Warner leaves lasting legacy as LPS graphics manager

When Chris Warner was in third grade, he received the nickname “Doc” because of his admiration for basketball superstar Julius “Dr. J” Erving.

He has netted the same amount of regard at Lincoln Public Schools for his PhD level of hard work, creativity and friendliness.

Warner retired from LPS on Jan. 26 after spending nearly 30 years as graphics manager. He has produced thousands of documents, hundreds of posters and scores of logos for the district during his career. The Fremont native has won national awards for his layout and design abilities, and he has built positive relationships at school buildings across the city.

“I’m one of those very, very lucky people who enjoy what they do and have a talent in it,” Warner said. “I would just say to anyone who’s looking for a career, pick something you like, because you’re going to have to do it for a long, long time.”

Warner began honing his creative skills after graduating from Fremont High School. He majored in advertising and triple minored in marketing, economics and art history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He spent two years as a sales representative before spotting a job advertisement for the LPS graphics manager position.

A large portion of Warner’s workload has involved creating and printing documents for schools to use. These have included handbooks, directories, calendars and class schedules. He has also produced educational posters, sports programs, yard signs, banners and brochures for LPS students and staff.

Technology has created a tidal wave of changes in Warner’s job. One of the most striking examples has been with sports programs.

During Warner’s first few years, a photographer would travel to a school and take a team photo with a camera. They would develop the negatives, put the selected picture into a photo mechanical transfer (PMT) machine and run off the new image. The printed photo would then go through a waxing machine before Warner would paste it in an empty space alongside text on the program. If any changes were needed, they would redo the steps until the final product was ready.

Today, that entire process can be done in a fraction of the time.

“Once we got a scanner and digital photos, man, that was a lot easier,” Warner said.

Warner has been the driving force behind 80 percent of the current logos at LPS. The concepts that started on computer screens are now emblazoned on signs, uniforms, apparel, hallway walls, stationery and websites.

The green-scaled diamondback at Dawes Middle School? Warner designed it. The soaring blue eagle with outstretched talons at Everett Elementary School? He created that one too. The leaping cougar at Culler Middle School, the flying falcon with aviation goggles at Northwest High School and squares-in-circle logo of The Career Academy? All of those were his ideas.

“It's pretty satisfying to see my work around the city. It's even more satisfying when the customer loves my design,” Warner said.

Warner earned two merit awards from the National School Public Relations Association in 2018 for producing a print newsletter and the LPS annual report. He received a plaque of excellence in 2019 for his “LPS Think Green” infographic, and he added merit awards for a flyer and handbook the same year.

Warner collected the highest level of national recognition in 2023. He earned plaques of excellence for his branding work on logos for Standing Bear and Northwest High Schools. The graphic designer said he was humbled by the recognition he had received. Many current and former co-workers have congratulated him for his dedication to the district.

Angela Naylor oversees mail delivery at the district building and has shared smiles with Warner nearly every day. She said he brightens the mood in the office with his upbeat personality.

“He’s just a fun-loving person,” Naylor said. “He’s been great to get to know. He makes me laugh and I know he does the same thing with other people. I’ve really enjoyed working with him.”

LPS Executive Director of Communications Mindy Burbach said Warner is like the “cool uncle” in the communications department. She praised his contributions during a gathering to celebrate his retirement.

“As the cool uncle, he is usually the one to help us find mischief, but he is also the first one to jump in and lend a hand when one of us finds ourselves in trouble or needs extra support,” Burbach said. “He is never short on jokes and you can count on him to lighten everyone’s mood. He wouldn’t want us to tell you this, but he is a big ole’ softy with a heart of gold.”

Warner said he wants to do the best job possible because he has seen how much LPS employees care about students and community members.

“The people here have just been fantastic,” Warner said. “They love what they do and they believe in the cause, so it’s just fun to work with them.”

Naylor said Warner’s devotion to his job has not gone unnoticed. She said all of the logos, friendships and conversations he has created would leave a lasting legacy at LPS.

“I’ve only worked with him three years, so that tells you the type of relationships he builds,” Naylor said. “He’s built a relationship where we enjoy talking with each other and have become friends. It’s really amazing to see the type of person he is. I’ll miss him.”

The school district’s lead graphic artist said retirement hasn’t really hit him yet. What he does know is that he hoped he made an impact at LPS. 

“I would hope that my legacy is that I elevated the graphics department to another level,” Warner said. “Broadening the scope of what we could do for the district and increased the quality of work. But most of all, being able to provide a product that was above and beyond what was expected.”

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Published: January 26, 2024, Updated: January 26, 2024

Chris Warner joined the LPS graphics department in 1994. After nearly 30 years, the school district's lead graphic artist is retiring after originally designing more than half of the LPS logos.