Archive for February, 2010

We went from nothing to something with a budget of zero and a meeting on the second Tuesday of every month over the noon hour. (Feel free to bring your lunch.)

Friday, February 26th, 2010
A STORY OF VOLUNTEER DESIGN [caption id="attachment_819" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Personal pledge cards for our community group Lincoln Green by Design."][/caption] This article is part of The Volunteer Design Chronicles appearing on Design Observer. On a random weekend evening my wife and I decided to sit down and write some lines about environmental stewardship. They turned into personal pledge cards for a community organization I got myself involved with called Lincoln Green by Design. The cards were designed in an eco-friendly way, made out of paper scraps from past print runs. The messages were both sustainable and witty. One of my personal favorites was "I will eat local. Food not people." Right up there with "I will stop (using plastic sacks) in the name of love." Our small effort was just one part of a bunch of other small efforts by a handful of dedicated creative people who jumped in and helped make this loose collection of concerned citizens into something worthy of attention. There has never been a budget. No real hierarchy. Certainly no hard, fast timelines. The only thing we could count on was a monthly meeting led by our group's founder. But what started as a four-page outline of goals/actions has became a visible advocate for a sustainable future in our city. Now, in terms of visual communications, taking on the design of such a group has been an exercise in volunteering where a designer is just another citizen. And the messy workings of a community organization has led to both "pull your hair out" and "stand up and cheer." How the identity design has worked shows it's possible, with extremely limited resources and a good amount of stubborn dedication, to make something happen in your community. Right now. Today. There's a good chance any given area has people who are good at graphic design, illustration, Web design, programming, writing, event planning, connection making, community organizing, public speaking and joke telling and want to get their hands dirty. Put all those together and you've got something that's ready for positive impact. [caption id="attachment_834" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="1.5 inch buttons. Strength in numbers."][/caption] Here's a quick rundown on how this all came together: I sign up for an email list at which time I find out about a gathering of like-minded environmentalists, so I go. I get invited to dinner the next night to talk about a new organization that's starting. I get briefed at the dinner. It's a group that wants to get our local government to think sustainably and in the long-term. The usual things are needed first: logo, brand, Web site, etc. It's an exciting endeavor that I decide to help in any way I can. I go to my first lunch meeting with a group of about 15 people. We all sit around a big table and discuss our goals. I present my concepts. We discuss. Everybody has their say. We decide on a direction. I finalize things and we have a design. As things have unfolded, I've become a firm believer in a community's ability to come together and work toward a common goal for a greater good. This group is committed to making our city green by design. And with our intentions and our efforts, we will help Lincoln get there. Several other designers started getting involved. Brochures and posters were designed. Illustrations were created. Events were planned to showcase LEED architecture. A printer who is working at becoming the greenest printer in Nebraska lent its services. A local design firm offered to build our site. A wildly successful Earth Day celebration was planned and executed. [caption id="attachment_841" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Screenprint Posters. Power Lincoln Forever."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_842" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="LEED in Lincoln Event Postcards."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_843" align="alignnone" width="540" caption=" A community hub."][/caption] And, of course, we Facebook. Even the Mayor's Sustainability Coordinator has taken note of the impact our little band of volunteers has had thus far and recognizes the important role we can play in shaping our future policies. [caption id="attachment_846" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Friend us on Facebook."][/caption] What makes me smile when I think about where this group is at today, is just how haphazard, random and messy the whole process has been. Opinions differ. Signals get crossed. Ideas misunderstood. Commitments broken. Meetings forgotten about. Balls dropped. There are false starts and missteps. People move away or stop coming to meetings. New people enter the mix. We of course talk a good game which sometimes leads to that feeling that we aren't getting anything done. All the while, slowly trudging along. We aren't the most efficient group around. And the design process is constantly in flux. But we have certainly built something. The design apparatus that is Lincoln Green by Design holds the thinking and activism of a volunteer community of dedicated individuals who intend to leave the world better than we found it. [caption id="attachment_847" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Working for a sustainable Lincoln and Lancaster County."][/caption] We are a small part of a global movement working on a local level to create a sustainable future. It's the kind of effort that's important enough to bring in talented people who are ready to role up their sleeves and get to work. And who have a sunny enough disposition to keep at it when things go a little haywire or our budget of zero goes more into the red. It's about community. It's about people coming together to make change where they live. And it's certainly something my wife and I can get behind. Enough so that we write lines about not eating local people on the weekend. All of the work shown here are collaborative efforts between a very dedicated group of community-minded creative people. Many thanks to Katie Kemerling, Ashley Rolf, Kevin Fitzgerald, Brad Kindler, Ken Johnson, Miriah Zajic and A to Z Printing, Clint! Runge and Brandon Miller from Archrival, Christine Hunt, Stuart Long, Tyler Mainquist, Dan King, David Ochsner, Cecil Steward and the Joslyn Institute for Sustainable Communities. -- Justin Kemerling, Designer.

Broken City Lab

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010
[caption id="attachment_1307" align="alignnone" width="520" caption="The Save the City project will bring together emerging artists and city residents to imagine and prompt creative social engagements and civic activation."][/caption] I recently discovered Broken City Lab: "an artist-led interdisciplinary creative research group that tactically disrupts and engages the city, its communities, and its infrastructures to reimagine the potential for action in the collapsing post-industrial city of Windsor, Ontario." I really love the idea of "MAKE THINGS HAPPEN." I'm blown away by all the projects and research on the site. And I guess I'm still processing all the radness. So yeah, please just visit their site. Broken City Lab’s creative activity is located at the intersection of social practice, performance, and activism. The lab attempts to generate a new dialogue surrounding public participation and community engagement in the creative process, with a focus on the city as both a research site and workspace. It is not about doing the work of the city’s officials, or social workers, or politicians; it is about finding new creative ways to address our concerns with the city, while recognizing that our concerns may be similar to those of other community members.

No one should have to move out of their neighborhood to live in a better one.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010
[caption id="attachment_1288" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Majora Carter visits Omaha. Design by Metro Community College."][/caption] The Environmental and Community Design of Majora Carter  “We create an environment where all dreams can thrive.” How's that for a 21st century definition of environmentalism? I was able to see Majora speak at the Green Constitutional Congress (part of Dialog:City) during the DNC in Denver in 2008. It was a roundtable discussion led by Bruce Mau that looked at the future of environmental action and what it means to strive for sustainability. Both inspiring and challenging, her vision is one of finding the hidden potential of an area. Of adding the moral costs of denying future generations a clean and productive planet. And of working together to change the world.  Design Alliance Omaha and Metro Community College are hosting a lecture by Majora Carter at the Joslyn in Omaha on Thursday the 25th of February at 7 PM. If you're in the area, you should definitely attend.


Monday, February 22nd, 2010
[caption id="attachment_1274" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Pecha Kucha Night"][/caption] I love PechaKucha. A community of creative individuals get together. They present the finer aspects of their work in a rapid fire, fast and furious format. Each person gets 20 slides, 20 seconds per slide, and an engaged audience. It's too short to get boring, and it moves too quickly for a presenter to get long-winded. Basically, an artist, designer, painter, photography, architect, or whomever, gets to show off in front of a group of friendly, interested people. It's a lovely little form of cultural entertainment. If there's a PechaKucha happening where you live, please go. If not, start a city. From the official site: PechaKucha Night was devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public. It has turned into a massive celebration, with events happening in hundreds of cities around the world, inspiring creatives worldwide.

Oh go invade a hospital. Ha!

Friday, February 19th, 2010
[caption id="attachment_1253" align="alignnone" width="520" caption="45,000 deaths per year."][/caption] Our attempt at health care reform has just been sad. Pathetic. We certainly don't get any good marks for our "democratic process." For whatever reason, we have nothing to show for the effort. Except knowing that premiums will rise and people will continue to die because they can't get the health care they need because they can't afford it. How's that for a "death panel?" via GOOD poster on ETSY 

Jamie Oliver: Teach every child about food

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010
2010 TED Prize Wish: “I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.” Watch his talk at Sharing powerful stories from his anti-obesity project in Huntington, W. Va., TED Prize winner Jamie Oliver makes the case for an all-out assault on our ignorance of food. Quite a TED performance. Personal. Political. Passionate. If we're going to make lasting changes in our society, we HAVE TO directly challenge "conventional wisdom" and those powerful interests who want to keep things exactly as they are. Some of what comes out of a challenge like that is going to be uncomfortable. It's going to come with ridicule. Probably some ruthless assaults from the "free-marketeers." But to fix our ills, we've got to hit 'em head on.

Hearts Of Darkness

Monday, February 15th, 2010
"Hearts of Darkness" is a 1991 documentary (available on Netflix) about the filming of Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film, "Apocalypse Now." I think I saw this documentary when I was in college. Perhaps when I was living with Kruiser. At the time I remember thinking that it was pretty awesome how insane everyone went while making "Apocalypse Now." I recently re-watched this documentary and my reaction was pretty different this time around. What really stuck out this time was Coppola's crushing self-doubt, something I find easy to relate to, and his resolve and persistence. The message that I took from it was that you have to finish. When working on a creative project (and I don't just mean "creative" in that typical sense, I mean creative in that you are trying to solve a problem) you have to push on and finish. Even if it feels like your work is utter shit and the whole world is going to laugh at you. You have to finish. I think that one of the things that get in the way of this is our inherent uneasiness with the unknown. As soon as we become fearful about what may or may not happen, the doubt creeps in and diverts us from our goals. Sometimes I guess you just have to  take a closer look at that fear and find peace with being unsure. Or maybe you just need to get wasted in a hotel room, punch a mirror and howl at the moon? (The scene above is of Martin Sheen filming a pivotal scene that sets up his character at the outset of the film). Anyway, "Hearts of Darkness" is a great documentary and definitely worth checking out, regardless of how much you like or dislike "Apocalypse Now."

HALFSIES (in progress)

Friday, February 12th, 2010
[caption id="attachment_1093" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="One Half"][/caption] I'm in the process of making my piece for the Manifest Equality gallery in LA coming up this March. I answered these questions for the "meet the artist" blog on their site: Why have you chosen to participate in Manifest Equality? Being part of the push for a better, more equal place to live with such an inspiring group of culture creators is one of those things you just have to do. Manifest Equality? Yes, of course. I'm in. Describe a bit about your submission to the gallery or the creative process you are putting into it. I'd say the artwork is bold and light-hearted. It's called "HALFSIES or Dear Lovers Keep Loving". At the most basic level, two halves make a whole, no matter what. So just keep lovin'. The art and design work I do always simplifies, is rather direct, and looks at the use of the piece. In this case, my wife and I have 2 other pieces I made hanging above our bed that say "always love." She said to me the other day, that I'm her half. I totally love that. When it's about love, that's how it is. All else collides in a mishmash of politics, religion, prejudice, stereotypes, taboos, and whatever else is used to callously deny the expression of love between people. The process I went through ended on wanting to assure all of us that the issue is so simple we'll get it sorted out. Until then, just keep loving each other. Also, I like big type. What else would you like to manifest? Things that America doesn't like to talk about. A couple of examples: A Department of Peace, a humane immigration system, and economic justice. Really, I see the momentum building from Manifest Hope to Manifest Equality as only the beginning. What this can be is a movement of culture creation so powerful it continues to break down walls and helps make the dream of a more fair and just society for ALL increasingly inevitable.

NY Times: Photographer’s Journal – Double Exposures

Thursday, February 11th, 2010
[caption id="attachment_1087" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Photo © New York Times, by Damon Winter"][/caption] NY Times: Photographer's Journal - Double Exposures. A friend of mine sent me this a few weeks ago. It was put together back in September of 2008 and I really like Damon Winter's work and commentary. I always love hearing "behind the scenes" stories and learning about the processes that artists use in their work. Sit back and enjoy.

No Impact

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010
[caption id="attachment_1038" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="The No Impact Man Blog"][/caption] I can't honestly remember the first time I ended up at the No Impact Man blog. I do remember thinking after I read some of the posts, "damn, this crazy guy is really doing it. For him, it is totally on." The lead-by-example method always gets my vote over do-what-I-tell-you. And with this little experiment, by one person, all the simple 10-step save the planet plans and the dire predictions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change become irrelevant. It isn't that I don't think global warming is an extremely serious issue we need to collectively deal with, because I do. (Come on, it doesn't take a NASA scientist to see that humans are wrecking this home of ours. Need proof? Go drink from the tap in Appalachia. Mercury in fish? It comes from coal plants.) But at the heart of sustainability, living more harmoniously with our surroundings is what we were meant to do as people. It's where happiness comes from. And more than anything else, whether light bulbs, local/organic produce, mass transit, or renewable energy, it's the togetherness of interconnectivity that makes living sustainably such a wonderful necessity. The human-speak you find in the efforts by this No Impact Man make it obvious: after we overcome the cravings of consumerism withdrawal, the joy and community that come from making no impact is the thing that will make the better place we're all working towards. [caption id="attachment_1039" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="The Movie | The Book"][/caption]