Dynamic. Innovative. Caring. These three words summarize McMaster for Richard Zazulak. Although best known for designing the iconic Marauders logo, which celebrates its 30th birthday this year, the graphic designer-turned-photographer spent 28 years working at the University and remains a vital part of the McMaster community.
Zazulak attended the Ontario College of Art, graduating in 1968.
“Shortly after that I worked for […] about a year and a bit in a small advertising company in Hamilton,” he said. “After that I moved to a silk-screen shop that produced a lot of placards and signage for stores.”
Around this time, the university was starting a new department in conjunction with the launch of its medical school. Zazulak was one of four artists hired to illustrate the curriculum.
“The principle of the school at that time was a lot of independent study…We would create graphics, which would turn into slides…It was a new, innovative way of teaching.”
Zazulak spoke fondly of his time in this niche illustration group. His superiors “gave you a project and let you run with it.
They weren’t micro-managers. They recognized [different] people’s expertise and they just let it go. And that built my personality; to be curious; to want to be involved with many things.”
He described himself and his fellow artists as “a group of young, fresh artists in a totally new field.” One of his colleagues was Lynn Johnston, who went on to create the successful cartoon “For Better or For Worse.”
When the group began illustrating medical school instructional materials, they were located in Chedoke Hospital and all their work had to be done “by hand, by ink, by paint.” As time went on, however, their department was moved to the McMaster campus.
“We were poking our noses just about everywhere,” Zazulak said. “We had this unique expertise and weren’t going to say no to anything…Even if we knew nothing about it, we would take it on.” This included the early adoption of digital design techniques.
Although he has worked on countless projects for the university, Zazulak’s favourite project remains the Marauders logo, which he designed with guidance from Ross Tripp of the Athletic Department in 1984.
“It still sort of warms me up,” he admitted. “There’s a sense of pride because of its longevity. I made an attempt to update [the logo] and they…were totally satisfied with it.”
Zazulak retired from his job with the University in 1998 when his wife enrolled in the McMaster medical school and the couple had two young children. During this time, he became seriously interested in photography, a hobby he had been experimenting with since the 1970s. He took a particular interest in sports photography, and regularly attended games at McMaster and in the greater Hamilton community.
“I would buy a ticket to a football game or a hockey game, and I’d be a spectator, but I’d have my camera. And I’d take photos and in turn I’d go to the organizers of the game,” he explained. Eventually he was given media passes in exchange for photographs.
Since then, Zazulak has taken photos that have appeared in a variety of publications. He credits the university with giving him a wide range of opportunities.
“They’ve allowed me to develop my photography when I don’t think anyone else would have. They’ve allowed me to participate and they’ve recognized my contribution as I’ve improved.”
When asked about his proudest moment as an honorary Marauder, Zazulak didn’t hesitate.
“It was when I went to Vancouver as the team photographer when [McMaster] won the Vanier Cup. That experience was quite phenomenal…I always said as I got older and couldn’t play the sports that I would live vicariously through the lens of the camera.”
While that may be true, there is no denying that Zazulak’s body of work has a life of its own.