual Studies
MFA, Graphic Design, Iowa State University
College of Design, 1998


Administrative Ranks

Administrative Positions

Research Expertise

Typography, Signage, ADAAG, (Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines,) and accessible physical design, 3D Modeling Art, Animation, Story Narrative, Interactive Media, HTML/CSS, Figma, Design History; including curriculum for a full semester, Visual Design History course, entitled: History of Visual Rhetoric, currently taught as Art 400.


I love donuts! A pink frosted cake donut is first choice and most pasteries are my weakness from a very early age. If there is a box of donuts in the interview, I am not shy and will go for that box maybe even before introduction pleasantries!

On the serious side, I earned design studio and commercial agency experience. I am an Indigenous person. I grew up on Indigenous Reservation nations in Montana. I am a voting member of a First Nation, and regularly vote in tribal elections of, The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

Exhibitions, Fine Art

Invited, 2019 Boise State University Biennial Faculty Exhibition, Boise Art Museum, March 30–July 28

Juried, International, iDEAS Exhibition 17, Washington, DC. CGI art, Title: "She’s Not Even A Real Indian, Either," (Oct. 5, 2017 – Oct 7, 2017) Medium: Archival inkjet pigment on Velum: 8x10 inches Juror: Dr. Dena Eber, MFA, Ph.D., Bowling Green State University.

Juried, National, Texas National, Art Exhibition, 2017, Nacogdoches, TX. CGI art, Title: "The Treachery of (CG)Images," (April 8, 2017 – June 10, 2017) Medium: Archival Inkjet on Canvas Size: 36x24 inches, framed Juror: Benito Huerta, Professor, University of Texas, Arlington.

Juried, International, iDEAS Exhibition 16, Winona, MN. CGI art, two prints. Title: “CGI Pop-Art: Commentary of Commercial Package Design” (Oct. 5, 2016 - Oct 8, 2016)
Digital Print 1: "Tomato in Morning," Medium: Archival Digital Print, Size 16x20 inches
Digital Print 2: “Chicken Noodle by Afternoon,” Medium: Digital Print, Size 16x20 inches
Jurors: Christiane Paul, Associate Professor in the School of Media Studies, The New School, and Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City Dene Grigar, Director of and Professor, Digital Technology and Culture Program, Washington State University, Vancouver. Abstract: Much of our images that we view and assume to be high-end photos are actually Computer Generated Images, (CGI) skipping the camera altogether. Artists and designers are further challenged to understand principles of the 3D world or at least relinquish their control of creating images for package design, to someone else if they cannot make the image as part of their repertoire.

Juried, International, iDEAS 15: Breaking Barriers, Art Exhibition, Johnson City, TN. CGI art, Title: "The Treachery of (CG)Images," (October 21, 2015 - October 24, 2015) Medium: Archival Inkjet on Canvas, gallery framed, Size: 36x24 inches Juror: Niki Nolin, Interim Chair, Art & Art History, Columbia College, Chicago.

Presentations, Papers, Talks, Guest Lectures

Guest Lecturer, Critique, UI User testing, American University, Washington, D.C., Digital Graphic Design student courses, Nov. 22, 26, 2019

Speaker, CAA – College Art Association 107th Annual Conference, Juried paper/talk Title: "Racist Human Mascots: A Guide for Artists and Designers to Determine the Qualifications of Racism in Commercialized Art," New York City, February, 15, 2019 Abstract: How is an artist or designer to know what qualifies as racist art? A practicing artist or designer should be able to refute why art used for a mascot, a commissioned logo or a photograph is incongruous to human civil rights. A mascot is the de facto representation for sports teams’ identification around the world. When a team uses a human representation for a mascot, one singular choice is indubitably a racist portrayal, that of a First Nation or Native American person.

Speaker, Solo Invited Speaker, Instructor Title: "Racist Human Mascots: A Guide for Artists and Designers to Determine the Qualifications of Racism in Commercialized Art," University of Texas, Permian Basin, April 9–10, 2018 Invitation by Dr. Marianne Berger Woods, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Art History.

Speaker, School of Visual Arts, NYC: 30th Annual National Conference of Liberal Arts and the Education of Artists—Why Study Art? Title: "Racist Human Mascots: A Guide for Artists and Designers to Determine the Qualifications of Racism in Commercialized Art," School of Visual Arts in New York, NY Oct. 13, 2016 Juried Paper presentation: Juror, Maryhelen Hendricks, Co-chair, Humanities and Sciences Department, director, National Conference on Liberal Arts and the Education of Artists, School of Visual Arts, NYC

Speaker, International Digital Media Arts Association 14th Annual Conference, Title: "Racist Human Mascots: A Guide for Artists and Designers to Determine the Qualifications of Racism in Commercialized Art," iDMAa, Winona, MN. October 6, 2016.

Juried Paper presentation: Juror, Brigid Maher, Director, Film and Media Arts Division Associate Professor, Co-Director, Center for Media and Social Impact School of Communication, American University, Washington D.C..

Presentations of Exhibition Art

Speaker, International Digital Media Arts Association 15th Annual Conference, Featured Artist talk Title: "She’s Not Even A Real Indian, Either," iDMAa, University of the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C. October 6, 2017, Plenary Speaker.

Speaker, International Digital Media Arts Association 13th Annual Conference, Title: "The Treachery of (CG)Images: IKEA's use of CG proxy photographs or proxigraphs," iDMAa Conference, Johnson City, TN. October 23, 2015, Roundtable Speaker Format.

Creative Professional Activities, Graphic Design client based

2020 Graphic Design, “Original Label Design Rye Whiskey Bardenay," Boise, Idaho

My label designs will have custom lettering, especially the titles of the spirit, made completely by hand and digitized. Each will have a hand-drawn illustration and delicate art with foil stamp details. Bardenay set a national industry precedent by combining a full-service restaurant and bar with a spirits distillery. This is the first in the nation to do this; not the same as a beer brewery. Each of the 10 or so designs over the years are original designs and are exclusive. They include one-of-a-kind original type and pen and ink designs. Client design is an important part of my research practice.

2018 Graphic Design, "Original Label Design, Aged Rum Bardenay," Boise, Idaho.

2018 Graphic Design, "375 ml Original Vodka, Lemon Vodka, Dry Gin, Bardenay," Boise, Idaho

2015 Graphic Design, "Original Label Design, Bardenay," Boise, Idaho

2014 Graphic Design, "Original Logo Design," Boise, Idaho

2013 Graphic Design, "New Branding Collateral," Entertainment logo marks, Kaysville, Utah

2012 Graphic Design, "Arid Club Original label design - limited edition," Boise, Idaho

2012 Graphic Design, "3-Dimensional signage and logo design," Boise, Idaho

2011–1999, continued experience with freelance work and consultation of Accessible Design, Including Adventure Island Playground, Meridian, ID

Selected Development Research Activities, Conferences

2021, Webinar, Conference “Removal of Native American Mascots and Fight for Native Rights.”; UCLA American Indian Studies Center’ Amanda Blackhorse (Navajo), and Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee) discussed their ongoing advocacy to remove stereotypical mascots in sports teams, schools and monuments. The talk was moderated by UCLA American Indian Studies Center Director Shannon Speed (Chickasaw Nation). March 30, 2021

2021, Webinar, Conference “Behind the Keyframes: Producing at Pixar”; Duke & Duck Senior Producer, Mike Capborat, behind the scenes 12 years at Pixar, sharing experience from Monster’s University, Ratatouille and Burrow animations.

2020, Webinar, Conference “American University Motion Graphics Guest Lecture, Duke & Duck, featuring Mike Capborat; their newest hire from Pixar” April 16, 2020.

2020, Webinar, Conference “DC in Motion, #DCinMotion - Working From Home or Hardly Working” March 31, 2020

2019, Conference, "CAA Annual Conference 107th Annual Conference," New York, New York. (Featured Speaker, February, 15 2019)

2017, Conference, "International Digital Media and Arts Association 15th Annual Conference," iDMAa : Washington D.C., (October 5, 2017 - October 7, 2017)

2016, Conference, and juried speaker, "School of Visual Arts Thirtieth National Conference on Liberal Arts,” School of Visual Arts: New York, New York, (October 12, 2016 - October 15, 2016)

2016, Conference, "International Digital Media and Arts Association 14th Annual Conference," iDMAa : Winona, Minnesota, (October 5, 2016 - October 8, 2016)

2015, Conference, "International Digital Media and Arts Association 13th Annual Conference," iDMAa : Johnson City, TN. (October 21, 2015 - October 24, 2015)

2014, Conference, "International Digital Media and Arts Association 12th Annual Conference," iDMAa : Orem, UT. (November 6, 2014 - November 7, 2014)

2014, Conference, CAA Annual Conference 102nd Annual Conference," Chicago, IL. (February, 2014)

I’m always seeking new inspiration, knowledge and continuing education in design through conferences, guest critiques for other colleges and for other individuals.

Book Review

Graphic Design Portfolio Strategies for Print and Digital Media By Robert Rowe, Gary Will, Harold Linton. Published by Pearson, Copyright © 2005–2010 - honorarium for review

Book Editing, Acknowledgment

Title: Access for Everyone: A Guide to the Accessibility of Buildings and Sites with References to ADAAG By Arvid E. Osterberg, Donna J. Kain Published by Iowa State University - ISBN 0-9726480-1-1 Copyright © 2005

Definition: Racism

Authored the definition of racism as part of research and course content for Design History. Use of the definition is freely open.

Racism is discrimination of inherent human differences; with disregard for dignity by defamation, limitation or denial of cultural ethnicity, or human rights.
Thomas Elder, 2012

Invented Word; used in courswork


Authored a new word as part of research and course content for Design History. Use of the definition is freely open. Submitted to Oxford English Dictionary for consideration.

Proxigraph is an image that is created in computer software or algorithm to create the illusion of a tangible or real image; or a proxy for a photo-realistic image. The photo-realistic image, such as a CGI image, is created in software or artificial intelligence, and that stands in as a proxy for what we may perceive as a photograph.
Thomas Elder, 2015

Teaching, Credit Courses Undergraduate, semester

if you made it this far, you can view from above, I teach many studio courses going back to the year, 2001—that is a lot of teaching experience to list. I was also awarded an additional research sabbatical, (not listed above) in 2009.

Continuing above from 2001 to 2012, I taught Design Studio Courses including Independent Studies and Directed Student Learning. Faculty: Graduate Student, MFA candidates: 2006–2020.

Teaching, Supporting Activities

2020 Spring Visiting Lecturer/Critique, March, American University, Washington, D.C. *(Canceled by COVID-19 crisis)

2019 Fall, Visiting Lecturer/Critique, Graphic Design course UI/UX student testing, American University, Washington, D.C. Nov 22, 26.

2018 Fall Art 377 – Off-campus Field Trip: visited off-campus to Trademark Sign Co., an award-winning custom sign fabricator. This trip augmented upper division student instruction to projects in 2-Dimensional graphics that eventually become 3-Dimensional signs or structures. Students were instructed the design studio in the process of digital design in vector software applications, on professional practices, especially ‘what not to do’ in the digital construction of their files. 2017 Fall Art 377 – Field Trip: similar to above description.

2015 Fall Invited Guest Instructor: I was invited by Jonathan Krutz, Lecturer, College of Business and Economics. He reached out to me as an invited guest instructor for his Tuesday course. The occasion was to have a graphic design professional aid in the current Business Communication assignment due that day for the students. The class proceeded as usual, then transferred to my critique of the documents as to what could be improved with the layout and content. I began with some introductory lecture on the importance of typographic choices and business practices. I transitioned into critiquing about 8 or more documents, handed in by the students on Blackboard, on typography usage, scale, proportion and general communication of their assignment.

2015 Fall Art 477 – Off-campus Field Trip: visited Trademark Sign Co., to augment their current instruction and projects in 3-dimensional materials for graphics and signage. Students were toured around the business and were instructed in the process from digital design to execution of large-format graphics and signs.


Service to the university is expected and understood and I welcome the challenges of working with current colleagues. I have chaired and participated in full-Service Committee work since 2001. I have served on numerous Tenure and Advancement committees, Curriculum Committees, Executive to the Chair of the Department Committees and have reviewed and advocated for and against dozens of tenure dossiers as chair and committee member. I’ve served on the second-most candidate Search Committees for our department since 2001 so I’ve experienced many variations and leadership of faculty Service work.

Current and various Committees include: Graduate Program Steering Committee - which reviewed and oversaw current and future graduate students - Visiting Artist and Scholar Committee, I served on multiple Promotion and Tenure dosier and hiring Committees and Art Department Curriculum, Committees.

I've served on Steering committees for National Conferences, such as, First Nations Conference, March 2002 with speakers such as Sherman Alexie, Darelle Butler, Joy Harjo and C. Maxx Stevens