Side Projects

Chicago is packed with people who live truly creative lifestyles. There is one message in particular that I've taken away from this past year, "love what you do, and do what you love". Enter: Side Projects. 

It's amazing to see what people create when there is no client, no brief, and no real end-goal besides having fun and being curious.  Check out some of those awesome projects from friends around Chicago:


 Shit @coloredmaps tweets 

What to do with an idea

When you have an idea, what is your first instinct? Hoard it? Make sure every detail is worked out before telling someone? Decide it's no good and move on? The Post Family wants you to share it.

As a society, our first instinct is not to share. We fear that someone will steal our idea (if it's good) or ridicule it (if it's bad). The Post Family says - so what? Collaboration is fundamental to them, a group of seven guys with an array of skills who come together and make stuff.

They spoke at the recent Creative Mornings and called this The Age of Sharing. Together we must "engage, collaborate, give back, and let go".

It is definitely a challenge to let go of a an idea, but it's essential to growing creatively. Chad Kouri had some good advice: "stop filtering yourself, stop picking and choosing, and [sharing ideas] becomes natural".

I'll be sure to let you all know when I have one.

Art & Copy

Art & Copy, a film by Doug Pray, introduced me to some of the most inspiring characters in advertising. George Lois, Lee Clow, Rich Silverstein, Jeff Goodby, David Kennedy, Dan Wieden - these are the thinkers and creators behind the advertising I grew up with.

If you haven't seen the film, I highly recommend it. I'm ready to watch it again because there is such a wealth of knowledge and advice packed into an hour and thirty minutes. The growth and transformation of advertising over the past 40 years is overwhelming. According to the film, the average person sees 61 minutes of advertising a day, which I'm sure is even greater today.

One of the most successful campaigns highlighted is Nike's 'Just Do It'. Why was it so powerful? Wieden+Kennedy connected a "likable human emotion - the idea that we can get healthier" to the brand. Consumers found the slogan to be an empowering life motto. "People don't mind being sold to when they know what's happening and they enjoy it".

There are "lots of people in advertising but damn few really good ones". To be successful in advertising, you can't be afraid. Find the product truth, develop a strong idea, and create a simple execution [Carl Alley].

Here are a few more take-aways [if you know who said the first two quotations please let me know!]:

  • Fail harder - if you miss, you miss but at least you swung the bat as hard as you could
  • Attack advertising in a rebellious way instead of orderly
  • "I think the real risk comes in willing to try to be authentic" -Dan Wieden
  • "Brutal Simplicity" The sign on Rich Silverstein's door
  • And, "if you speak honestly, and use this industry to do that, weird shit can happen" -Dan Wieden

Joining the Leapyear Team

Every once in a while you meet a person who simply amazes you. Over the holidays I've been in touch with one such person, Victor Saad. Filled with unlimited ideas and the enthusiasm to see them through, Victor is spending the next year focused on his newest idea - The Leapyear Project.

A true leap of faith [pun intended], Victor is asking people everywhere to take a risk in 2012: "risks that could change their lives, communities, or their world for the better." I like to think of it as the modern New Year's Resolution.

Participants will document their projects using #lyproject on twitter, instagram, and other social media sites. They will share stories, progress, failures, and moments that connect people globally through the act of creating a better world.

One boy has set out to collect 100 pairs of shoes to donate in the next year; he has a clubbed foot. Another is aiming to become fluent in Spanish, so he can finally have a conversation with his grandparents. To read about other projects, visit

And, as Victor would say, what leap will you take?

the power of limitation

Over Thanksgiving, I took my family to the Wood Type, Evolved exhibit at Columbia College. My intent was to share a part of my world with my parents and sister, who kept asking when we were going to the 'wood' exhibit. Luckily she wasn't too disappointed when we didn't learn about the difference between oak and cedar.

Letterpress type is a wonderfully distinct and organic style, which the exhibit displayed with good variety. One of my favorite featured artists was Brad Vetter, whose "This is Just the Beginning" poster is currently my computer background. 

A nice message from Brad was included about his experience working in a letterpress studio. The biggest take-away for me was the power of limits. Obviously working with letterpress has its constraints, but Brad wrote about the importance of challenging yourself through limitation. What may seem debilitating for some, inspires creativity and innovation for Brad.

Next time you start a project, think about ways to challenge yourself through limitation. There's no need to use all of the crayons in the box to create a masterpiece.

The exhibit ends December 10 so hurry up and check it out for yourself:

Columbia College Chicago
Center for Book & Paper Arts
1104 S. Wabash Avenue, Suite 200
Chicago, Illinois 60605

it's EPIC

Engaging Philanthropy Inspiring Creatives (EPIC), is a Chicago not-for-profit organization now in its fourth year. The company name is self-explanatory: EPIC pairs a needing nonprofit with a team of top creatives looking to use their skills to help their community. After eight weeks of working together, the nonprofit has a brand new creative campaign to implement. 

This Thursday is EPIC's annual fundraiser and I'm happy to participate as a volunteer! The event will be held at The Coop Gallery and includes a stellar silent auction. Anyone in the market for an autographed Brian Urlacher jersey or some fine additions to their wine collection should most definitely attend.

Buy your ticket today. See you Thursday!

type sketchbook: 10.26.11

This past weekend I visited Los Angeles to celebrate my cousin's recent engagement (congrats Eliza and Zack!). Having never been to that part of California, I was eager to explore.

This is the first trip I've taken since I started school and I was amazed at how much I was able to learn about LA through the typography. The city is filled with beautiful 3D script, which, combined with the architecture, exudes a very retro feel. The local library features a stark white sign against a rigid stone exterior. Apartment buildings are named and decorated with elaborate scripted signs.

Part of living in LA is driving everywhere, so I couldn't capture every great example on film. But I think you'll get the idea in the pictures below. Many thanks to Spencer for being a great host and tour guide!

The challenge this week was to explore type as identity. We each collected logos that use typography as the basis for their branding. It's impressive to see how a company name can reflect the personality of the brand without an added graphic. 

type sketchbook: 10.19.11

There is no shortage of agency work I love coming out of the city of Chicago. This week I wanted to highlight one agency in particular, Grip Design. Grip boasts a wide array of clients including Bluefly, Chase, and Girl & the Goat.

The work I chose to highlight exemplifies the agency's spectrum of capabilities and design. The typefaces used for Death's Door spirits convey its handmade and organic nature. Side-by-side posters for Northlight Theatre are a clear example of the brand's versatility. Personally, I'm drawn to the playful elegance of the type in The Society of Typographic Arts (STA) Archive10 campaign.

Check out more of Grip's work in their awesome short. And if you ask me, the 7th Annual Eating Competition should be churros. Or corn dogs.

For this week's sketchbook challenge, we had to document our mood at a consistent time each day and typeset our name in a typeface to represent each emotion. Not the easiest of tasks but it forced me think about the message of each typeface.

type sketchbook: 10.12.11

Second quarter started last week and boy did it start with a bang. New teachers, new copywriters and LOTS of new ideas.

For our Intermediate Typography class with David Sieren, we have to keep a sketchbook where we collect anything we find "interesting, inspiring, compelling or even revolting." Each week we are also given a challenge to help us look at typography in new ways.

For my sketchbook, I've decided to pick a weekly theme and the first is album covers. I remember sifting through the hundreds of albums in my parents' basement and picking out covers that caught my eye. Now I just open Spotify or Pandora, hit shuffle, and go on with my life. As I found myself sifting through covers again - this time on the internet - I was surprised at how many of them were older albums. Seems I'm not the only one who has forgotten about album covers. I think it's high time we rediscover this lost art form.

For this week's challenge, the Alphabetical Landscape, we had to find three representations of the letters A, E, G, M, Q, and Y. Once I got started I couldn't stop seeing interesting letters. This will definitely be a project I continue on my own.

thoughts on branding

There will always be terms we use in everyday life that we might not fully understand. For me, branding is one of those terms. I have discussed the branding of different products, decided whether or not it's working, and one day (hopefully soon) I will be responsible for the actual branding. For now, I'm on a path to determine my own definition.

My first assignment at Chicago Portfolio School was given by Jeff Epstein, director of the school. We were told to visit a restaurant then come to the next class with a presentation describing its story. Which aspects of the restaurant fit with its overall story? The menus? Decor? Bathrooms? The objective was to determine how well the brand's story was being communicated. A simple and eye-opening assignment.

Now I can't eat at a restaurant without commenting on the art on the wall, the wait staff's outfits, and just about everything else I see. Branding is so much more than a name and a logo.

To further understand branding, I attended an AIGA Chicago event with Debbie Millman. A truly captivating speaker, Debbie discussed the journey of writing her newest book, Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits. This book is a compilation of interviews with twenty-two industry professionals about branding in our world.

After interviewing each person, Debbie found that she had twenty-two different definitions of branding. There were commonalities between each definition with a couple key buzz words, including: promise, experience, and connect. These words represent intangible interactions that are necessary to build a relationship between a consumer and brand. 

Two quotes stand out from Debbie's presentation: 

  • "Branding demonstrates that sense of belonging" - Wally Olins
  • "human beings metabolize these things very quickly" - Dan Pink

Obviously there is more to life than the car a person drives, and it is important for everyone to keep that in perspective. But, if you make the driver feel connected to their peers because of the car they drive, then your brand has a place in the driver's life.

If you ever have the opportunity to hear Debbie speak, go. She is an inspirational designer and kept us all hanging on her every word - especially impressive considering there was free vodka and no visuals.

My journey to define branding has been exciting so far. If you have your own insights on branding, please share. I would love to read about them!

wait, i can't use google?

By far, one of the greatest lessons I've learned at school is that you can create your own solution to a design problem. The key word being create. No Google images or stock photography allowed.

It may sound simple or obvious, but be honest, how often do you pick up a paint brush before you peruse a Google image search?

My Type Basic teacher, Will Miller, was the first to assign work requiring us to create art. The art was supposed to be a visual representation of three sounds clips that he provided. After my initial 'oh shit' moment, I turned up the volume and really listened to the music.

I was able to create expression through photography, painting, and an honest attempt at scupture. At the end of the day I had found my inner artist. No, I can't paint your portrait, but this was about creating energy and an emotion.

Since that assignment, I've been looking forward to my next challenge. The good news is it didn't take long! This week we had to create a readymade alphabet for our Design Fundamentals class - and it was super fun. I chose to use books but it was interesting to see how everyone else created their alphabets. Some used sand, string, cords, paint brushes, tortillas, and anything they could find.

I highly encourage everyone to challenge themselves to step away from the computer and make something. It's refreshing and authentic. 

Without further ado, here is my alphabet: