The event I attended was AIGA’s Hilary for America Design team. I chose to attend this event because while I was not completely on board with Hilary Clinton during the election, and despite my total opposition to Trump as a candidate it was Hilary’s campaign that turned me on to her. However when I think “presidential campaign” oddly enough I don’t think design, brand, or advertising. Hearing this panel speak changed that for me entirely.
The event took place at The New School (Parsons). I attended an AIGA event there before and it was in the same room so the place and setting wasn’t new or different to me. While waiting for the talk to begin a guy sat down a seat away from me and said “Well this will be depressing”, and our conversation began from there. This was Andrew DeRosa, he teaches Graphic Design theory and typography at Queens College. It was pretty awkward, I would describe the conversation as generic, as in “What do you do” “What did you think of this” etc. He gave me his business card, the Queens College one, and said I can reach out to him anytime, whether it’s to talk about a project or something. I don’t really intend to do that but he was nice.
Michael Bierut from Pentagram began speaking, all he did was the introduction. The last event I went to had a warm up with an opening speaker, a student, talking about a some project. This talk had the same warm up, this student was Anita (I think), a senior graphic design student who spoke way too fast and discussed a project her and some other people were currently working on. An app for students who don’t sleep enough, so the way you use this app is you log the amount of hours you slept and donate the corresponding amount to a charity. She said it was supposed to help students with their sleep schedule and financial situations? As if it’s supposed to motivate a person to use it. It didn’t really make sense to me but I liked the design.
Finally, Jennifer Kinon and her Hilary for America design team came down. It was a large team, then again I never actually considered the average size of a team so maybe it wasn’t that large? I was surprised, though, and excited to find that the team consisted of mainly women, with only three males. One speaker was absent and was represented with a can of cheese balls. They explained it later on.
Each person had a story to tell. I thought it was going to be more about the process and each person’s role in the team. It was stated what each person did but it was more like their experiences working on branding a presidential candidate on an emotional level rather than the design process itself. Now bear with me as I wasn’t able to record all their names and what they did and what they talked about. I mainly recorded the ones I found to be interesting.
The biggest piece of advice I heard Jennifer say was “Always say yes to a campaign.”
1st speaker: Chelsea Atwell (digital ads) on The Worst Day (election day). She basically talked about being there having to listen to Hillary give her speech and then finding out that she lost. Chelsea was crying, it was very emotional to hear her speak. I can’t speak for other but I’m severely empathetic and felt her pain. I can’t even imagine putting all my energy and every waking moment for a year into a campaign with a national reach of such importance, to lose in the end.
2nd speaker: Hanah Ho (email and merch) on The Best Day. I don’t really remember what specific day that was or if it was something they accomplished but she talked about bringing her mom to the headquarters and how proud she was to be something so huge and her mom being there to see it. Honestly I didn’t really care too much. Of course I would be excited too but still.
Skipping some non-noteworthy stories.
While the absent member was being represented by cheese balls, she recorded her portion of the conversation however there were technical difficulties so it was mute until someone from the audience fixed it. I don’t really remember the extent of this story but she shared on how she was being bullied online for being a part of this campaign and for being on Hillary’s side.
Shar Biggers (states): I found her story interesting. One thing I forgot to mention is that not all of these people are designers, but were campaigning for Hillary and ended up working with the designers. If I remember correctly, Shar was one of those people. I found her story interesting because she originally wasn’t sold on Hillary Clinton, and it was her mom that convinced her that Hillary should be president. So after doing more research she was completely sold and campaigning hard.
Meg Vasquez (can’t remember what her role was) spoke about what her daily typically looked like and it was scary. You sleep 4 hours a night and wake up to about 100 emails and messages across all platforms and the majority of them are urgent, so you have to attend to those the minute you wake up. And she goes into how you basically live there, how you live off of the cheapest most accessible food, having to find the most unconventional places to hide and work. She even twisted her ankle and instead of getting medical attention had to sit at her desk with her foot up on the table being iced and still working away. And of course you give up your weekends and any free time that you have at all. I wonder if all campaigns are like that.
Ida Woldemichael ( not a designer, was already campaigning, I think she’s the project manager under Jennifer Kinon), she wrote the very recognizable and well known “I’m with Her” and “Honk for Hillary”. I found that to be exciting, mostly because I honestly thought those were user generated it.
I thought most of what I saw and heard from the campaign was created by voters and got picked up by everyone. I don’t know why I thought that until they explained that it was what they were going for.
They said that the goal for the campaign was not to look or be cool, but to make it accessible and ownable. The designs were specially undesigned so that people can make them their own. I think that’s absolutely genius. I mean here is a team of people trying to convince everyone to vote for Hillary, to make them passionate enough to get together and elect the first woman president. So what did they do? They released a bunch of designs that not only clearly sparked something, but put it in the hands of the people to adapt and change and share and spread like wild fire. And for me to see all the Hillary posters and art work and copy and whatever other content and think that voters, not designers, are making these incredible things and reaching me and everyone around them, well that must mean that whatever this team did worked. Hillary may have lost the election, but this campaign was obviously very strong.
Kara Haupt (content and rapid response) on A Designer’s Role: Here I learned that the designers weren’t just designing, they were actually doing a lot of field work too. They were being deployed to “battle states” where they worked with volunteers and knocked on people’s doors and tried to convince them to vote for their candidate. Being responsible for rapid response, they also managed social media accounts where they had to constantly fact check everything and be very up to date on all the issues and competitors and constantly be on defense. It sounds exhausting.
And finally, Victor Ng ( products and websites) on What Now?: Victor had advice to share, with us as voters, with us as young new designers, and with people who employ designers and interns.
- Get into the issues
-do your homework
-lots of research
- Join an organization
-know who your representatives are
- Learn to organize
- Start designing (only after you’ve done the homework)
- Run a good business
-Talk about diversity
-Pay your interns
-Have paid family leave
-Give your team the day off to vote
-Use paid time off to volunteer
After the talk, I only spoke very briefly to Andrew again about our thoughts on the talk, it wasn’t anything noteworthy and it was still awkward. He later went to go talk to people he knew. The networking portion took place downstairs, with a pastry cheese snack and drinks, and there was a line for it that I did not wait on.
I felt to uncomfortable and out of place, it looked like everyone there knew somebody else and had someone to talk to, like no one was meeting anyone new just talking to people they already know. Fortunately, I spotted someone I knew.
Beth Tondreau, she was my professor for publication design in the last spring semester. I told her I had to stick around to network and we both agreed she didn’t count, so she introduced me to someone she knew. Bobby C. Martin, Jennifer Kinon’s partner. He was very sweet and asked me what I’m doing as a student, and I told him about my senior project that I’m currently working on which is also meant to get people to donate to charities. He liked the idea of that and introduced me to two of the designers on the team, Hanah Ho and Eric Hartman. I told them how much I loved the talk and somehow also got to talking about my app again. Hanah kept being pulled away so I mostly talked to Eric so she only heard the beginning and end of that conversation.
I think I got to talking about the app probably because I feel the two causes had a similar purpose, but I regret this now. He seemed very into it and kept asking me questions about it, I can’t tell in retrospect whether he was being nice or genuinely interested, but he was so nice when asking about it that I kept talking about it. I wanted to talk to them about the design process and what they actually do, and for advice on getting on a campaign like that but it all got away from me.
I wish I made it less about myself. Especially when Hanah asked me if this is an actual project or a school project at the end of that conversation. I don’t know why, but having to tell them it’s a school project that I would like to make an actual project made me feel a bit inadequate.
Afterwards, I got up enough courage to approach Jennifer (who is also very sweet), and tell her how much I loved hearing about the talk and how much I loved the work they did. I told her I hope to find myself on her team one day, for another campaign that benefits humanity.
And it’s true. My project now and the opportunity to hear and meet this team has definitely made it a bit clearer what I can see myself doing with my time and career. This talk was emotional, inspirational, motivational and terrifying. And I do hope to be involved in something of this capacity as a designer someday.