After a nice month off, the fall season is officially here for the blog. Upcoming posts will include some more recaps of the past month, and what better way to kick it all off than with a recap of the past summer? This summer marked the first Summer Interview Series, and a huge Thanks! is in order to all who participated. Below are links to each week’s featured creative…and stay tuned for future interviews. Cheers!
I first met Jeff while acting as Social Media Chair for AIGAKC. Jeff saw a real need for design education in Guatemala and has been recruiting creative professionals to help Guatemalan youth ever since through Design4Kids. After learning about the program, I asked him to contribute to our Discussions blog, and I am honored that he agreed to participate this year in my Summer Interview Series.Â Aside from his involvement with Design4Kids, Jeff also works as a designer and photographer.
How did you become aware of the need for a program like Design4Kids in Guatemala?
In October of 2006, I was surfing the web looking for programs that taught photography to impoverished kids. When I found Fotokids and learned that former Reuters war correspondent, Nancy McGirr, was teaching kids from the Guatemala City dump how to use cameras for documentation and self expression I was moved to tears. Somehow, I had to help.
About the same time I learned about photographer Phil Borgesâ€™ foundation, Bridges to Understanding. Bridges unites kids around the world through storytelling using digital cameras, audio recorders, and technology. They had a training program for adults to learn the process and mentor kids in telling their stories. Later when I learned they were conducting their program in Guatemala with Fotokids, I signed up immediately.
During one amazing week in November 2007, 16 adults worked with 16 Fotokids in Santiago Atitlan to develop, write, storyboard, shoot, record, and assemble two simple but powerful films. One of the stories entitled â€œMi Futuroâ€ was narrated by 15 year old David Ixbalan, a talented young artist who dreams of being a graphic designer but loves his village and wants to return there after he finishes his education in Guatemala City. There aren’t graphic design jobs in Santiago, so his dreams seem impossible.
Against this backdrop, Nancy McGirr told me about her plan to develop a Santiago extension of their design studio called Jakaramba. Established by Fotokids graduates in Guatemala City, Jakaramba serves businesses and non-profit organizations and provides jobs for young design professionals. Before you knew it, I was offering to come teach what I could. When I suddenly realized that I couldnâ€™t do this alone I said â€œand Iâ€™ll bring colleagues too.â€ As it turns out, thatâ€™s the best part. Not only is Design4Kids a chance to teach, mentor, collaborate, and grow with talented youth, itâ€™s an opportunity to meet and work with other talented creative professionals from around the world.
You recently finished the Summer 2010 program: could you share a few highlights with our readers?
Design4Kids Workshop 4, aka D4K4, was a little different than the first 3. Instead of working with teens, D4K4 students were mostly in their early 20â€™s: all founding members of Jakaramba. Our workshops are always structured around producing a real project for a non-profit client. This time that client was Fotokids, and the project was a 20th anniversary book which was presented and discussed with Nancy McGirr and one of the board members. You can see the results here.
The heart and soul of our workshops are the creative professionals who donate their time, expertise, and hard earned cash to travel to Central America and join our workshops. D4K4â€™s Traveling Mentors included Dutch portrait photographer Eric Lolkema, who taught Lightroom basics and lead the morning photo walks, Washington D.C. architectural photographer Stu Estler, who taught lighting and HDR photography, and HP Marketing Director Cathy Shea, who taught basic marketing and project management. All coached one-on-one and in small groups during project time.
To expand our studentâ€™s access to more creative professionals we once again invited designers to comment on the students’ first draft designs. Nine creative professionals took time out of their busy days to visit our web site and leave thoughtful critiques: Phil Borges, Rodrigo Zarco, Von Glitschka, Jacob Cass, Stephen Tiano, Neto Gonzalez, Donovan Beery, Dariela Cruz, Nate Voss, and Telva MejÃa Tefel.
Building on the success of using online reviewers in D4K3, we extended our classroom to include two creative professionals teaching and mentoring directly from a distance. Kitty Florido and Vanesa Juarez gave a class on using social media via Skype, and then worked with their students via Twitter, Facebook, and email. During the workshop, students made regular postings to the Design4Kids blog as well as to Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook. They pioneered and proved the concept of Online Mentors so well that we will offer that way of volunteering again.
Aside from coordinating the program and working professionally as a graphic designer, you are also a photographer. How have your experiences working with these teens affected your personal work?
Tremendously: I now consider Design4Kids as my most important creative work. Itâ€™s more collaborative, demanding, and rewarding than anything Iâ€™ve ever done. It benefits the kids, the volunteers, and me. We all grow together. Now the photography I value the most creating and working with, are the images I make of my students and their mentors. Both groups have all challenged me to stretch and grow myself as an artist. For instance, Iâ€™m now exploring different techniques for mixing light, shadow, and hands-on print making processes. One is screen printing, an interest that began as a way to bring our students low-tech printing technique they can do on their own. I think itâ€™s important that they learn the fundamentals of printing in a hands-on way.
How can designers and other creatives get more involved with Design4Kids? Are there other ways to show support aside from volunteering?
Our mission at Design4Kids is to help youth develop their creative potential by working with creative professionals in a project-based learning environment. We are always looking for big-hearted folks with related ad agency, design studio, photography, fine art, or marketing communication skills, to travel with us for a life-changing experience working with talented kids from another culture.
Of course not everyone can afford the time or money, so the next biggest way folks can help is to spread the word about our program to tell everyone they know in the business. You never know who might be harboring a secret desire to combine a love of travel with a chance to make a lasting impact. This is a grass-roots effort, and all of our volunteers have come to us through friends of friends and through social media efforts. So every conversation matters.
Designers may also participate as Online Mentors, or Online Reviewers. If any of you are interested, contact me at jeffspeigner [at] yahoo.com. We also accept design books, art supplies, and teaching aids. You can find a wish list here. People can also support our efforts through tax-deductable cash donations through the San Carlos Foundation and Fotokids. The funds help us purchase and transport books, art supplies, and teaching aids.
I first met Jon while working with him in Kansas City. Jon is a great guy (even if he IS a Mizzou fan…), and I learned a lot about social media and online editorial outreach during the projects we collaborated on. But beyond working together, Jon would periodically bring photographs up to the design area or post them to Facebook, and I would always find myself in love with what he had to share. A couple weeks ago, I posted about the launch of his photoblog, Challenge and Catharsis.
How did you get interested in photography and what made you decide to start Challenge and Catharsis?
I’ve always been interested in photography, dating back to when I was a kid. My dad had — well, still has — an old Canon 35mm SLR and I remember being thrilled on the rare occasion he’d let me use it. But by and large, I was relegated to my Vivitar 110 film camera (which is still floating around my place somewhere…) Over the years, I graduated to disposable cameras, then to point and shoots, but regardless of the tool, I was always snapping pictures of something. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I actually started thinking about photography in a more serious manner, but at the end of the day, this is still just fun for me. People have called me the A-word (artist) and the P-word (photographer), and I always cringe a bit when I hear that. I just consider myself a dude who likes to take pictures! But I’m beyond flattered and humbled at the response they’ve gotten. I’m really happy people seem to like them.
I started Challenge and Catharsis as a way to keep myself honest. As I mentioned in the about section, I discovered that taking pictures gave me a perfect blend of mental stimulation and relaxation, so I wanted to stay in practice and keep my hobby going. That still holds true. But the deeper I dive into this, I’m hoping my blog will help me meet new people (photography enthusiasts and otherwise), learn more about photography and ideally, continue to improve.
Your day job involves working with bloggers at a public relations firm: how do you think this affects how you have approached your own blog?
Working with bloggers is probably the BEST part of my job. It’s been great getting to know many of them and I’ve made some friends along the way. Probably the main thing I’ve been able to carry over is the importance of community. Most of the bloggers I work with are moms, and the strength of their community is awe-inspiring. I’m still a newbie to the online photography community, so I’m just starting to meet people. Though our (I guess I can say “our” now, huh? 🙂 ) community may not be quite as tight-knit as moms’ online community, none of us exist in a vacuum. I think we can all learn from, enjoy and support each other’s work.
In a couple of your posts, you have hinted at nerdy tendencies. What’s your favorite way to geek out?
Oh, I’m a total nerd. Might not pick up on that when you first meet me, but yeah, I’m a geek to the fullest. Honestly, I think most people have a sizable amount of geek in them, but are too afraid to admit it. Let it out! It’s fun being a geek! 🙂 Anyway, I think my favorite way to geek out is probably doing a deep dive into my DVD sets of 80s cartoons (The Real Ghostbusters, He-Man, Inspector Gadget, Count Duckula, etc.) and re-living my childhood one episode at a time. Oh, and of course, heavy doses of sci-fiÂ fantasy and anime flicks are ALWAYS welcome. Encouraged, in fact.
It’s obvious from your work that you love Kansas City: what has been your favorite part of the city to photograph so far?
I love shooting in KC’s jazz nightclubs. I think a lot of my photos tend to be fairly “contrasty” and dark anyway, and you really can’t beat the mood lighting in a place like the Phoenix or the Blue Room. The low light makes it challenging (and most of my shots get deleted at the end of the night), but for those 20 or so I keep, it’s great being able to “feel” the music and the mood through the shot. Plus, it gives me a chance to follow in the footsteps of my photographic hero – Mr. Herman Leonard. He is and will probably always be my favorite photographer, and his work depicting the jazz clubs and icons of yesteryear is simply mesmerizing.
For those of us who love your work, are there any plans to sell your prints?
Absolutely! I’ve got tons more in the vault, so if you ever have any inquiries, please send me a note at jbgray07 [at] gmail.com.
All images © Jon Gray
I am excited to announce that good friend, former co-worker, and excellent photographer, Jon Gray, has launched his photoblog today! Challenge & Catharsis is up and already has a handful of gorgeous photos for your viewing pleasure. I was lucky enough to help him get started using WordPress over the past month, so you can imagine how impatiently I have been dying to share the news! Jon will be featured a little later this summer in the Summer Interview Series, but until then, go feast your eyes!
Yesterday, Lindsay Laricks announced that her Fresher Than Fresh Snowcones is featured in the current issue of Food Network Magazine, and I am pleased to announce that my photograph of Lindsay and her FTF stand is accompanying the article. I was thrilled when Food Network Mag approached me for the use of the photo (see below) back in February, and have been dying to share the news ever since. (You might remember the photo from AIGAKC’s Homegrown with Hammerpress/Design Ranch flickr set.) I haven’t seen the article yet myself, but can’t wait to do so. Congrats to Lindsay on the publicity! You can friend/follow FTF on twitter and Facebook to find out where she’ll be this summer with her all-natural snowcones.
While blogging about the things I’m passionate about yesterday, I remembered that I had totally forgotten to post about the Goethe Institut in Washington, DC. Since hearing about the Goethe Institut in high school, I had always wanted to visit one of their offices, but never had the chance until our TransAtlantic Program reunion last month. Straight from their About page, the Goethe Institut is “the Federal Republic of Germanyâ€™s cultural institution operational worldwide,” and the DC office didn’t disappoint.
Film/Neu is their series of foreign films shown in the small theater. The office entrance showcased a few posters from some of the past features. (I especially love Good Bye Lenin! â€” it’s such an excellent film, and I love the design!)
We were able to pick up a whole bunch of free bilingual publications: most of which were rather well designed. Nachtrecorder was one such publication that features beautiful black/white photography of German cities at night. Great design (I’ll have to take a photo) and great interviews/articles about the subjects photographed. We also got some really awesome buttons: who wouldn’t want a button that says “Na, und?” or “Prost!”
After a short program in the theater, we had lunch upstairs in their gallery space.
The exhibit that was currently showing was Ivonne Thein‘s Thirty-Two Kilos.
Normally, I’m not a fan of this subject matter, but I really loved the lighting and just everything about these. You just couldn’t stop looking at them on the wall.
In any case, it was a really great visit, and I wish we had an office close-by so I could go to some of their programs or classes.
Lorraine Animation, Book Design, Design Life, Illustration, Inspiration, Letterpress/Printmaking, New Work, Photography, Product Design, Think Green, Typography, Web Design animation, diy, German, pattern, stationary, sustainability
…and late. Well that was extremely annoying last night. I’ll attempt to remember everything as I had it written. And my apologies for the absence of this column the past several weeks: hopefully this triple-stuffed edition will make up for it. 😉 (On a side note, I’m paranoid that I’ll lose the post again, so I’m not going to preview it just in case. If something doesn’t work, comment and I’ll fix it. :-[ )
For the Home:
- Design*Sponge broke the sad news that Domino Magazine has folded. But even more sadly for myself personally, Home Companion Magazine folded this month. I’m really going to miss their DIY/vintage ideas!
- Johanna Basford was featured on anything goes, and I REALLY want the plates (for some reason, I couldn’t post the photo…)
- I also Love these coffee-filter garlands that Creature Comforts posted a How-To on. Who says decorating has to be expensive?
- These pillows just crack me up:
- Drawn! posted links to Cody Walker’s technical illustration tutorials such as the one below for Advanced Isometric Illustrations:
- Think Green: D*S also posted a cute project using old matchbooks to make mini-notepads. I can’t wait to use recycled paper at the office to make some…
- You can photoshop your own photographs to look like Tilt-Shift photography with this tutorial…or just plug it into the Tilt-Shift Maker
- I loved the article over at Animation Treasures about Ludwig Richter, a 19th c. German illustrator who worked in woodcuts. Gorgeous:
- Katie Kirk and Nathan Strandberg did an awesome job with Eli No! as posted on Grain Edit:
- Grandma’s Graphics has an excellent gallery of public domain illustrations from the likes of Harry Clarke and Sir John Tenniel (of Alice in Wonderland fame):
- Who knew that Berlin has a Buchstabenmuseum?? Designistoshare has an excellent article on The Letter Museum.
- CR reported that the British Library hopes to acquire the Macclesfield Alphabet Book, a 16th c. type specimen: the article is complete with delicious pictures of the book’s spreads.
For Further Reading:
- ReubenMiller listed the Top 90 Design Blogs according to Alexa
- Urban Sketchers has got some great inspiration for my Sketch-More-Resolution
And finally, Polaroid Lives! and I REALLY REALLY want to see Coraline now:
Over the past year and a half, I’ve sort of taken a break from designing personal work to focus on several projects. The biggest, and perhaps most exciting one for me, is Finally coming together, so I thought I would share. With the help of my grandma, I’ve been going through her collection of old negatives, reprinting ones we don’t have prints for, and cataloging them all.
My great-grandparents circa the early 40’s: a photo of a photo, they took this treasured photo-booth shot to a local photographer to have reprints made. I’m guessing Kinko’s wasn’t around then… I love the framing of the tape to the matboard. Even more, I love the story they tell with their expressions.
Among her collection are negatives of her mother’s. When my grandma and her siblings had their parent’s estate sale, they divided up my great-grandmother’s many photographs. An avid amateur photographer, Great-grandma’s photography chronicles family life from the 1910’s, through Depression-era Nebraskan farm life, weddings/funerals, Christmas gatherings, and family reunions up until the 1970’s. Grandma seems to have ended up with the box of negatives while some of her siblings received only prints. Each envelope has been like opening up a tiny time capsule.
Since most of the negatives are medium format, I’ve been able to take them to a local photography shop to have them all scanned, reprinted, and burned to disk. (I can’t heap enough praise on Photographix for their help, advise, and expertise: if you happen to be in the area and need anything to do with photography, check them out.) I’ll be sharing more of this project over the next few posts as well as some more great images that we found.