Archive for the ‘Long-Form’ Category

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.

On Film

Friday, February 5th, 2010
[caption id="attachment_768" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Woman on Webster by Jason Hardy"][/caption] Over the years we have all adapted to new ways of interacting with media. One area that I have paid particular attention to is my relationship with photography, and more specifically, the actual taking of pictures. It has changed in a number of ways since my early days of snapping pictures for the yearbook or shots of my skateboarding friends, but one of the most dramatic changes came when I switched from shooting film to shooting digital. All of the sudden I had the instant gratification and unlimited undos that come standard with personal computing, all applied to the way I took photos. And so it changed the way I took photos. I'm not a professional photographer, but I do use photography in a variety of ways. There is the photography that I use in my work — making textures, shooting images to be used in a design direction, shooting products or lifestyle photography, etc... There is also the photography that everyone is accustomed to — vacation photos, family, friends, iPhone pics, etc... And then there is that more personal, artful, purely expressive photography, rooted in my initial interest of framing and capturing moments in the world around me. After shooting digital for a number of years I recently found myself missing some of the special qualities of shooting film. There are the aesthetic differences, sure, but I think that what I missed the most was the permanence of film. Knowing that you have a limited number of exposures, there is always the hunt for the perfect shot. The one that merits a click. And then there is the moment that you actually shoot the photo. Waiting for the time to be just right, for everything to be in place. Wanting to get it right without wasting too much film, and then not knowing if you got it right until you get the photos back. The wait was a huge part of the joy of shooting photos for me. The anticipation that maybe you got something wonderful. The disappointment of realizing that you blew it or the thrill of having that artifact, perfectly captured. I recently stumbled upon an easy way to keep those experiences as part of my daily life. I was in my local Walgreens where I noticed a small, cheap, plastic point-and-shoot camera for sale with a violator on the package that said "Free film for life!" Obviously I took note. Turns out the deal is, you buy the camera for $10 and it comes loaded with 35mm color film. You shoot that role, bring it in to a Walgreens and develop the film there, roughly $7, and they re-load the camera with another roll of film for free. I assume it is because the switch to digital left them with mountains of unused film stock. [caption id="attachment_992" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Walgreens 35mm Camera"][/caption] The camera itself is a pretty lousy device, but for the money, it offers a cheap change of pace from shooting with my Nikon D90. And the images themselves have a beautifully primitive quality to them. Not too far off from a Lomo or a Holga. Ian and I chatted recently about the over-reliance of some photographers on the style that a particular camera affords, but concluded that it is not the camera that is important, but rather the intention of the photographer. I try not to over think the photos that I make with the Walgreens camera, but my intention is clear – to take a stab at capturing one moment at a time and letting the chips fall where they may. I don't mean to imply that I am opposed to digital photography. That is not the case. I love shooting digital, but sometimes having too many options can actually become a hindrance to the creative process. Perimeters and limitations, in my opinion, are a good thing. [caption id="attachment_767" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Sidewalk on Lower Haight by Jason Hardy"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_761" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Sue Gets A Cab by Jason Hardy"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_763" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Skull and Throne by Jason Hardy"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_760" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Bathroom Instructions by Jason Hardy"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_756" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="BMW Parked On Bum Sign by Jason Hardy"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_753" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Man On Bench by Jason Hardy"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_754" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Chinatown Garage Door by Jason Hardy"][/caption] So now I carry this plastic Walgreens branded camera around wherever I go. I use it when the mood strikes or I notice something worth capturing. Something worth a click. The lack of instant gratification and the idea of getting one shot at capturing a moment is a nice change of pace from my daily, computerized existence, where almost any move can be "undone." Where everything happens real-time and what you see is what you get. It is nice, on occasion, to set yourself up to be surprised. Jason Hardy, Designer. [caption id="attachment_764" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Trash Corner"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_766" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Maxx by Jason Hardy"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_774" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Up by Jason Hardy"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_759" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Golden Gate by Jason Hardy"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_773" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="My Brothers In The Snow by Jason Hardy"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_755" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Bird On A Beach"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_772" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Highway 77, Christmas Day - 2009 by Jason Hardy"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_769" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Intersection"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_751" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Corner In Chicago by Jason Hardy"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_748" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Breakfast"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_747" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Buddies by Jason Hardy"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_746" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Iceman by Jason Hardy"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_771" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Windows by Jason Hardy"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_765" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Information? by Jason Hardy"][/caption]

Less Crazy Talk. More Illumination.

Friday, January 15th, 2010
DESIGN IN THE DEBATE [caption id="attachment_323" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Design work in the Health Care and Climate Change debates."][/caption] There is certainly a lot of shouting these days. From left, right, above and below. It's a strange thing, those moments when the white noise nonsense sends you spinning. Duck and run for cover. And please, let's just talk about the latest blockbuster. And maybe that new tech gadget that will make our lives better. Just not the politics that remind us all of the blowhards and windbags. The pundits and politicians, crooks and liars, droners and deceivers. It's just too painful. And not that entertaining, no matter how many sound effects a corporate news show adds to the discourse. America's great debates we've seen in the last year have been heated to be sure. At too many times incomprehensible. For the record, I don't watch all that much of the cable news networks, but what parts I do pick up on are enough to shock me into a coma. The things people will say, and the volume at which they'll say it. Everybody is supposed to want to have their say. From the all-powerful on one side to the average citizen on the other. Sloppy democracy at work. But it appears a good majority are opting out. Because the point people on our little operation of representative democracy seem to be crazy. I mean, if you want to get in on this debate, it would appear you have to either be really pissed or have just uncovered something so sinister the only thing that will save us all from it destroying every last man, woman and child is to unearth it in a spectacle of patriotic duty. Plenty of outlets will give you a brief glimpse of stardom for your offering. There is a lot in play. A lot of balls in the air if you will. Could it be we're muddling through a great transformation in terms of our collective priorities and values? It's possible. There are signs of it. Could it be that our society is finally shifting toward something more healthy, just and sustainable? Sometimes it seems so. But then the "debate" offers us a swift kick to the gut and we fall to the ground in pain while the specter of a socialist, fascist, neo-nazi death panel is waived in front of us. Most likely it was hatched by an art program in some liberal university dorm room on a coast somewhere that will indoctrinate all our school children over a side of organic carrots.  Ultimately, what we have here is a battle of ideas. One would assume a battle is going to be intense. But seriously, the cost to jump in seems to be your sanity. And we need active participants in our sloppy democracy, otherwise it's the all-powerful who win while the average citizen just becomes exhausted, which seems to be happening to a lot of us. What are we to do? Enter graphic design. That wonderful little tool of visual wit and starry-eyed idealism. My vision, once America has gone through its great transformation, with it's special ability to enlighten and inspire, graphic design will be used before, during and after exchanges of opposing views on a subject. To inspire full engagement, verify information and dissect further implications of the debate. (No, bullet points are not graphic design.) In an enlightened society, up there in importance with investigative journalism, illuminating design, yet another sign of healthy democracy. Now, what I mean by great transformation is that it's the average citizen who benefits from how our country works. Not the all-powerful. In terms of health, environment, workplace, economy and so on. Specifically, what our debate has been about lately; we have a public option in the insurance exchange, America leads in developing a clean energy economy while paying our climate debt, workers are allowed to join unions if they want to and the people are allowed to use their government to bring green jobs to lift them out of crisis. That Nebraskans approve of this historical health care advancement and our generation is excited about the idea of service and using design to make our communities better. At least, that's whose side I'm on. Yon can see these ideas reflected in the accompanying images. [caption id="attachment_329" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Exhibition focused on worker rights."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_330" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Artwork for"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_338" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Health Care campaign at the Wendell Potter event."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_343" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Workshop on service and design for social impact."][/caption] Design can make a piece of legislation understandable, a choice clear or an idea reality. In the debate we are having right now, it can turn on an entire community. There does become a time when complexity leads to complete immobilization. (Or crazy talk ends in blank stares.) The left/right, back/forth just keeps going on and on and numbs us to the need for our own critical thinking. By simplifying ideas while opening up the mind for deeper discovery design that becomes part of the debate can lead to more engagement and understanding by the participants. With all the infosnacking, sound biting and attention overload, we do need serious discussion. Design, with its ability to not drone on and on — to succinctly clarify, motivate or to simply spell things out — can lead us there. There is not only a place for design in our democracy, but it can fulfill a crucial function.  Refer to the following mini-manifesto: As people, we need communities that look good and feel right. As lovers, we need those communities to welcome everyone. As citizens, we need a universal declaration for those communities. As designers, we need to show what those communities will look like and inspire their creation. In our current debates, there is honesty and deception. Contrived and the authentic. There's agendas from all sides. From the oil and gas companies. The insurance industry. Powerful politicians. Powerful brands. Powerful ideas. Citizen groups. And the average citizen. It's a mess. Which is exactly what democracy is; a mess. But it is desperately needed and with as many people as possible. We need to be able to speak to our government and to each other directly in the most productive way. The work here is designed to participate in that capacity. Specifically, to inspire people to demand progressive policies from their government. In my view, it's those policies that will lead to a more prosperous decade than the last. I'm really pulling for a great transformation. And a beautiful alternative to the debate we've been subjected to for a painfully long time. Helped in no small measure by the tool of graphic design and all it's capable of. But it is the battle of ideas we are dealing with, so consider that whole beautiful alternative bit more starry-eyed idealism from this graphic designer. -- Justin Kemerling, Designer.