The Blog

Meeting the Hope Program

It’s a rainy summer day and I have made the trip to downtown Brooklyn to meet with Irene Camp and Jennifer Mitchell, Developmental Director and Executive Director, respectively. They’re located in a big old warehouse of a building at a busy intersection near the Fulton Street Mall.

It’s late in the day and the regular office staff has gone home, but there are still some students and staff working on terminals and end-of-the-day stuff. The administrative offices are located to one side, with offices and a large waiting room. There, I finally meet them, two engaging, cheerful, and optimistic women who love what they do and want you to know about it.

After a brief tour of their facilities, we sit down and talk about what they are looking for in the design and the brochure. First they bring me up to speed on how far the project has come and their take on the previous design work. The earlier designs they thought were too boxy, rectangular images with columns of type, and the overall look was not really distinctive. Jennifer then showed me an example of something she liked. It was from a different non-profit that served a similar mission. It was simple, bold and modern featuring close up black and white images of clients silhouetted against a white background and areas of deep blue and red. They used a simple sans serif typeface, a layout that allowed for lots of white space.

From there I suggested an idea of using a full-body group shot of some of their successful clients in their work clothes, with supporting images of the training situations on the inside spread. We could show the variety of skills they have as well as the types of businesses where they work. The vitality of the images would let prospective employers feel a personal connection with these people and really sell the program.

Jennifer and Irene really like the idea and start thinking of who they could round up for a group shot. They have a program that trains people for the food industry and one of their candidates was an intern at Murray Cheese; they were very proud of him.

So this is the tack I will take in developing the design. They’re still not sure, though, of how they want to distribute it and though their favorite sample was a 7-inch square I suggest that we start with a format that will fit into a business envelope in case they want to do a mailing. If a client has doubts, I prefer to be a little cautious. Also I want to be able to save them some money.

But this project needs to get started because the writing and research have been done and the Taproot group wants to do a presentation at the end of the month. Let’s have fun.

The start of a project.

I’d begun looking through the service grants on Taproot’s website and it seems most of them are staffed now. But then I get an email from EJ Minor who has been heading up a grant for a non-profit called the HOPE Program. Located in Brooklyn, its purpose is to help New Yorkers living in poverty to develop self-sufficiency, through job training and employment and counseling services and has a very high success rate. The Taproot team that EJ is heading is working on a marketing brochure for last six weeks. The brochure should help HOPE out-reach to new employers and develop internships and opportunities the people they train. Their current designer dropped out due to illness and would I be interested in joining their team as the designer. “Sounds simple enough”, I say. “Tell me more.”

There’s a full crew involved. EJ, the project manager, along with a copywriter, photographer, and marketing guru and has recently completed most of the groundwork. They learned as much as they could about HOPE’s mission, training methods and effectiveness. They interviewed clients and employers to gather statements that could be used in the brochure to show the impact HOPE has made through its services. At this point they are writing the copy and want to get the brochure designed and into production by the end of August.

I have some concerns though; what is their budget, how it be distributed, does it need to be mailed. I’m going to have to meet with the principals and to get a better idea of what they’re looking for. EJ and I discuss their budget, which might be and something around $2 per piece, but that it’s not a concern right now. He just wants something that’s really “creative” and that I should really let loose with any ideas I come up with.

He emailed me some of their early sketches done by the previous designer and images of past HOPE Program brochures. They definitely need an update and it’s time for some legwork. I need to meet the client.

cover and spread of older brochure.

And earlier HOPE brochure from the 90’s. It has some nice images and the die-cut is a nice touch, but it only shows one aspect of what they do. The new brochure needs to address a broader range of services and work settings.

A volunteer’s experience.

I signed up with Taproot to make new contacts that would be out of my regular professional sphere, to have an opportunity to do something new, and, perhaps, do a little good for this world. Being between projects can make one restless, and even a little buggy.

Taproot, if you don’t know, is an organization that matches up professionals from the corporate world with non-profit organizations that could use their expertise. Applicants can be from either side of the equation; non-profits can use Taproot to find qualified professionals to work on specific projects that the non-profits need done, but don’t have the expertise to complete. On the other hand, the creative professionals go through a screening process that assesses their skills and abilities and matches them to projects that the non-profits need done. These are called service grants.

These grants can serve any number of goals, such as developing a website, creating marketing materials, business analysis, board recruitment, fundraising projects, and so on. Doing all the things that non-profits need done by professionals, but don’t have the budget or expertise to do themselves. This is where the volunteers come in—various smart, hard-working professionals with skills, expertise and the desire to help out. This is where I come in.

When right and left collide.

So for my first blog post I am wondering about the left and right sides of the brain and the difference between the rational linear way of organizing and understanding the world and the intuitive, non rational, gestalt of the right side. A lot of other people have been thinking about this too, when trying to figure out the best way of being more creative or coming up with new ideas.

The most conventional methods are for artists to look for ways of circumventing the rational left side by doing things like writing or drawing with their non dominant hand. This is explored in Betty Edwards’ classic, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”. The trick is to confuse the orderly habits of the left side so that the right intuitive abilities will come to the for front and release the information it’s using to your conscious awareness.

I’m thinking more about this because of how computers have changed the way we artists/designers work and how much it’s effecting how we think. For visual artists drawing is the way we develop our skills and put our ideas together. We perceive the whole three-dimensional image on the visual cortex of our brains and write it out as an image on the two-dimensional surface of a piece of paper.

The computer, however has lifted our hands off the drawing pad and on to linear tools of the mouse and keyboard. At the same time it gives us access to more visual and written information in one place than ever seemed possible. It’s a new dimension of images, movies and the written information which has it’s created a new reality to explore. How does this make us think? Did conceptual artist know about this before the personal computer entered everyday life, or was breaking the world up into data points just a logical step on the path through mass media?

Inquiring minds want to know.