50 Years of Stories profile —Brendan Droppo:
Graphic artists never really have to give up their designs. They can admire them whenever they want — on the side of a building, the top of office stationery, the back of a business card.
But if Ottawa’s Brendan Droppo, 2011 Graphic Design alumnus, wants to catch a glimpse of his signature artwork, he’d better not blink. It’s likely streaking by at 300 kilometres per hour.
Since grade school, Droppo has had two passions: drawing and motorsports. Now he draws racecars for a living. “One great thing about going to Algonquin was that I was able to sharpen up on all my skills,” Droppo says. “When I wanted to pursue drawing race cars professionally, I was able to go at it full force.”
He doesn’t so much draw racecars as the designs that make each sponsored car unique. It’s an exercise in sports marketing and branding as well as art, and his skill at it has caught the attention of a number of NASCAR racing teams. He’s even designed the look of cars driven by seven-time NASCAR series champion Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott (2018) and Alex Bowman (2018).
Each of his designs, he says, is a “resume on wheels”.
“One thing led to another and now I’m designing more race cars for (NASCAR team sponsors) Lowe’s, Nationwide Insurance, NAPA Auto Parts and Hooters.”
Droppo’s portfolio includes more conventional graphic design as well – logos, brands and digital designs for schools, companies, and services. One prominent Ottawa LOGO that Droppo created when he was still in school only looks like it’s going fast: The Algonquin College swoosh.
Droppo’s role in Algonquin College’s logo redesign a few years back was entirely by chance. It happened during a six-week internship, a key component of the Graphic Arts program’s final year. “I was able to intern in Toronto at an agency and it just so happened that their client was Algonquin and I got to work on the new logo.
“It was fun to come up with the evolution of the logo. As soon as I saw (it), I knew it had to be updated, with kind of a swoosh through it with a more modern font. I was really happy that they chose that – that was really fun to cap off the three-year course.”
Maybe it was also a bit of payback for a college program he describes as “a great experience.”
“I knew what I wanted to do with my career, but I didn’t have the technical skills yet,” he says. “(Algonquin) was a great fit. I learned so much every year and I’m just so thankful that the course provided basically all the ins and outs that I needed in the industry.”
Attending Algonquin is a family affair for Droppo. About a decade after the college opened in the late ’60s, both his parents attended Algonquin – his mom studying to be a legal assistant and his dad preparing for a career in heating, ventilation and air-conditioning.
“It’s just really neat to come here almost 40 years after they did and kind of continue a family tradition, if you will,” he says.
The College gave him the tools to become a successful sports marketing entrepreneur, says Droppo. After that, it was just putting in the work. “There really is no secret. You have to pay so much attention to detail, and be dedicated to your craft and what you believe in, and (in) the product that you want to give your clients.”
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