Mr. AZ / 2 of 5

Upon receiving valedictorian honors from Colton High, John Richard Mraz—the second oldest of Norm and Virginia’s five children—enrolled in Washington State University.

He did…OK. Probably spent less time attending classes than he did working on his 1956 Chevy Bel Air. (Had to make sure he could cruise up the old Lewiston grade in record time.)

John eventually graduated in 1970 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. My dictionary defines “fine” as “exquisite, outstanding, superlative.” Whatever. I’ve seen some of his student work, and it wasn’t that good.

John spent some time in Portland before settling in Spokane, where he started a firm called whynotgraphics. It must’ve been hip at the time to ignore word spacing—not that it mattered, since he kept changing his company’s name anyway. Clearly, he couldn’t make up his mind.

One thing he had a penchant for, though, was working in nice studios, one of which was located on Spokane’s lower South Hill in the Historic Corbin Mansion (photo above, circa 1987). One of his earliest business phone numbers was 624.4029. He retained it throughout his career, and, more than forty years later, it remains helveticka’s number.

From the very beginning of his career, John was quickly becoming known as one of the area’s premier graphic designers. Not bad for a lefty.



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