You may not know Todd Hearn, but you've likely seen his handiwork.
Hearn is a graphic design manager for Facilities and Services and has left his fingerprints on some of the most recognizable projects on campus.
He's the one who gets the call when someone has a message to get across.
"This job has given me lots of opportunity, and I've had a lot of people believe in my graphic design ability," he said. "I think I've kind of become a go-to come-to guy because I steer people in the right direction. It's made me very versatile."
Hearn has found himself all over campus using all manner of materials on projects so far-flung he never dreamed he'd be working on some of them.
He was a point man on the conservation work for the Alma Mater sculpture and recently completed a hard-to-miss donor wall located in the new Electrical and Computer Engineering building.
He has helped renovate the U. of I. baseball team's clubhouse to make it more inviting to recruits, and put some of the finishing flourishes on Lincoln Hall.
One day he could be working on a map for a digital kiosk, the next it might be custom designed window clings, a vinyl wall covering or a glass etching.
And with a few strokes on the keyboard, he can magically manipulate or move any building on campus to another location.
"My background has always been graphic design, but this position isn't your typical graphic design job," he said. "I've kind of had to make my position what it is, which has been part of the adventure."
Prior to working on a project, Hearn meets with the requisite college deans and formulates a plan that includes the involvement of a large cast of characters, from vendors to employees. He often is called in to advise during the planning stages of new construction projects.
"Quality control is a big part of this university - we want to be first in everything," he said. "I try to come up with options that meet that aspiration but that don't break the bank. I mostly act as a production coordinator, and they pretty much let me do my own thing."
The ever-changing job means Hearn must keep current on software and construction processes. When he doesn't understand something new, he searches for an answer or finds someone who can point him in the right direction.
"I have a lot of involvement with different materials," he said. "You can't do certain fabrication to some buildings because it affects the architectural integrity of the building."
Hearn also has an active role on the campus beautification committee and the architectural review committee.
His beautification projects include designing the banners hanging from the street poles around campus, which is more complicated than it sounds.
The project involved identifying the poles and securing permissions from city and utility officials, as well as permission from the departments for design work. The banners are hung near their geographic college locations and are changed every three years - a process Hearn also coordinates.
The Alma Mater restoration was an unforgettable project, he said, noting he was one of the first to look underneath the sculpture.
"It looked like Merrimac Caverns," he said. "All you could see was this maze of rusty bolts and ridges of steel. To watch the process of them cleaning it up by laser is one of the coolest things I've ever seen."
The donor wall inside the new Electrical and Computer Engineering building is one of Hearn's latest achievements. He said the four-month project went relatively quickly, once the concept was established.
The wall is a series of 168 Plexiglas panels that feature donor names and inspirational words connected to a blown-up backdrop of an impossibly large copper circuit board. The style is carried over to the doorways of donor-sponsored rooms or labs.
"If you took one donor off, you're taking a component off the circuit board," he said of the concept. "It shows that everyone's contribution is valuable."
He also enjoys working with some of the graduate students who intern in his department and has seen some of them go on to successful careers.
"I like to think I've been a part of that," he said. "I've gotten to be a part of some pretty cool moments in the history of the university. They are things I'll cherish for the rest of my life."
Before coming to the U. of I. 15 years ago, Hearn held several graphic design positions, most of them in a deadline-
production environment. He started working at an offset printing shop in the mid-'80s before stints at several local corporations, including a manufacturing company, a health care provider, a supermarket chain, a hobby business and a newspaper.
"Those jobs made me comfortable on multiple systems and helped me build up my mechanical speed," he said. "If I didn't know, I'd try to learn it. I've gone through some tribulations, but it's made me stronger."
Although he said he loves his job, he'd almost always rather be at home with his family. He's been married to Brenda for 27 years. They live in Mahomet and have a 23-year-old daughter; two sons, ages 20 and 17; and a 5-year-old granddaughter he likes to spoil.
"I don't check my phone much during the weekend," he said. "I like to relax and do things around the house."
Hearn is an avid sports fan, at one time serving on the board for the local youth hockey league. He's spent most of his life in the area, growing up in Bondville and Mahomet, Illinois.
He wanted to become an air traffic controller in the Air Force when he was younger, but that didn't work out after being diagnosed with diabetes in high school.
"It changed my whole life," he said. "But you learn that sometimes things go wrong. You just have to pick yourself up and let life go on."