“I was born with a crayon in my hand,” said Front Range Community College graphic design instructor Dale Rosenbach. “I was an introvert as a kid and art has always been my friend. It started with me drawing cartoons until I was the best artist in my class.”
After 31 years as Colorado State University’s Art Director, countless agency awards, and a lifetime of stories, art and Rosenbauch are closer than ever. Now semi-retired and teaching at the Larimer campus in Fort Collins, Rosenbauch is a critical piece of the graphic design department.
Rosenbauch could be considered an anomaly. As an introverted child, Rosenbauch used art to communicate. At an early age, he achieved advanced photo-realism with pens and pencils, a skill that normally takes years of formal training to perfect.
Despite his artistic ability, Rosenbauch worked in retail in Des Moines, Iowa, but a void developed in his life.
Rosenbauch’s first wife convinced him to sell his precious Corvette and attend art school to study Graphic Design. He graduated early to an immediate job at a design studio. However, the job prevented Rosenbauch from contributing to major design projects. Consequently, he listened at design meetings, then went home to make his own design ideas.
Eventually Rosenbauch showed his at-home work to a real client, and they chose it immediately. Rosenbauch earned many awards while working at that design studio, but after years of successful work, he lost his job. Feeling despondent, Rosenbauch returned to retail sales at a department store.
Within a few months, Rosenbauch got an interview for a job as an art director at Colorado State University. “I had never art directed in my life,” Rosenbauch said. Even so, Rosenbauch received call backs for multiple interviews, and the institution even asked that his wife attend an interview.
After countless tense minutes and a collection of odd questions Rosenbauch asked the interviewer if he had the job. The interviewer responded, “You had it last week. Did we not tell you that?”
Over the next three decades, Rosenbauch transformed Colorado State University’s graphic design department.
Rosenbauch considers his greatest achievement to be the creation of a graphic design internship program at the university. Starting with a small group of three students and small projects, he tailored the internship program for student designers to get real world experience. The university also got to use the stellar designs that the interns created. Eventually, the program grew to over 20 interns, some of whom were hired directly out of the program.
Just as it was reaching a peak, the university decided to terminate the internship program. Rosenbauch took this as a sign to leave Colorado State University, after 30 years of solid work.
While Rosenbauch found himself in the trenches of unemployment, his wife demanded that he get a job. One morning he woke to his wife pressing a pillow into his face. Rosenbauch jokingly responded, “Why thanks, Honey. The light was so bright!”
But all jokes aside, Rosenbauch embarked on a job hunt. Shortly afterwards, he began teaching at Front Range Community College.
Rosenbauch’s uniqueness isn’t limited to his art; he runs his class like a design studio. Ideas are formulated and discussed as a group. Students offer most of the feedback on designs.
When Rosenbauch decided to give his students power and responsibility in the classroom, he noticed higher student engagement. “I’ve been around the block and I’ve learned that students don’t need a teacher, they need a friend. Your friends are honest with you. Your friends help you. I care about my students and I can help them be successful,” he said. His class is not about the grade earned, but rather the effort expelled.
Rosenbauch’s story is one that every artist needs to hear. The higher one climbs, the farther he has to fall. Nevertheless, the greatest people will always get back up and continue to climb, just as Rosenbauch did.
Written by Christopher Kemp
Photo provided by Dale Rosenbauch