Thursday, September 24, 2009

Weekly Post September 25, 2009

What I Did:

Spent ½ hour talking with Carol Jacobsen, Art & Design Professor, who provided me with great insight.  She creates various social documentaries on fascinating topics, such as women who are wrongfully imprisoned.  I asked her about how she approaches her subjects, the women in her project.   She talked about how she went about interviewing/documenting the women.  She mentioned to me the importance of first getting access to a shelter and then building a relationship with the organization.  She also gave me the names of a few artists who deal with the issue of homelessness, namely Martha Rosler.

Spent 3 hours researching ad agencies who work on unique non-profit campaigns.  Certain agencies create innovate ways to raise money or make an impcat, like the 15 Below Project I mentioned in my previous post.  Another cool project I found was by agency Droga5; they did an interesting campaign for Unicef to raise awareness for clean water.  In order to this, they branded tap water in various restaurants and bars throughout the world for one week and sold it for one dollar.  Restaurants all over NYC participated, and asked customers to pay $1 for tap water that is usually free.  All of the proceeds went to Unicef.  This idea is explained further at:, a well designed and user-friendly website.

They designed a canister wrapper PDF for the project, so that restaurants could easily print it out and add the wrapper to the water containers: 

In addition to asking people to donate $1 for tap water at the restaurant, the organization also offered the option of texting the word “TAP” to a Unicef number, and $5 would automatically be donated to UNICEF by charging your phone account.  An immediate solution using a form of today’s social media.  Love it.

This successful campaign raised more than $855,000 for UNICEF.

I also spent 1 hour creating an outline for the points I want to get across when speaking to the homeless shelter in Ann Arbor tomorrow.  I am not going to bring this sheet with me, but I want to make sure I enter the meeting prepared.

Took two hours to continue to research today’s homelessness.  Found several sad news stories about families who are newly homeless and their struggle to deal with it.  I realized the parents who were interviewed often use these words to describe their situation: humiliated, embarrassed, ashamed.

What did you accomplish, discover, encounter?

I was happy that this week I was able to set up two meetings, one with Carol Jacobsen, and one with a member of the Alpha House shelter in Ann Arbor.  I discovered the importance of reaching out & networking with various people in order to achieve my goals.  

I decided the “homeless” is such a broad term and often has a specific connotation to it.  I feel the average person is automatically disconnected to the subject when they hear the word “homeless.”  The reason why I feel this way: I encountered an interesting, reoccurring theme when communicating with several people this week.  I talked to friends, family members, and friends of friends about my project, and something similar happened with all of these separate conversations.  I found when I initially told people I was doing a project on homelessness, most were somewhat interested.  Then, I would continue to talk about how I'm focusing on today's major problem: homeless families who are part of the working poor, the ones who have lost their job and home because of the current depression.  The embarrassment of a foreclosed home.  The loss of pride.  The humiliation one might now feel in his or her community.  I noticed when I dove deeper into the subject, a switch would turn on, and the individuals I was talking to would suddenly be taking over the conversation, very passionate, curious, and interested in the matter.

I also discovered the hundreds of news articles on this subject, but none visually stimulating enough where I would run to donate money.  I would like to create a visual way for America to put a face on this issue, and take action.

What Should I Do Next?

I have a meeting set up with Alpha House tomorrow.  The woman is going to give a tour of the shelter and speak with me about the organization.  I have several questions for her about how the economy has impacted the demand of Alpha House. 

My homework will depend greatly on the conversation I have tomorrow with the shelter.  After the meeting, I want to quickly take notes of my initial reactions about the shelter and ideas I have.  I would like to make a list of ideas for this project after speaking directly to the shelter.  

I want to continue research and make a list of people I need to meet with, including professors in the school of social work.  I also discovered that Michigan has the highest foreclosure postings in the country (  I would like to contact foreclosure help services and discuss the situation further.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

15 Below

LOVE this project.  This is a way to create a successful campaign for the homeless in a modern way.  Using great design, a great website, and a great idea.

Ad agency Taxi out of Toronto decided to take on a non-profit client: the homeless.  The "15 Below Project" created a cheap solution to helping the homeless during the winter months.  They created a jacket that is not only a raincoat, but doubles into a winter coat by stuffing the insides with newspapers.  

Their slogan:  Yesterday’s information becomes today’s insulation.

Check out the project at

 I would love to come up with a creative concept like this one to help homeless families. 



Monday, September 21, 2009

Bruno the Great

Last week I attended a lecture by Bruno Monguzzi, a famous Swiss graphic designer.  He has created some of the most groundbreaking designs over the past 30 years. 

This poster was one of my favorites, because I am a huge fan of negative space. 

His talk was successful because for every visual piece he showed, such as a poster, he accompanied it with a great personal story.  As an audience member I felt like I was listening in on the secrets behind each poster.  Every one of his posters had a story.  A story that illustrated why he broke the client’s rules and thus succeeded.

One thing he said, that I will never forget is that: “new design comes from new problems.” 

Links to articles I need to return to:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Weekly Post September 18, 2009

What I did: 

This week I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about the topic I want to cover for the next eight months.  I created a “brain dump” where I wrote down everything I am interested in.  I spent about 2 hours writing down my interests and trying to find a correlation between them.   I decided I want to pursue the direction of homelessness of today, the working homeless who have just lost their jobs in this economy and are without a home.

For another two hours this week, I researched extensively about today's homeless.  I gathered many statistics and posted the most compelling ones on my last blog post.  It was important for me to gather these articles because this is a current topic I am covering; I need the latest information available. 

For another three hours, I was in the library researching.  I got four books.  One focused on social issues in art, and how exhibitions display such work.  This book visualized exhibitions done for homelessness, alzheimers, education systems, and many other issues.  It allowed me a way to see how artists created visual work on social issues.  The second book I picked up was very fascinating; the artist created 6 photo essays during the Great Depression.  I chose this book because several people today have been comparing our current economic state to the time of the Great Depression.  The photos in this piece are very, very sad and heartbreaking.  Very heavy stuff.  The third book was a lighthearted view of the homeless in NYC.  Very cool book. The artist’s goal is to show how the homeless are no different from anyone else- how they have the same dislikes, and likes as the rest of us.  The artist created a “make-shift” studio near a NYC soup kitchen; the backdrop of the studio was created out of blankets.  The close-up black & white portraits are stunning.  Some are actually very funny.  The personalities of the people are truly visible. I actually dedicated over one hour reading this one book.  It provided powerful images as well as powerful statistics.  This book touched on the same issues as the Great Depression book, but in a completely different manner.  The fourth book I got was on “emotional design” and how you can create emotional art through expressive typography & design.  Great book.

Here are pictures of the third book I was referring to, Sidewalk Stories by Salvo Galano.

I also took some time today to e-mail different homeless family organizations around the Ann Arbor area.  Erica gave me some great contacts to specific homeless organizations in the area.

For another hour, I decorated my studio.  Painted it light purple.  Tomorrow I am planning on getting more posters & things to make it more welcoming.  I really love the studios because I love being around my fellow peers.  It is an amazing feeling to be surrounded by extremely talented and creative people.  I feel very fortunate to have a studio.

The Before:

After:  (Still need more wall art!)

What I accomplished, discovered, encountered:

I feel this week I worked out the overall theme of my project.  Although I do not know the specifics of what direction I want to head, I know that I am passionate about this topic. 

I e-mailed homeless family shelters in Ann Arbor.  I am affiliated with the IRF (Inter-religious fellowship) of Bergen County, New Jersey; they have different affiliates throughout the country and I found one in Ann Arbor.  One woman, Julie Steiner, from the organization got back to me immediately!  She wrote a very nice note and wants to meet next week.  I am very excited!

I also discovered how this topic isn’t the most joyous of subject matters.  It is a very sad issue, but I am looking to assist these people.  And that is a good, positive thing.

What Should I Do Next?

I am going to plan a day to meet with Julie Steiner from the homeless shelter.  I also want to reach out to Carol Jacobson and ask her several questions about how to directly deal with the homeless.  I hear she is great at communicating to her subjects, women in prisons, why she documents them.  I want the homeless to understand I am not exploiting them.  I want to help them.  However this is very hard.  For instance, if I want to photograph them, I would have to bring my camera, which creates a barrier between me & them.

I also want to further investigate different approaches I can take for this project.  Do I want to make is an emotional, sad experience where I show the pain of the families?  Do I want to pick a select few families and tell their stories?  Maybe I should go to a few shelters before I can figure out those answers.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

By the Numbers...

Like I said in my previous post, numbers are just so hard to visualize.  The goal of my project is to create those statistics into memorable visuals. 

But, understanding my subject matter is also important.  Found loads of stats on my topic, but these stood out the most to me.

Homelessness (By the Numbers)

Families with kids make up 1/3 of the country’s homeless (Time Magazine)

1 in 50 kids are homeless and these numbers are predicted to skyrocket.  (Time Magazine)

Average age of a homeless person:  9 years old.  (

In NYC, 70% of homeless people residing in the municipal shelter system are parents and children in families (Sidewalk Stores by Salvo Galano)

In 2004, 50% of the families entering Alpha House had at least one head of household employed. Currently, the families entering Alpha House have reflected the state of the Michigan economy and less than 10% of the heads of household enter with stable employment.  (  

And that last study was done in 2004.  Imagine what it is now!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I got it.

This is it.

I know what I am going to focus the next eight months of my life on: the “new homeless” of 2010.  I want to dedicate this school year to document the working poor families who are struggling today more than ever because of the current state of the economy.  I want to focus on the families who are under severe stress because they are without a job, without a home.  Right now the numbers are crazy.  The percentage of unemployment is at the highest it’s been in years.  

But numbers are hard to visualize. 

I want to create awareness.  I will never solve the current issue of homelessness, but maybe I can express through art the need society has to take care of one another.  I can express through design, photography, and storytelling.  I want to create a cause to remind the US of the staggering number of people who are without a job and thus, a home.

A positive, energetic college community surrounds me, where life is good.  I don’t need to worry about serious issues on a daily basis.  I have good friends, a roof over my head, and study at one of the best Universities in the world.  Although I am not directly affected by the rise in unemployment, I will be in six months.  I know I am incredibly fortunate to have a great support system at home; I can’t even begin to imagine where or what I would do without a job and a place to live.  

I believe I can use my academic resources to help homeless families who have lost their job.  I have terrific resources available at this school, combined with an artistic eye.  I believe I can create a campaign to change the way the “new homeless” are viewed, from a new perspective: from the eye of a college art student.



Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Head Hurts

Today I was still feeling a little under the weather, so during studio time, I took the time to relax and find a quiet place to research more about what I want to pursue for my IP Project.  I went to the Duderstadt Library, Borders, and back to my apartment, but still left all three places with a feeling of uncertainty.  

I know for a fact that I am interested in creating something that either tells a story or solves a problem.  

Storytelling always fascinates me, whether it be a video documentary, or a narrative told through photographs.  As I said in an earlier post, I am really responding to the NY Times 1 in 8 million project.  I love the idea that the observer is drawn into the individual's life through photography and sound.

In addition to working with photography, and sound, a medium that I am very passionate about is design.  I believe I could solve problems through design.  Graphic Design has been my most successful medium throughout the past four years, and my last two internships were heavily focused on design.  You can truly transform a space by utilizing successful design.  

I believe I am somewhat at a crossroads because I have yet to see IP work completed by past seniors.  I would love the opportunity to learn about what previous seniors, especially designers, completed for their IP project so I can get a better sense of the project as a whole.  Right now, the whole idea of creating a year-long project seems quite foreign and overwhelming.  

What am I going to do next?  This weekend I am going to set up my studio, and maybe the studio will provide me with some inspiration!  My family is coming to visit this weekend so maybe they will provide some good insight.  I am going to continue to blog this weekend, to get all of my frustrations out.

I am confident that I will create a great project.  I just need time to think over what it is I want to create.  

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Monday, September 7, 2009


Today my friend Nicole and I walked around Ann Arbor and stopped at the Cupcake Station.  It is a charming locally owned shop that sells hundreds of fresh cupcakes.   We started talking about how locally owned businesses truly define Ann Arbor.  

There is truly no town quite like Ann Arbor.  People attend University of Michigan because of one factor:  the town of Ann Arbor.  What makes Ann Arbor so special?  The small local shops and restaurants that give the town such appeal.

I was thinking about how this great town could motivate me to create a project.  I would love to research and get to know the small business owners who help make the town so special.  I would love to interview, photograph, audio record, and design a website or book that highlights these individual owners that have been around for years in this town.  Because of the current state of the economy, these businesses are vulnerable.  In addition, it is less likely more small businesses will open in the future.  I would love to highlight the importance of small businesses in this town and create a cause that embraces small shops to open so that Ann Arbor can not only keep its character, but enhance its charm.  

While  I was studying abroad in Italy, I would often photograph the shop owners.  Here is a photo I took while in Sorrento, Italy.  

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The IKEA Dispute

Lots of people are upset about IKEA’s new typography.  They stopped using their distinctive IKEA Sans typeface (a version of Futura) that they have used for over 50 years, and have started using a more generic typeface, Verdana.  They said the change was due to expanding the company internationally; they needed a typeface that could be read clearly in several different languages. 

Check out the difference here in the copy on the bottom left of both images.  The left image shows the old typeface, the right shows the new typeface using Verdana.  

IKEA is known for its great design, and many designers are upset at this move.  I believe using the Verdana  typeface is definitely a downgrade.  In the NY Times, a spokeswoman for IKEA commented on the negative critiques: “We’re surprised…but I think it’s mainly experts who have expressed their views, people who are interested in fonts. I don’t think the broad public is that interested.” 

While for the most part, I agree the majority will not notice the difference; however, the spokeswoman is almost talking down to designers who have noticed the change.  These are the designers who have studied examples of companies that use great design, such as IKEA, and now that comes to an end.  While designers are able to pinpoint the font difference, the general public for the most part will not.  However, a part of the visual identity of IKEA is lost, and this is something the public will sense this over time.  

If anything, the news about the font change is great publicity for the company.  Read more about this here in the NYTimes:

Saturday, September 5, 2009

400 West 55th

For my senior project, I am definitely going to be utilizing my graphic design skills.  My design classes at Michigan have taught me to be aware of how images & typography integrate to create great design.  These skills have helped me not only in my design classes on computer-based projects, but also in other hands-on ways.

For my sister & brother-in-law’s wedding gift, I created a 4 feet by 5 feet painting for their NYC apartment.  I decided to use their address “400 West 55th” as the type for this piece because it will always be their first address together.  I used several shapes, images, and different lettering sizes to create a modern look for their apartment.

I finished the painting on Tuesday.  Took this quick picture in my garage from my phone:

My sister was aware that I was creating a painting for their apartment, and called me the other day to ask what color they should paint the apartment walls, because she didn't want the wall color to clash with the painting.  After a few days of thinking about it, she decided to keep all the walls in the family room white, and paint the main wall, where the painting will go, red.  The painting will look great against the red well.  I am waiting for her to send me a picture of how the painting looks in the space.  After all, it is all about the big picture and how the artwork fits in the environment.


Friday, September 4, 2009

One in Eight Million

What does a blind wine taster, ex-bank robber, singing waitress, and tabloid photographer all have in common?  They are all from New York, and they are all featured in a segment on the NY Times website, "One in Eight Million", where they discuss numerous New Yorkers' lives through sound and images.  Various people with interesting professions & lifestyles are illustrated through their voice and through exquisite black & white photography.  The audio pieces from each project contain the voice of the selected New Yorker, along with background sounds to further illustrate the lifestyle of a particular person.  Although each story is incredibly unique from the others, the black & white photography links all of the projects together.  The depth of field used in the photography creates an interesting point of view, enabling the observer to see the New Yorker in a different perspective.

My favorite is the Subway Busker & Wedding Wardrober.  Check them all out here:

I would love to pursue something like this for my IP project.  I would love to capture the personality of someone through photography, design, and sound.  I think it is a fascinating way for someone to tell a story.  I think I could use this type of format to create a story for someone or a group of people who are in need, and want their stories to be heard.