Celebrating Grafik’s 40th year in an industry evolving faster than many can even keep up with is a thrill. We’ve seen competitors come, go, rename, refocus, get gobbled up (Thanksgiving pun intended), and throw in the towel. Having been here the last 30 of Grafik’s 40, it’s amazing to me—and a source of great pride—to see we’re still creating great work for exceptional clients, work that impacts their business.
Creating our 40th Anniversary landing page was an interesting process. I spent hours going through archives of our work to decide what we might feature. It involved looking at our digital history, but also combing through filing cabinet after filing cabinet to find, in many cases, our last 1-2 samples of work saved for perhaps this very day.
Reminiscing about Grafik’s ‘best of’ and sharing many client stories with employees who had no idea who those clients were, I was often asked, “So what’s your favorite project?” That is not a fair question. Some of the work I designed; some I directed. Others, I wasn’t involved in but always admired.
Due to the breadth of clients in our portfolio, I can say I’ve always enjoyed learning about new subject matter. The projects that stand out to me are the ones that in the end pushed me creatively, or ones that I directed and saw a designer break through creatively.
If I had to start somewhere, I would say the work we did for the Kennedy Krieger Institute was perhaps one of the most meaningful projects I took part in. It was a turning point for me as a designer, in the depth of research and understanding of the subject matter needed. It’s a project where I was involved in “discovery” before it was called discovery—through client interviews, content strategy, photo art direction, design, and production. To this day I am still very proud of the end results.
Second is my memory of a launch at the Smithsonian Latino Center. The new brand was introduced at a gala, including a speech that Judy and I had written. It’s the first time I can recall actually trying to hold back tears because the work, the words, the concept we crafted, was so well embraced that it served as the foundation for their movement. Hearing the leaders in the community articulate what we had designed in print was perhaps the first time I saw our efforts come to life so passionately—transcending paper.
With Matthew Shepard’s interment at the National Cathedral recently in the news, a very personal project I brought to Grafik is again top of mind. Directing a young designer, Raksa Yin, we designed a special skateboard used to spread awareness of the Matthew Shepard Foundation’s goal to “Erase Hate”, starting with kids in elementary and high school. During the creative exploration of this project, I saw a designer take a leap forward and create something truly exceptional.
These are the moments I’ve remembered most. Here’s to many more.