Archive for the ‘Long-Form’ Category

A Collaborative Poetry/Design Project Manifesting Itself in Book Form

Monday, June 20th, 2011
Just East of West is a book of poetry and haiku by Bil Johnson, both a marvelous poet and a close friend of the Match Factory. From a collection of random scribblings, notebooks here and there, some napkins and stapled together associations, we pulled together a strong body of words from this Midwestern poet in the most honest way we could think of; a self-published book with additional hand-done, screenprinted flare. At its conclusion, it appeared to us to be about the Earth and its future. As much a concerning stare at manmade "progress" as hopeful nod to the beauty of what's already out there, and what is next for all of us; love, discovery, rebirth, etc. When all was said and done, what fit in our hands was a catalog of life. We grew up on these great midwestern plains, now they lay open proudly awaiting the next troupe of angelic youth, troubadours in their own right, setting out for burning sky and bright new tomorrows. in three parts If there's a revelation to be made from reading the work, it's that there is good and bad, decay and beauty in all of it. We suffer and celebrate in the gray. The idea of black and white, even right and wrong, is given far too much credence these days. The fact is both are constantly surrounding us, the gray area is where everything worthwhile lives, and you must hold the ups and the downs in your line of site as you move, steady as she goes, along your meandering path toward whatever greater truth you seek.
  • This book project was conceived in the winter of 2008 on a painfully cold day on the great plains over coffee and cabinet picks. It was meant to take some of the most honest poetry I had ever read and put it together in a form that was equally as honest. Honestly concerned about our future on Earth while celebrating the love and life that people around us are a part of every day. Wherever we are on this planet, here we are indeed. Under the energy of the sun, looking up at that black canvas sky, we the little peapods are just living, trying to do the best we can. What this is, what we are, is just a song, just a touch, just a kiss of our humanity in the immense vastness. With that, we wish you happy travels.
[caption id="attachment_4681" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="screenprint postcards"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_4682" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="book package"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_4686" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="poems"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_4687" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="jack the anarchist"][/caption] just east of west design notes: july 2009 what i see as the simplicity and the clarity of this poetry book reinforces the aspects of living within a system that isn't all that complicated. from cover to pages to back cover, the turbulent spinning of life is there in image and tone. the constrained aspects of life in a bowl, on a tiny blue dot turning black before our eyes, offer hope for continued living. tales of the earth, love, life, planet, religion, friendship, nature, animals, all intertwine themselves, mingle, mix, dance, as the words suggest. we're offered directions on "how to live" but upon contradiction, are left with baffled stares. the future, our sons and daughters, our culture and ideas, carry us into great unknowns, what pioneers saw as the frontier. in this case the son, and all his promise. the tiny tree in what used to be a forest, HERE. it is waiting for the son. interwoven with the part of life that interconnects, the sweet sound of poetry, the haiku, set to rhythmic syllables. what are we afraid of? not sure. nothing i guess, with such a gift of language to light our way, tell our story, advise our kids, direct ourselves, for life on this planet. is it all turning black? the sky soon to be left crisp once the fossils are emitted up into the sky blocking the heavens, blotting out the sun? the stars, trees, mountains, and waves, is all that is left, the markings of a child? sent to the future by the tomorrow? so many questions. so many thoughts. are we directionless? is there light guiding us? are we the shark in the fish bowl? too big, a relic of a bygone era, with no place else to go, hovering in the dark? or there may be a single tree, just east of west. [caption id="attachment_4696" align="alignnone" width="540" caption=""i want to walk into the woods and inhale""][/caption] [caption id="attachment_4702" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Just East of West"][/caption] -- Justin Kemerling, Designer.

DIY Spaces of the Tugboat 37

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011
[caption id="attachment_4448" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Basement Studio | 20th & C, Lincoln, NE"][/caption] When the Tugboat Gallery reopened in April of 2008, I enthusiastically said yes to the invitation of doing the monthly exhibition posters. One 12x18 screenprinted poster a month, editions of 60ish, for three years. Designed and hand-pulled in three different DIY studio locations over the years and put up on the streets of downtown Lincoln by the Tugboat crew. Tugboat Gallery is an alternative gallery located in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska. It's run by Peggy Gomez and Tugboat's new co-captain Nolan Tredway. Joey Lynch and Jake Gillespie, along with Peggy, made up the initial force behind its creation. Located above Gomez Art Supply in the Parrish Studios, it's part of a flourishing downtown art scene and a place to see some of the finest artwork in the Midwest. And the spaces where the posters were printed were equally as fine. [caption id="attachment_4492" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Print Here"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_4449" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Bemis Underground | Downtown, Omaha, NE"][/caption] The first studio, where screenprinting for me all began, was in the basement of a big old house on 20th and C in Lincoln's historic district. Amidst boxes and other junk stored by the various tenants—including one Jason Hardy—coating, exposing, blasting, pulling and hanging all went down in the evening hours after the graphic designer day job. I was way into posters at the time and Tugboat was the perfect project. The designing typically happened fast with the printing process taking up to 8-12 hours depending on number of colors and print complexity. There wasn't too much time to over think the design, and what happened was, for the most part, a satisfying result that kept my own design process moving forward and on its toes. While speaking to the art, the final design really just had to look badass. Once it did, it was time to print. I'd get the names of the artists (typically a group show), the name of the exhibition (occasionally Peggy or I would have to come up with one) and some images of the work being displayed, then I'd get to it. Design the poster, get approval from Peggy, and on to the screenprinting—transparencies, coating, exposing, blasting, printing, reclaiming. Repeat. It felt raw. Down and dirty. It smelled of ink and emulsion. It felt like wood and paper. And it looked delightful as the colors would layer over top of each other. Indeed, blue over yellow makes green. And magenta over turquoise looks fucking awesome. [caption id="attachment_4450" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Old Hardware Store | Vinton Street, Omaha, NE"][/caption] When my wife Katie and I moved to Omaha, Joey Lynch let me in on both of his spaces over the course of the next 2+ years. The first was in the Bemis Underground, the second in an old former hardware store in south Omaha. Generously shared spaces complete with power washer and drying rack. And lots more room to let the ink fly and the tape deck spin. The solid array of Jason's unrivaled mixtapes that accumulated over the years is quite impressive. What can I say, no one makes a mixtape like Jason Hardy. No one. All three spaces were as DIY as it gets—from the light tables, to the blast area, to the printing press. They were inspiring zones of "getting down to the making" and uncomplicated hideouts from the business side of graphic design. The first, since Jason and I both lived in apartments in the old house, was a place for collaboration, late night concepting and frequent beer drinking. The Omaha spots were home to the artwork and endeavors Joey was involved in. Inspiring to say the least, with huge artwork screens, print projects for Saddle Creek Records and the creation of the Daily Grub all happening around the printing of poster after poster. Looking back at the three-year collection of poster after poster, Three Way might be my favorite. Four colors, three arrows, two screens and one cow. Enough said. [caption id="attachment_4453" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Three Way | September 2008"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_4535" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Stacks of Tugboats"][/caption] I've now moved on from being the "Tugboat Poster Designer." With evolving interests and new work opportunities, I'm focusing the screenprinting aspect of my design practice on personal projects and collaborative efforts. But, of course, the Tugboat 37 will always have a special place in my heart. As will the spaces where the shit went down. VIEW ALL 37 POSTERS -- Justin Kemerling, Designer.

Reset with Rediscovery

Monday, March 7th, 2011
[caption id="attachment_4361" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Talk to me about (Graphic) Design, Collaboration, Activism + Projects"][/caption] I'm just going to say it. This whole Work/Life balance thing, well I am struggling with it, straight up. I've focused a good bit of 2011 thus far thinking about the idea of Work. My work, the type of projects I do and how I want them to fit in to a larger community. And really take the time to consider what the answer to this question is: "and what do you do?" Well, how about: I frantically run around in circles for 16-18 hours a day until I get really dizzy and then fall into a deep trance-like state for 6-8 hours until I suddenly am jolted back into attention and then do the circle thing all over again. Or maybe just this for my title and tagline: Constant Worker Man, Doing or Thinking about Work, 24/7. That may sound somewhat interesting, but it can be really exhausting. Needless to say when I left my home office in Omaha to go on a weeklong travel excursion to California, I wasn't necessarily excited to be getting away, just more tired with the thought of traveling and working from the road. But, despite having so much mindblowing information smashed into my brain, I come back to the Work/Life challenges of a graphic designer with a very satisfying feeling of having been thoroughly reset. Thank you, TED. I was invited to TEDActive 2011 in the middle of last year and it's been this strange thing just hanging out in my mindspace since. Now that it's finally happened, there are two things I know for certain: 1) there is no conference like it 2) if everybody was able to go at some point in their lives, let's just say things would be different. The theme this year for TED was the Rediscovery of Wonder. From art to science to politics to culture to invention to leadership and on and on, that's exactly what it was. From the food truck party to the pool side party to the desert adventure, it was good times had by all, with conversation, discussion and some serious pondering. And I feel very lucky to have been in the company of wonderfully friendly and interesting people. The conference website has all the highlights from each day from all 12 sessions. I've already posted some of the very best, including JR's TED Wish for everyone in communities all across the world to participate in a global art project. And the extremely timely and very powerful talks on the democracy movements in the Middle East by Wadah Khanfar, the head of Al Jazeera, and Google executive Wael Ghonim. Yes, I enjoyed the talk by David Brooks, even though I think he's wrong a lot. Stanley McChrystal was insightful even though I think he has some serious questions to answer for about our conduct in the "War on Terror." And Indra Nooyi's talk about the Pepsi Refresh Project was inspiring to see such a corporate force doing so much good in the world, despite the fact Pepsi is in the business of unhealthy sugar water, which is questionable at best. But the point is to listen. And to think and readjust, as well as to rediscover. The architecture of Heatherwick Studio. The virtual choir of Eric Whitacre. The spoken word poetry of Sarah Kay. The curatorial shenanigans of Shea Hembrey. The pounding drums of the LA Samba School. The photography of Paul Nicklen. The film vision of Morgan Spurlock. The amazing education available from the Khan Academy. The way Anthony Atala gets a printer to create a kidney. And how Harvey Fineberg thinks we might choose how we evolve. The utter importance of being wrong with Kathryn Schulz. The World Peace Game with John Hunter. Visually amazing data visualizations from Deb Roy. Beautiful human music from Bobby McFerrin. Magic berry pills with Homaro Cantu. Jack Horner and the Jurassic qualities of chickens. And a life-size puppet horse (with human rider) from Handspring. It was so inspiring to get the progress on Jamie Oliver's 2010 TED Wish. (Yes, TED is not all talk. TED gets shit done, no doubt about it.) And having worked with Eli Pariser on the slides he used in his talk about information filtering on the web, I can definitely say the build-up, and the nerves, and the pressure leading up to a talk is quite monumental, and it wasn't even my talk and I wasn't even in Long Beach. The TEDYou feature of the TEDActive event, where attendees get to pitch their own mini-TED Talks, had some very good presentations. One by Sebastian Wernicke captured the entire idea of TED quite well, in six words; "What me worry, I'd rather wonder." When it's all said and done, TED is not only about wondering, it's about listening. It's about a worldview that is hopeful. Every single session is such a powerful force. An hour and 45 minutes of immense intensity, ups and downs, compelling information and astounding creativity, it's an emotional roller coaster that can leave your brain just a bit mushy. Laugh, cry, dream and have an optimistic view of the future, even if there's areas where it's a little cloudy. Coming back to the Work/Life challenge now, I feel much better equipped. Refreshed and hopeful. It's safe to say I feel I've rediscovered the wonder and am reset, ready to go. And what better way to close a conference about our hopeful future on this planet we call Earth, than with a little Tom Morello. With a fiery rendition of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," live in the desert, we all sang along, loudly: This land was made for you me. [caption id="attachment_4365" align="alignnone" width="540" caption=""This land is your land, this land is my land...""][/caption] Now it's day one back at Work. It's only a little brisk out. I think I'll take a walk. And I'm going to go slow. -- Justin Kemerling, Designer.

Green Patriot Posters

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
[caption id="attachment_4074" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Green Patriot Posters the book edited by Dmitri Siegel & Edward Morris "][/caption] IMAGES FOR A NEW ACTIVISM Green Patriot Posters the book was released at the end of 2010, a year tied for the warmest on record with 1998 and 2005. The book brings together the strongest contemporary graphic design currently promoting sustainability and the fight against climate change at a time when one of America's political parties is looking to rewrite the Clean Air Act so that it can't be used to fight that very same climate change. The book showcases 50 posters selected from the project Website in detachable, ready to hang format. It's edited by Edward Morris and Dmitri Siegel and includes text by Michael Bierut, Thomas L. Friedman, Steven Heller, Edward Morris, Dmitri Siegel and Morgan Clendaniel. In addition to the site and the book, Cleveland saw bus adverts by Michael Beirut, Dorchester was home to a public art campaign and San Francisco had bus shelter placement thanks to some successful crowdfunding. [caption id="attachment_4075" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Green Patriot Posters {dot} ORG"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_4076" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Bierut Bus in Cleveland"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_4077" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Bike Your City Bus Shelter by Jason Hardy in San Francisco"][/caption] Green Patriot Posters Reinvigorate Environmental Message at Wired and the Destroy This Book excerpt can be found at Design Observer. Most People just don't get climate change. Few grasp the need and more important, the opportunity to transform our society. So the people who do get it need to be louder, more insistent and more effective at getting the message across. Certainly a very true statement. For our part, Jason and myself were both included in the book alongside some of the finest poster designers working today: Shepard Fairey, Joe Scorsone and Alice Drueding, Felix Sockwell and Jame Victore. Power to the Poster in general was well represented. [caption id="attachment_4082" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Inside spread"][/caption] Jason Hardy | Let's Ride
  • A bicycle is a beautifully simple machine. Two wheels, a frame, and a crank — that's all you need. So I wanted to make a simple poster celebrating one of those key components — the wheel. The call to action is simple: Let's Ride. I chose a light green for the background to touch on the environmental benefits of cycling and also because, as we all know, green means go. Cutting carbon can be fun, too — get a crew and let's ride!
[caption id="attachment_4083" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Let's Ride by Jason Hardy"][/caption] Justin Kemerling | (Re)Make America
  • I think about the idea of America a lot. The history of things. How we got here and where we want to go. It's been a long process in working towards becoming the land of opportunity with freedom and justice for all, and the whole bit. And we have such a long way to go. It’s brick by brick. It’s DIY. So pick up your talents and get to it. Until your hands hurt. This image of the “America in bricks” found it’s way into my design work, really speaking to the idea that many parts make a whole. Optimistic. Hopeful. Good reason to get your hands calloused.
[caption id="attachment_4084" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="(Re)Make America by Justin Kemerling"][/caption] The book itself is a perfect combination of beautiful design and sustainable production. From the back cover:
  • Every effort was made to produce this book in the most sustainable way possible. The trim size and page count were chosen to minimize waste; the book was printed using 100% wind power on paper made from 100% post-consumer waste fiber; and it was printed in the U.S.A. to reduce fuel consumption in shipping. Yes, this cost more. But suck it up. It's worth it.
Published by Metropolis Books. 9.5 x 12.5 in. / 128 pgs / 50 tear-out posters and available for purchase at Artbook for $30. [caption id="attachment_4091" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="WWII era posters: project inspiration."][/caption] This project, and many others like it, are so very important. Especially at a very contentious time, when taking on Climate Change just isn't an issue many Americans are interested in addressing. It's all Economy all of the time. And half of our elected officials don't even think Climate Change is a) caused by our human use of fossil fuels, or worse yet b) happening at all. This project is directly inspired from World War II era posters that called for collective action, for the nation to come together to fight a common enemy. But if it was today's America that had to fight that war, I'm not so sure we'd do very well, especially with the coming together part. [caption id="attachment_4094" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="WWII era posters: more inspiration. "][/caption] These messages coming from our leadership today; to be wise, careful, to use leftovers and to grow your own food would not stand. The cries of communism and socialism and conspiratorial leftist plots would abound. They pretty much do whenever any government initiative is undertaken. Remember the backlash to Michelle Obama's wonderful organic garden; it just needs to get off our back and leave us to our God-given right to be fat, lazy and drive up health care costs faster than you can say high-fructose corn syrup. But as communication design efforts on many fronts take on what really matters; raising money for doctors in Haiti, advocating an end to the death penalty, calling out the imperative of reversing the push into poverty by so many in this great recession, things do change. Money gets raised, public opinion becomes more compassionate, communities come together. These projects shine a light in a compelling way on the issues we need to be thinking about very seriously. It's design as a way to shout how things need to be and what we want our future to look like. And, of course, they inspire the creation of a sustainable movement for a green tomorrow which is a very American, very patriotic thing to do. You can call sustainability a movement. There are signs that things are getting better. We might even be approaching sustainability as "the way things must be because that's the way it is," with complete infiltration into every aspect of everything -- energy, food, buildings, transportation, and on and on. It's as if a grand realization is upon us. Deep down we know we can't carry on like this. With such levels of pollution, inequality and injustice, we'll all collectively have the "aha" moment, get a grip and use our vast quantities of creativity to remake America and our world community into a bright place for everyone to call home. With hot years and heated debates about the action we need to take, we need more projects like Green Patriot Posters -- more vision from creative individuals to inspire us along the way to that sustainable future. Otherwise, it could be the rising tides that sink all ships. For now, you can buy this book, destroy this book and pick a side because the tone of the debate and the levels of action needed are only going to get more intense. And we do indeed need to get louder, more insistent and more effective at getting the message across. -- Justin Kemerling, Designer. PRESS: The Guardian UK, January 25, 2011 Wired, November 15, 2010: PBS News Hour, Art Beat, January 6, 2011: Metropolis Mag, October 20, 2010: Design Observer, November 22, 2010: GOOD, December 15, 2010 Le Monde, October 30, 2010


Monday, February 7th, 2011
In late January of 2011 I had the pleasure of giving a talk for the Art Directors Association of Iowa in Des Moines. Katie and I made the trip from Omaha. We totally had a great time and it was very nice to meet all the creative folks from the area. (Thanks for listening, and thanks for buying some prints.) And damn, we went through the super impressive wind farms of western Iowa. It was like seeing the future, one where you could still breathe the air. The gist of the talk was on Work. I've been an independent designer since July of last year. It's work that I really enjoy doing and I wanted share the framework I've put together to help guide it as I move forward. As of now, the structure of my practice consists of four parts: 1. Project/Client Work (Traditional Graphic Design) 2. Volunteer Design (Design as Community-Building) 3. Collaborations (Design as Extracurriculars) and 4. Self-Initiated Projects (Design as Art/Entrepreneurship). Taking all of these together, I’m good with designer for the answer to the question, “what kind of Work do you do?” It's more than acceptable for someone who, when I was a youngster, fit into the category of people unable to answer the all important question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And as I have a VERY hard time deciding on what to do at any given moment, designer is definitely doable. It allows for me to "mix it up," which is a huge benefit. I made this diagram when I turned 30. This helps explain things: [caption id="attachment_4172" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Why a Designer?"][/caption] Lately, I’ve been thinking about work a lot. Not only my work and what I do, but the nature of work. What kind of jobs exist in our economy? What would I do if I wasn’t a designer? What is meaningful work? What would I do if the work all dried up, what then in all of this uncertainty, in the worst economy of the last 50 years? Economy, economy, economy was the driving force in the November mid-terms. The official unemployment rate is just under 10%. Uncertainty abounds. Students I talk to are terrified of their job prospects. Twenty-seven million people are un- or underemployed in America today. And I have the great privilege to do something I enjoy every day. Because of course, it’s not all uncertainty. There’s also opportunity and discovery. Big rewards for big risks. Change, excitement, renewal. It’s an extraordinary time we live in, and you don’t have to look far to see all the amazing things happening. So for me, with this great privilege I’ve found myself in after I’ve “grown up,” to be doing work I like, partnering with exciting people every day on a wide array of creative projects, some kind of guide is crucial -- a framework that will help keep my work on an intended path. A manifesto, if you will. So for 2011, here is my very much work-in-progress (with various shout-outs), 11-point mini-manifesto on what I want living and working as a designer to mean in these days of uncertainty and opportunity. I WANT TO DO WORK THAT... 1. is part of things, 2. experiments, 3. delights, 4. is optimistic, 5. gives a damn, 6. is community-minded, 7. moves people to action, 8. points us in a direction, 9. picks a side / annoys certain people, 10. makes things better, 11. has heart, Work that feels like a natural extension of who I am, that is pushing boundaries and trying new things, putting smiles on people’s faces in unexpected ways and speaking to the better angels of our nature. Work that cares, is informed and speaks to the larger world around us. (I guess I’ve been to too many “graphic design” get togethers that seem so unaware of life outside “the profession.”) Work focused on my community where I live and call home. (Part of the push for a new economy built around local.) Work that is action-oriented, outside of consumer logic and more social or political. Work that is part of the debate in terms of how we move forward and is not neutral but is certainly part of a particular view point. Work that advocates for the side of opportunity and renewal that is out there and sometimes only needs a little push. And finally, I want to do work that has heart. (Unable to define. Will mean different things to different people.) I've been a designer for 8+ years. The Work I look back on that I really love, both paid and unpaid, fits nicely into this framework and covers each point quite well. (The specifics are detailed in the Talk.) Now, it's a matter of doing that, and only that, over and over again. Finding more of this type of Work, and turning down the other stuff that just doesn't fit. The great balancing act of holding true to the meaning while keeping the compromise to a minimum. I'm 8 months in, and with a few hiccups and detours, things are moving along at a good pace. The only thing left to do is keep on keepin' on. -- Justin Kemerling, Designer.


Monday, December 13th, 2010
[caption id="attachment_3600" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="19x25" Screenprint on 140lb CVR French Paper; Smart White"][/caption] Hello and Welcome! It's the final weeks of 2010. Holiday time is upon us. Good tidings. Great cheer. Et cetera and so on. And I for one am looking forward to a little down time. A nice bit of "slow down" if you will. Perhaps some reflection, a little visioning for the coming year and for certain some booze. Maybe even lots of booze. This is America after all. Amidst all the food, family and shopping, being driven to drink is certainly a national pastime. Reflecting on America in 2010, there are a couple of other certainties that will be with us as 2011 is ushered in. The war isn't over, even if we want it. The economy not recovered. And the environment is still being left to the polluters. The education system is abysmal for most. Health care now even more corporatized. Big money floods like never before into our elections. More tax cuts for the rich, less jobs for the rest. Glenn Beck is still talking insanity. Sarah Palin's out there doing whatever the hell you call that thing Sarah Palin does. And John Boehner is set to be the new Speaker of the House. While President Barack Obama, from this lefty's perspective, is leaving a lot to be desired. The least we can do, instead of building that damn wall, demonizing the Islamic cultural center in New York or keeping our gay and lesbian service members in the shadows of the military, is all be a little more welcoming. It should be handshake first (or hug, whichever you prefer), suspicion second. It's the core of that American Dream Representative Boehner is so fond of. It wasn't always "innocent until proven guilty". And it doesn't have to be "this is America, learn to speak English, these colors don't run, USA-USA-USA" or whatever else we chant to assert our "dominance." Instead, we can be a little less of a jerk. For the record, we need not worry about taking our country back from anyone. There's plenty of America to go around, we just need to learn to share it a little better. Sometimes it can seem impossible, what with all the wealth up at the top. But we can change that. And fix the environment. And end those wars. And make education available to all. Same with health care. It will take time. And a lot of effort. Along the way, I think it would be best if, instead of that wall and whatever demonizing of the other we've got going on this week, let's put the friendlier side our nature out front first. And save all the energy we've been putting into that damn wall for some new schools instead. So let's keep being the place where anybody, anywhere can come and make a go of it. That's certainly something to be proud of. Now say it with a smile: THIS IS AMERICA. HELLO! AND WELCOME. You can purchase a print of This Is America Hello! and Welcome for $20 HERE. It's my End-O-2010 poster being sold so I can keep doing random projects like this. Thank you for your support. -- Justin Kemerling, Designer. [caption id="attachment_3696" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="SHIPPED IN A STURDY TUBE"][/caption]

Extraordinary Rendition in the Underground

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
[caption id="attachment_3416" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="HVD: High-Value Detainee"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3415" align="alignnone" width="520" caption="HVD #56SS / First Name: Hassan"][/caption] “[W]e don’t kick the [expletive] out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the [expletive] out of them.” A man walks down the street in a foreign city. A car stops, men dressed in black with masks over their faces jump out, grab him and spirit him away to where a private plane -- usually a Gulfstream jet -- is waiting. The man is shackled, perhaps hooded, perhaps drugged. The plane takes off and travels to somewhere in Poland or Romania, Egypt or Syria. The man is held captive, perhaps for months. What he endures is often physical and mental degradation and pain. The scenario may sound like a spy thriller or a video game, but extraordinary rendition is all too real. (break) The term extraordinary rendition is used to describe the practice of secretly capturing suspected criminals or terrorists without the knowledge of anyone else, including the governments of the countries in which individuals reside. They are then secretly rendered to other countries, secret detention centers or “black sites.” This way individuals can be transferred to other locations to be tortured by proxy without ostensibly violating the United Nations Convention Against Torture and without the writ of habeas corpus. (break) The role of the artist is to transcend conventional wisdom, to transcend the word of the establishment, to transcend the orthodoxy, to go beyond and escape what is handed down by the government or what is said in the media. [Howard Zinn, Artists in Times of War]. [caption id="attachment_3426" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Obtain Clearance Here"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3427" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Please sit down and look into the camera"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3521" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="HVDs: "Damn Right.""][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3423" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Watch Your Head"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3430" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="You Are Extraordinary, Safe and Happy to be on the Right Side"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3431" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="The United States is a country of laws. Our leaders have sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. We believe in the rule of law. The United States Government must protect its citizens. We and our friends around the world have the responsibility to work together in finding practical ways to defend ourselves against ruthless enemies."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3432" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="And these terrorists are some of the most ruthless enemies we face. We cannot discuss information that would compromise the success of intelligence, law enforcement, and military operations. We expect that other nations share this view. The United States has respected—and will continue to respect—the sovereignty of other countries."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3433" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="The United States does not transport, and has not transported, detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture. The United States does not use the airspace or the airports of any country for the purpose of transporting a detainee to a country where he or she will be tortured."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3434" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="The United States has not transported anyone, and will not transport anyone, to a country when we believe he will be tortured. Where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3435" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="The Official U.S. Booklet"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3421" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Welcome to Extraordinary Rendition. Otherwise known as the right side of history."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3438" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="The Wall of Surveillance"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3440" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="An agent records while Air Force One circles in the background"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3441" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="The National Security Agency’s (NSA) warrantless electronic surveillance program was created by the government to monitor individuals inside and outside the U.S. without the judicial oversight mandated by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3442" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="We Are Watching You"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3524" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="It's Patriotism"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3444" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="The Big Bad Wolf"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3445" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Delightful Pink Bunny Heads"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_3446" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Opening Night in the Underground"][/caption] (break) This exhibition is a collaboration by Tim Guthrie and Doug Hayko with Jamie Burmeister, Peter Cales, Justin Kemerling, Landi Olsen, Nolan Tredway, Carol Zuegner, Sarah Baker Hansen, omahaliveartdivisionaims and aims to encourage discourse about the practice of extraordinary rendition. Read the STORY

When It’s Time to Battle

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
DESIGN AS ACTIVISM [caption id="attachment_1179" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="ATTENTION!"][/caption] The Battle for Whiteclay is a documentary film project created to call attention to a tragic situation. The film, appropriately described by Indian activist Frank Lamere, "chronicles a painful odyssey that should give pause to the caring, the oblivious, and those who don't give a damn." It doesn't take long to drive through Whiteclay. In a blink of an eye, you pass four liquor stores in a town with a population of 14. Then it's down a two-mile stretch of road to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Hot sun and blue sky overhead. Slow, stale misery on the ground. You get a sense for the centuries of exploitation and abuse. And knowing what's at work in the community, there really is no way to go there and not be moved to act in some way. On Saturday, June 11, 2005, at Noon there was a march from the Reservation in South Dakota to Whiteclay, Nebraska to demand that illegal sales of alcohol to Indians be stopped. Some 11,000 cans of beer are consumed every day. There's crippling poverty. An epidemic of alcohol abuse. On the reservation the unemployment rate is 75% and average life expectancy for men is 48 and 52 for women. It's been a decade long struggle for justice on the streets of Whiteclay to the halls of Nebraska's State Capitol. The point of the march was to increase awareness of the situation and, hopefully, begin ending such a bold illegality. [caption id="attachment_1174" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="The People March"][/caption] Known as "skid row on the prairie", Whiteclay continues to be a source of much sadness. The liquor establishments sell their beer.The law is left with too few resources to be enforced. And the people of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are forgotten. It's contemporary conflict pitting American Indian rights against state and local governments in the United States. [caption id="attachment_1169" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="DVD Packaging"][/caption] Activist and filmmaker Mark Vasina completed the documentary in 2008 and began screening it around the state of Nebraska. It's been a very effective tool helping tell this complicated, often misunderstood issue. It's really a whirlwind of a situation. There's protests and marches both in Whiteclay and in the state capital of Lincoln. There's hearings and testimony. News reports, editorials and opinions. At times, the basic facts can get overlooked. Realizing that four stores in the tiny village sell about four million cans of beer a year to a clientele who has no legal place to drink the beer tells you just about all you need to know. [caption id="attachment_1186" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Images from the struggle | A cycle of despair"][/caption] I became involved with the project around the time I saw the James Victore video made by Hillman Curtis. The social-political "stuff" was more and more the type of work I was drawn to. It sucked me in like no other visual work could. It was persuasion and, as I saw it, extremely important content. It was message with meaning. It was design that gave a damn. It was graphic design behaving as it should, performing the function of the "big fucking club with spikes". You can draw a line from Victore's Columbus Day poster aimed at correcting the legacy of a history of genocide directly to the aesthetic driving the work here. Working with community organizers and political activists, the visuals were meant to be harsh with ruthless urgency, because that's what the situation called for. Steeped in local politics, working for justice in a conservative red state, with a long history of nothing happening. The mediums were activist in nature, but the message was one of practicality. I remember one exchange very well. One of the main organizers said to me, "hell, we can't have a sign that reads 'you've taken our land now you're taking our lives.' It's just not practical. And it turns most people off right away. But 'bring law enforcement to Whiteclay,' someone sees that flipping through the newspaper on a Sunday morning, and they're more likely to say, 'well why the hell not.'" At least that's how we saw things happening. [caption id="attachment_1191" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Stop Alcohol Sales in Whiteclay"][/caption] For myself, the project has always been about taking on a wrong and trying to get people to help make it right. It's not an overnight endeavor. It's slow, arduous politics. The grit of the campaign takes the gravel of that two-mile stretch of road and gives it some kind of context. But once that context is established, nothing will change without a sustained effort. It is poison that's being sold up there, and it's crippling an entire population in the name of "it's just business." We tend to put emphasis on the economic over the social in America, and you can see that play out in Whiteclay. [caption id="attachment_1192" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="A simple Wordpress blog keeping people up-to-date on the situation"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_1193" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="On the road: the film has been shown in Denver, New York, Iowa, South Dakota and across Nebraska"][/caption] When there is an injustice, how the facts are communicated matter. How people perceive the situation is crucial. The messages we confront every day through various forms of media tell us where to shop and what to buy, but also what we choose to care about at every level; personal, professional, institutional and governmental. Our world view is shaped and reinforced by the messages we encounter day in and day out. The swirling mass of information and entertainment, opinion and fact, that exists in our culture didn't just happen. It was all designed to one degree or another. Design as activism sits right in the middle of everything else that's made to influence people, trying to motivate the caring, turn on the oblivious and battle those who just don't give a damn. There are many reasons the situation is as bad as it is in Whiteclay. But one remains clear: an injustice is allowed to go on because not enough people are paying attention. And not enough people have been moved to act, yet. -- Justin Kemerling, Designer.

The Grassroots vs. The Drones (Happy 4th)

Friday, July 2nd, 2010
[caption id="attachment_2144" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Get your yard sign."][/caption] A COMMUNITY COLLABORATION Here's one for you: a designer, a programmer, a community organizer, a communications task force and a group of committed peace and justice types ranging from well-seasoned academics to bright-eyed progressives get together to advocate for a better world. It's a collaboration of the first order with high-minded goals concerning matters of crucial importance. The focus is how to make a peace and justice organization more effective at making peace and justice happen. In the back of a local coffee shop, huddled over the local paper with some veggie sandwiches and fair trade coffee, the plotting and scheming goes strong once a week for many months. Usually in good spirits, with lively discussion and debates about how a little non-profit organization moves forward, what has come out of the effort has been something quite remarkable. We certainly accomplished a streamlining our communications efforts, developing a new website, creating several media campaigns to stoke the political fires and training key staff members on technology that can be used to keep things current. But there's also been a rejuvenation of the collective spirit. I saw what I thought was glowing from several people at one of the last meetings. It could be because we've finally seen the sun out here in the Midwest, but I like to think it's been this whole "working together" thing that's the root cause of the newly intense hues. [caption id="attachment_1949" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="A bumper sticker for every bumper in Nebraska"][/caption] Hang out in Lincoln long enough, especially downtown, and you'll come across several deep blue bumper stickers reading "Nebraskans for Peace." It's probably one of the most successful bumper sticker campaigns in American history. And a nice visual mark of identity in the community. (If anybody needs one, I'm sure I can get a couple dozen by the end of the day to whomever's asking.) In the back of that local coffee shop, a rag tag bunch of liberal peaceniks responsible for those stickers got together to grow this organization. And in between deep conversations about the sad state of affairs for America's foreign policy, I'd say success has been had. We set out many months ago to make Nebraskans for Peace the best damn peace and justice group it could be, building on the old school tactics of political organizing while embracing some 21st century digital activism. And today, we are moving ahead as planned. At the beginning of the process, a communications plan was put together. Nebraskans for Peace is the oldest group of this nature in the country, so we needed to re-establish core principles and look at the changing landscape, both in political and technological terms. There are definitely things the organization does well, and of course, other things not-so-much. But coming back to the focus on community building, education and political action, after 40 years of existence, 2010 certainly was an appropriate time to look at making this little non-profit better at being a voice for change out here on the great plains. [caption id="attachment_1980" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Communications Overview for 2010"][/caption] To make Nebraskans for Peace better at what it does, we looked at four areas: online, in hand, via telephone, and face to face. A new website that can be easily updated by anyone working for the organization. A continued push for thoughtful articles and stories in the bi-monthly publication called the Nebraska Report. A renewed effort at phone conversation and dialogue with the membership and an increased presence in the community with rallies, marches and protests as well as more yard signs and bumper stickers. (Have a sticker already, how about one for your neighbor's car?) All four areas are currently being carried out feverishly. Give it a year or two, with all of our streamlined advocacy, and war will most likely cease to be acceptable and will thus have to end as more and more people rush over to our side. The two wars America is mired in are certainly one of the issues that brings people to the group. But as a peace and justice organization, the tent is meant to be big, and includes issues dealing with the environment, civil rights and economic justice and bullying in our schools. Broad thinking on global issues certainly informs the Priorities, but how they apply locally is where the most impact can be had. If Nebraskans for Peace isn't concerned about the military base just down the road that's conducting warrantless wiretaps on our citizens or orchestrating drone strikes on Afghans, then who else will be? [caption id="attachment_2146" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Stop the Drones"][/caption] It's the grassroots versus the drones. Those drone planes that drop bombs indiscriminately on villages. The tea party droners who go on and on about government spending but have yet to make a peep about our bloated war budgets. And those war hawk droners who love to hold up all the marvels of our technological prowess as if that's the high point of human accomplishment -- dropping a bomb in Yemen from a control panel in Nebraska. [caption id="attachment_2145" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="The new, shiny"][/caption] The website is the online arm of the group. Carrying articles of in-depth analysis as well as graphic campaigns designed to get to the heart of bigger issues. The military base is in our community, but those drones belong to everybody. Drones that carry quite an expensive price tag. [caption id="attachment_1953" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Goin' Broke Paying for War"][/caption] The "Goin' Broke Paying for War" campaign has become a focus in these times of seemingly unending war. It's especially appropriate as the worry about deficits grows and the cries against "big government" get louder. The fact is this: if you want to cut down on our debt you cannot do it without cutting our war budget. We spend an absurd amount on blowing things up. Way more than we spend on kids, the elderly, our roads or sick people combined. It's really kind of sad, building up all that weaponry while the livingry is left to fight over table scraps. It's as if we're out for a crazy night at the carnival thinking our time in the bounce house never stops. We just keep jumping up and down, laughing and giggling as our bodies flail about. Perpetual motion, getting "massive air". On and on, forever and ever. That is, until China won't lend us money any more and the whole things deflates. Out there in a dessert. And there we are, with a case of motion sickness and no sense of direction. [caption id="attachment_2143" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="As many as you need."][/caption] It's Fourth of July time in 2010 and the battle of ideas in America continues to go on. One side is saying we spend too much, therefore strip down government. Cut medicare, privatize social security and really take on the deficit. The other side simply says, stop spending all our money on war. That's the side I'm on. The side that says enough of these stupid, pointless wars, 700+ military bases all over the world and this thirst for empire that's done so all other countries will do what we say. C'mon, it's just not a 21st century way to behave. Goin' Broke indeed. Because of all the war we've got goin' on. It seems too easy anymore, talking to my conservative friends who think we can't afford Universal Health Care. My response: shift priorities and we got it no problem. So my question now is, can there be common ground? Is the Tea Party and the Coffee Party set for a union of sorts? Perhaps Obama's push for bipartisanship is rubbing off on me. Really though, the problems we face are large. Structural problems that exist at the core of our country, whether in education, economy, environment, foreign policy or our general sense of unhelpful exceptionalism. They require a large effort in response. The "fix" cannot just exist along the margins. It must be a full-on assault of all our best intentions from everywhere by everyone. With so much uproar brewing over our debt, it just may be the thing to bring together far left and far right in a very kumbaya moment. In the back of that little coffee shop it can all certainly seem insignificant. The anti-war movement in general can seem insignificant. The noise it's made over the last decade hasn't really accomplished much. Though we didn't have a major cable news network to back us. But still. One can easily become disheartened. Feelings of futility sink in. It seems like nothing is happening. And nothing is going to change. But that's really not true. It's just self-inflicted drama grabbing hold. Take an honest assessment, and things are getting better. At least for this little community of collaborators. The general agitators that enjoy each other's company enough to make the little incremental movements that assure the rest of the population that yep, we peaceniks are out here. Still making noise. As long as there's war to be had, they'll be peace to throw at it. So from the designer, the programmer, the community organizer, the communications task force and the group of committed peace and justice types, here's to a better world. -- Justin Kemerling, Designer.

Random Acts of Making Stuff

Sunday, March 7th, 2010
...because making is part of things. Years ago, when Justin and I started putting together the first version of The Match Factory, we had this phrase that we used as an answer to why we are doing this. "...because making is part of things." This awkward phrase really stuck with me. It captures the spirit of open-ended discovery without heavy-handed goals or judgments.  Why do we make stuff? Because making is part of things. We both recognized early on that a workaday lifestyle could leave you feeling too focused on measurable goals and results. For the most part, design is about solving a specific problem. Art, on the other hand, can be more about personal expression. In an effort to walk the line between the two, I try to make time in my schedule for random acts of making. The images in this post are examples of time spent messing about. I think of them as design debris, lingering residue from thoughts and projects. Doodles and leftovers or something like that. Nothing really "good," but then again, making something good isn't really the point. So I try to take the time to make things for no reason other than to enjoy the act of thinking creatively and expressing it visually. Now that I live in a tiny apartment in San Francisco, I have limited space available for mess-making. So I'm forced to use the tools that are readily available. A laptop, a camera, a sketchbook and a scanner. Often times, my schedule is so busy that it really comes down to either drawing or making something on the computer. Occasionally I am able to get off the computer, but I still find value in experimenting, messing about and designing digitally, even if it isn't as tactile and tangible as making something by hand. I think my favorite aspect of these random acts of making is that it allows me to make things without consequences or judgments because the only goal was to make it in the first place and also because, for the most part, few people ever see it (even if I do share some of them online). As designers, our work is constantly being judged. Once you are able to get your work through the critiques of clients and creative directors it has to go out into the world, where millions of people are instantly able to love it or hate it. Sometimes that pressure can take some of the fun out of it. The irony of making things without specific goals is that it actually ends up making me better at my job as a designer. Ideas hatched in the friendly confines of non-client mess-making end up finding their way into client work. Sometimes its just a color scheme or a texture. Sometimes its an idea that was never even realized. Of course there are many things that never pan out or that end up looking ridiculous. But that's the whole point really, its a safe way to to try things. The trick is to approach it without hoping for anything in specific. Otherwise it just becomes more work. My dad has told me that as a child, I would get really upset at night if I felt like I hadn't had enough time to draw that day. I loved hearing that. It reminded me of how great it was to continually be thrilled and surprised by your own creations. There is a time and place for creating things that are thought out, meticulously crafted and executed, but there is also a time to revel in the joy of unexpected results and random mess-making. Jason Hardy, Designer.