Professor of Design, Emeritus
Thomas Jennings came to the UCLA Department of Art Graphic Design Area in the mid-1950s. Previously, he had taught at Los Angeles City College. Professor Jennings was largely responsible for the emergence of the UCLA Graphic Design Area into nationally recognized undergraduate and graduate programs, especially during the 1950s through the 1970s. A high percentage of his students became prominent, award-winning and leading-edge designers.
Professor Jennings was a notable physical presence in the graphic design studio classroom, standing six-feet plus, with round horn-rimmed glasses, a bowtie and sports jacket. He will be remembered for his project critique sessions, when the students pinned up their assignments, neatly matted and attached to a numbered tag. Each student critic selected his or her choice of the top three or four designs submitted by class members, preceding a classroom critique. Professor Jennings’s choices did not always coincide with the class’s secret vote.
Beginning with Professor Kenneth Kingrey, and continuing under Professor Jennings’ residency, the graduate graphic design curriculum was formally accepted into the Graphic Design Area. Design students were attracted to the UCLA program from all over the world, including Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Germany, France, South America and universities throughout the United States.
Professor Jennings’s contribution to graphic design education, while at UCLA, was noteworthy for his pioneering efforts to introduce to his program various technologies, especially printing, typography and photographic processes, as creative image-making tools rather than as traditional reproduction machines.
Professor Jennings maintained his own design practice and was especially interested in experimental printing processes. He managed a busy graphic design office in West Hollywood, on La Brea Avenue over the Gore Engraving Company facilities, a well-known and venerable engraving and printing establishment.
After Professor Jennings's retirement in 1984, he arranged to have the UCLA Graphic Design printing systems moved to Pepperdine University, where he continued work in the print medium, integrating computer digital imaging. He died at the age of 90 on August 3, 2004 on the island of Maui, Hawaii.