Wayne Hunt and Hunt Design: As Disney as a non-Disney company can be
For most of his working life, Wayne Hunt has made a name for himself by telling people where to go.
Hunt, the principal founder of Hunt Design, a California-based graphic design company that specializes in creating signage of all shapes and sizes, has a strong connection to the Walt Disney Company even though, as he puts it, "I've never taken a payroll check" from Disney.
"Hunt Design has been a near continuous signage and graphics consultant to Disney since the late 1970s," Wayne said recently. "We've played minor roles in eight or so of the parks, multiple hotels, RD&E, D23 shows, etc."
Established in 1977, Hunt Design specializing in wayfinding design, signage systems, environmental graphics and exhibit design for public spaces, parks, museums, attractions, retail projects, entertainment centers, hospitality and multi-use developments. Wayne also has authored three books on signage and related graphics design.
Hunt Design's services include identity development, signage master planning, site evaluation reports, concept consultation, programming, schematic design, design development, documentation and implementation supervision. Hunt Design has a staff of 14 and has been located in Pasadena, Calif., since 1983.
Most recently, Hunt Design made contributions to the new Shanghai Disneyland Resort.
"We had a couple nice pieces in Shanghai, especially a lot of the Tomorrowland signage," Wayne said. "We think we are about as Disney as a non-Disney company can be."
Wayne Hunt has had a long and fruitful relationship with former Walt Disney Imagineering creative leader Marty Sklar, spanning 40-plus years.
"I go back with Marty to 1974!" Wayne said. "I was a young designer working on the first two hotels at Walt Disney World and Marty was a WED Enterprises writer tasked with naming the stores, restaurants — even the food items.
"Even then he was a tough critic and keeper of the creative flame. I've probably worked with him or eventually had to make presentations to him on dozens of occasions — a few each year."
Marty, who has always had a sharp eye for talent, saw something special in Wayne above and beyond his design skills and asked him to become involved with one of his pet projects — Ryman Arts.
"In 2007 or so, he talked me into joining the board of Ryman Arts [of which Marty was one of the founders] and a few calendar pages in the wind later, I replaced him as president of Ryman in 2014. Big shoes to fill.
"He remains a beloved and iconic figure in my life."
The feeling is mutual.
"Wayne became one of — if not THE best — graphic designers and firms in Southern California. He has done a ton of work for Disney over the years — especially in the hotels.
"We were fortunate to get him on our Ryman Arts board about 10 years ago and started 'grooming' him to succeed me as president," Marty said.
"He also teaches graphics at the Art Center in Pasadena. He's a great guy to work with and Wayne and Carla are a wonderful couple to know!"
Imagine that. Making a name for yourself telling people where to go.
"Helping people access, enjoy and understand complex places is both an art and a science," Wayne says. "We're really in the place-making business."
Ryman Arts was founded in 1990, a year after legendary artist Herb Ryman passed away. Ryman was arguably Walt Disney's favorite artist, according to Marty Sklar, and the free, fine arts education program he helped inspire, based in Los Angeles, gives young students an opportunity to learn from some of the finest artists in the country.
According to Marty, "Herb introduced the public to many new Disney projects: The Matterhorn and New Orleans Square, Cinderella's Castle at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, the entrance and major pavilions in Epcot, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. His body of work is unequaled in the Disney Park vernacular."
Marty and his wife Leah were among the six founding members of Ryman Arts, a non-profit organization. Joining them were Lucille Ryman Carroll [Herb's sister, who wanted her brother's legacy to be known far and wide]; Sharon Disney Lund [Walt Disney's youngest daughter, "who was always there, quietly, without fanfare, buying supplies, paying a bill without telling anyone," according to Marty] and Buzz and Anne Price ["the glue" for Ryman Arts, according to Marty]. The Prices' son, David, is currently on Ryman Arts' Board of Directors, carrying on the family tradition.
And, of course, there's current Ryman Arts president Wayne Hunt, who, as is his wont, has helped keep the program pointed in the right direction.
"Wayne has done a great job," Marty says enthusiastically. "He's a terrific spokesman for the program, and the arts in general."