Weathersbee: Designer’s mind at work

Illustration by JP Bernal | The Ranger
Illustration by JP Bernal  | The Ranger
Illustration by JP Bernal | The Ranger

To the countless students in the graphic design department, Derek Weathersbee is just one of a handful of Amarillo College instructors who have guided them for the past three years.

But ask him what he does, and you’ll get a slightly longer, rambling answer.

“A graphic designer who also happens to build websites and also happens to teach,” he says.

While that may already seem like quite a bit, there’s still more to Weathersbee.

He serves as cosponsor of AC’s graphic design club, Command+Z.

He has his own website where he promotes his own type-related designs.

He’s been a husband for 10 years to Mindy, a librarian and instructor at AC, and is a parent to Natalee, 4, and Jacob, 2.

As a 2003 graduate of Palo Duro High School, he says he has an “unwarranted but very real pride” of having grown up on the north side of town.

“This upbringing built a large part of our character,” Weathersbee said of himself and his siblings and friends. “I wasn’t poor or mistreated, but I’ve certainly seen my share of conflict and ugliness.”

A month after graduation, he moved to Fort Worth to attend Texas Christian University. While there, he started working a part-time job at United Market Street supermarket and soon met his wife, also an employee.

A lifetime of supermarket work wasn’t to be for the pair. Their employment ended when they were fired at the same time.

Somebody sent an email to their boss saying they saw them making out on an aisle.

“If it’d happened, I wouldn’t deny it,” he said. “But it didn’t happen.”

The loss of employment didn’t slow Weathersbee down.

Shortly after, he received his bachelor of fine arts in graphic design degree from TCU and then started working at a studio.

He quickly moved up from making “crappy, day-to-day projects that are never going to see the light of day” to creating T-shirts that were to be used in commercials.

It wouldn’t be the last time one of his projects became well-known.

Nowadays, his first typeface, Franchise, is all over the place, from coffee mugs and journals to products on an international level. Taco Bell, Walmart, the Food Network, Warner Bros. and the History Channel have used the typeface to dress up their designs.

It’d be easy to let the success go to his head. But in that rambling way that’s familiar to his students and coworkers, Weathersbee explains why it hasn’t.

“At times graphic designers can put themselves on a little bit of a pedestal and become a little bit pompous and a little bit self-absorbed about what we do,” he said. “I want to keep it in perspective; if we are going into an apocalypse, I would much rather have a doctor around than a graphic designer.”

Even if he doesn’t see himself as a life-changer, many of his past and current students think otherwise.

Hannah Overton, s former AC graphic design major who has moved on to Brigham Young University in Utah, explained the importance he brought to her formative years at AC.

“People always say you should have at least one college instructor you make friends with – someone who not only teaches you great things in class, but generally mentors you – someone you can talk about life with. For me, that was Derek Weathersbee,” Overton said.

When she realized she was not going to be able to finish her three-year graphic design program in two years, Weathersbee spent half his summer teaching Web Design II to her and another student, enabling her to graduate in five semesters instead.

It’s just the kind of person he is, Overton and other students said.

Somehow, maybe because of bouts of insomnia, he manages to fit other interests into a seemingly endless schedule. The Walking Dead, football and music all are things he said need to be part of his life.

Right now, he’s obsessed with guitar pedals and has a pretty common favorite food.

“I want to try and be cool and say something that’s obscure that nobody knows about,” he said. “But it’s pizza.”

Regardless of how busy he is, his wife said she’s very fortunate to be with him.

“He’s a great dad. He has so much patience with both of our kids. He’s very sweet,” she said.

“I’m the luckiest person to be able to spend my life with him.”

Looking to the future, Weathersbee joked about wanting to live off in the country, grow his own food and build furniture.

He said he would like to live on the Northwest, continue building typefaces, continue teaching and open his own design studio.

“No matter what he does, he’s going to be successful; that’s just the way he is,” said Mindy Weathersbee.

“He’s the greatest.”

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