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Creative Visual Identity: Jay Campbell

Melanie Manos and Jay Campbell discuss the position of visual identities and visual languages in their work.
<v ->I’d like to introduce designer and researcher,</v> Jay Campbell, who is creating a visual language and identity for the Visualizing Women’s Work Project. Please meet Jay Campbell. <v ->Howdy.</v> <v ->Hi, Jay.</v> Good to see you. So let’s start just talking about what is the visual identity, the visual language, that you’re creating for the Visualizing Women’s Work Project? How would you describe it? <v ->So I would describe it as</v> what kind of ties everything together. So when we started on the project it had, or when I started assisting on the project, it had a lot of different directions and it all made sense together, but I don’t know that if that was a little trickier to see on the page.
So, the idea behind creating a visual language for it kinda even before we had mediums that we were specifically trying to use was to give it a kind of visual cohesiveness. So in this case, we started out with kind of an idea of older newspaper ads, print bills, things like that, kind of vintage materials.
Part of that was just kind of a light, fun way to take on kind of a heavy topic, but it was also informed by the fact that this is a, this problem’s been around for a long time, so we wanted something that it’s, something not necessarily like contemporary and we’re dealing with this kind of nebulous idea of history and of tradition, so I think something that has a nostalgic element, or kind of an element of time, can really help with that.
<v ->Yeah.</v> <v ->So we worked out some fonts for it.</v> We took a, I used Rye, which is a Google font, so it’s available for free, and it’s kind of reminiscent of letterpress letters, it’s decorative, and that’s used for the display, the headlines, if you will. And I paired it with Source Sans which is a really easily available, very easy to read, more contemporary font, that’s made to be easily read both in digital and print media. And this is, part of it is we still were working out exactly where this was gonna exist.
So, initially some ideas where we wanted some kind of web presence eventually, we wanted the possibility of posters, we also wanted the possibility of materials because some component of this was going to have, be these kind of performance, or spin-ins, things like that and we wanted to have, to be able to have these work in all of those settings. <v ->Right, right, so we could things that</v> we could hand out to people, but that they could also read about online and, right, um-hum.
<v ->Yeah, exactly.</v> <v ->Yeah, that’s a great process.</v> <v ->Yeah, yeah, I think it was kind of,</v> because we were working off of this print influence I think it made it a little easier to kinda give it this cohesiveness. So even though we’re working for digital in some cases, we wanted it to feel like a printed thing and have that kind of like, if not physicality like texture to it. And that also as we started looking for imagery that helped to kinda guide that look, it also made it really nice.
A lot of images we got from the Library of Congress, which had more vintage (chuckling) images anyway, so that gave us a good, you know, those things work together, those being available for free, or for creative comments use. And yeah we have, for the color palette we wanted to, it was a little tricky, we didn’t wanna go, I guess, too stereotypical like women, bright, you know, bright pink, which is a silly stereotype, but, but we also didn’t wanna avoid it. We wanted something that had a, so that’s kind of where we ended on that, on the purple we’re using, was something that just twisted it a little bit with like, which I think happens with a lot of this.
A lot of this, the ideas too, just really came out of like collaboration of the fact that I think we both have similar sensibilities in terms of mixing humor with more serious- <v ->Right.</v> <v ->Ideas, yeah.</v> <v ->Right.</v> Yeah (laughing). Well, I agree, I think that’s why that the collaboration worked so smoothly between us and it also just kind of helps us when we’re working to have a good laugh (laughing) now and then, yeah.
<v ->Our meetings are usually very laugh-happy.</v> (laughing) <v ->When I was thinking about these activities</v> that we could have at monument sites, how could we bring people in, and one way was possibly to do like tours. And I thought, well, if we did a tour, I’m imagining people like on a bus and they would each have a bingo card, and on the bingo card would be all the various monuments that you typically see, or the parts of them, and as we go along they get to see who gets to bingo first. And so you created the bingo card look. Yeah. <v ->Yeah, that was</v> a lot of fun.
Yeah, that was, so the look of those, again, was really influenced by print. I looked back at a lot of vintage bingo cards. That’s where we actually created the monogram logo for Visualizing Women’s Work too. <v ->Right.</v> <v ->’Cause we wanted something that could repeat on every card</v> and look good, but not take up too much of the reality so we could give as much as we could to all the different pictures. So, and again, we were like referencing that kind of Americana. We liked that it was a little bit of a cheeky reference to like prep and bougie culture (laughing). <v ->Yeah, yeah.</v> <v ->In something</v> that’s decidedly not.
But yeah, the bingo cards themselves, we had some fun with the categories. We tried to pick, we tried to really play into the fact that these are tropes, or these are court of annoying, things that you see over and over again and play that up. And then in terms of the actual pictures, it was hard to source a bunch of pictures that would look good together so I ran them all through a halftone filter to give them both kind of a vintage print look and give them all the same color, but it also helped a bunch of different colors, different pictures from different sources look like part of the same like set of photographs.
<v ->Yeah.</v> I think that was a stroke of genius doing the halftone. I remember when we went to that, you went to that step, and I’m like, oh, that’s it, yeah. <v ->It’s helped, and it’s kind of helped through this.</v> And I think like, funnily enough, like that one specific choice, represents I think what we’ve always been trying to do this which is figure out a way to make all these seemingly disparate things that live in all of these different places, but make sense together under the umbrella of this project all cohesive. Like we see how it makes sense together and we’re trying to figure out a way to present that in a way that everyone else sees it.
<v ->Right, right, yeah,</v> it’s been a big task for you. (laughing) <v ->It’s been exciting,</v> it been- <v ->Good challenge.</v> <v ->It’s a lot of fun, yeah.</v> <v ->Yeah, yeah.</v> And so also you’re working on, you’ve been working on a website and we had one for a while, but we really got into a redesign, particularly thinking about having a interactive map, right, that viewers could contribute to. <v ->Yes, that is a really exciting part</v> that is up and coming, look for it near you. (laughing) Look for it on a computer near you, no.
But yeah, it’s a really exciting project and it’s, again, trying to bring the same look to a web medium, to this other kind of platform and we really want it to feel, have the same humor, have the same sense of participation that the person looking at it. We want it to be something that people wanna read and wanna look at. And in some ways that means trying to make it not look like a website, trying to make it behave like a website, but also not look just like a website to retain that kind of printed feel to it. So, and thankfully, I think some of those decisions we already made we can bring into that.
Some of that kind of half-tone treatment, those fonts, again, because they are Google-based they are available to use on the web as well, but also kind of just be creative with where we put things so that it’s intuitive, but it doesn’t feel like just another website. <v ->Right, right, marrying that,</v> what you were saying before of the historic kind of look, and imagery, with a contemporary, yeah.
Anything specific you wanna say about
the choices of using, let’s say you’ve got like the background with a sort of sepia-tone right now, which we’ve sort of been playing with that and then with an overlay. <v ->Yes.</v> Yep, and that again it’s in a similar way to the halftone. One thing it achieves is it kind of makes all of those photos work together when, you know, you can kind of bring up some were brighter than others, some darker, it makes them all work together. It’s also, I always liked, especially when, like for a project like this, I always want this idea of women’s work to be in the background.
So I want, even if you’re not directly looking at those photos, and looking at what each woman’s doing in those photos, I want that kinda reminder that that’s actually what this is about. That as much as we’re talking about male statues, for instance, and how there should be female statues there, or we’re talking about even specific stories, I want that collective feel of this like thing that’s just kind of been ignored to always be somewhere like envisioned and in the background of it. <v ->Yeah, that’s great, I agree.</v> What I’m really enjoying seeing is how the choices we made early on in the design process are working so well in your prototypes for the website.
<v ->Yeah, me too, I’m glad they worked.</v> (laughing) Well you always start out hoping that’s the case and I think you try to do as much as you can to prepare for that, but it’s always a learning process. But yeah, that is always the big goal of this kind of visual design of a project.
It’s very close to that evil word branding, but it is the idea of giving something that’s unique, somewhat uniform look, that can kind of help tie it together and help it be more easily communicated and more graphs as a singular thing. And if that works as it should, then yeah, those individual pieces will work across different mediums and they’ll make sense. The context can change, but the general feel will remain the same. And I’m really excited to see that as the project has changed, and grown, it’s really grown a lot, that these things can kind of keep working with it and keep growing with it. <v ->Me too, (laughing) I concur.</v> Thanks so much, Jay.
<v ->Yeah, thank you very much, this was awesome.</v>

In this video, Melanie Manos and Jay Campbell discuss how they determined the need to use visual identity to connect with the community and how their focus on the visual language has been an integral part of their project.

Companies and organizations engage in this type of work with respect to branding and marketing. The World Wildlife Fund, for example, famously uses the image of a panda as part of its visual identity to connect with anyone who is interested in protecting wildlife.

Can you think of a brand or organization whose visual language really grabs your attention?

Please share your thoughts and comments below!

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Visualizing Women's Work: Using Art Media for Social Justice

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