As a child, Stan Stanski was a fan of KISS, a band known for their signature combination of theatricality and heavy rock ’n’ roll. He was particularly impressed by the band’s elaborate costuming and effects.
“It was like comic books just came to life, right? Larger-than-life superheroes breathing fire and shooting lasers out of their eyes and out of their guitars, and all kinds of craziness. And it was like, wow, that’s amazing,” said Stanski, a 1990 graphic design alumnus.
Stanski, 51, said he couldn’t have known he would end up producing something as similarly popular as professional wrestling. Currently a creative director for World Wrestling Entertainment, Stanski spoke to about 30 students, faculty and alumni at Tyler School of Art and Architecture on Oct. 11 about his experiences and his work as part of Homecoming and Family Weekend.
Stanski said his time at Tyler was productive in various ways, like classroom peer critiques helping to give him a “thick skin.”
“Critiques about your art can be really painful,” Stanski said, before the event. “So, I learned to really deal with that and learned that, look, design and art is all subjective. It’s not like math where there’s a solution and you’ve got it right or you’ve got it wrong. It’s a matter of ‘Are you happy with this?’ and ‘Do you stand behind it?’”
Stanski also talked about comparing himself to other students at Tyler, and how he dealt with that.
“It was a little intimidating because you’d see a dude that looks like he’s got a flock of seagulls in his hair, and he’s turning out this crazy painting,” Stanski said. “I’m just this guy from northeastern Pennsylvania, and I don’t even know if I’m good enough to be here.”
But over time, Stanski learned to believe in himself, he said.
“You start to realize it’s not just looking the part, it’s really being the part” Stanski said.
After graduating from Temple, Stanski moved to New York City, where he worked in the music industry. Through his design agency Smay Vision, which he co-founded with a friend in 1994, Stanski worked on product design and branding for artists like The Velvet Underground, AC/DC, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.
However, by the mid-2000s, the music industry was “dying a slow, painful death,” Stanski said, and he began looking for a new direction. His search led him to an interview for the WWE, and by June 2007, he had signed on as one of the company’s twelve creative directors.
Eventually, Stanski became the head of the creative services department and now manages everything from the design of the wrestler’s physical costumes to ringside photography at events, to the creation of the user interfaces for the WWE’s websites.
Although his responsibilities are broad, Stanski said the most important is embracing the company-wide mission of the WWE which is “putting smiles on people’s faces.”
“That’s really why I think I have the best job in the world,” Stanski added, to his audience.
Sydney Morrow, a 2019 graphic design alumna who attended the event, said she enjoyed how Stanski demonstrated the variety of work available to arts graduates like herself through his personal story.
“Even if you’re thinking of going in a particular direction, there’s just so much out there and I think he really showed that,” Morrow said.
David Loving, a senior advertising major, and Julie Fosco, a sophomore advertising major, who attended the event, also praised the speech.
“It’s cool that he graduated from Tyler with a design degree and he gets to construct this whole image for the WWE,” Fosco said.
“To have him come here and sit in the same room and talk to 50 people… it was just cool to see a big name like that in our school,” Loving added.