50 / 50 Famine ReliefFriday, November 11, 2011

Final 50/50 Poster

Final 50/50 Poster

I think every creative person wishes they could apply their talents to something that improves the world we live in. So when my friend Sheena Matheiken told me about a poster project to benefit the current famine in east Africa I of course said yes immediately. Sheena works for The Mill, an agency taking part in the overall project: 50/50 - Make or Break. 50 creatives and agencies have come up with their own unique approaches to raising funds for the crisis. Check out the whole project. And you can check out just the poster project.

This top image is my final draft. Of course, as these things go, the project had to be completed in a week, and fit around my existing full-time job. There were a few sleepless nights, and quite a few variations before reaching this end result. 

The subject, famine, is so loaded, we struggled coming up with the right tone. Sheena and her partner Monihan came up with the original concept based on a photo of Mogadishu from the 1950s. Here was an amazingly beautiful city, so far removed from the war-torn images we see today. What if that past could also be the future? Somalia: beautiful again. Not colonial Italian Somalia, but rather a brighter, better place? What if you could travel to that future?

Mogadishu 1950s

1950s Mogadishu

Using another period image I designed a "travel poster.", and I felt like the design was attractive. But overall it was too pastiche for the purposes of this benefit. It looked too historical. Did this imply the past was better? Certainly 1950s Italian colonialism was not the picture of a better future.

Somalia Travel Poster

First draft "travel poster"

Hmmm... . Back to the drawing board. It needed an optimistic tagline. What will the future hold? - You can help decide. I played around with the idea "Somalia ... Will be" and mocked up a few designs. I used geometric type and then created patterns based on those geometric forms, intending to imply the idea of working with simple materials on hand to create something greater.

Left side: geometric pattern experiments. Right side: poster design

I liked the result, but it was decided that this design might overlap with those of other contributors. Still, I liked the idea of using pattern. I felt the geometric patterns might be a little too broadly and stereotypically "African" (I can't claim to know a great deal on the subject, and didn't want to perpetuate any stereotypes.) I found an image of 13th century Somali wood carving and realized that there is a much stronger middle eastern influence than I had naively expected. I created a new design using this pattern. Although graphically I like the design, it felt too much like it could be a label for a pound of Starbucks coffee. Not what I wanted to achieve.

Better as coffee packaging?

After all this, and with the clock ticking, Sheena, Monihan and I decided to revisit the original concept - the idea of a travel poster representing some place and time in the future. I took the typeface (Pilo by Kenneth Pilo) and enlarged it to fill the entire page. I took a low-res web photo of 1950s Mogadishu and rendered in Illustrator, then moved the layered file to Photoshop and added more color and texture, and overlayed the type. Photoshop created some exciting effects and I went through quite a few versions before reaching the final. Some variations and details are posted below.

It was a bit stressful but overall a very satisfying project. If you would like to help build this vision of the future you can buy the final poster (or any of the other designs). Or, find something else that suits your point of view - there are 49 other ways to contribute via the 50/50 Project. Visit 50/50 - Make of Break project.

Special thanks: Verena Gerlach, Nancy Harris Rouemy, Roberto de Vicq, Gail Anderson, Sheena Matheiken, Ryan Monihan. Couldn't have done it without you!

Close up details:


Hey man I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to write something worth reading. I am all over the internet and I see so much useless junk that is just created for the sake of putting something new on their page. It takes devotion to make good stuff, thanks for caring.

Posted by Gartz  on  09/20  at  01:13 PM

Nice post. I want to republish it on my website, is it possible ?

Posted by Ramon Lomack  on  10/05  at  10:01 AM

Really excellent sketches..Liked. smile
Thanks for sharing.

Posted by jhonhud  on  05/12  at  05:53 AM

Kudos to you! I hadn’t thought of that!

Posted by Cyelii  on  05/18  at  10:00 PM

Very nice! creative.. thanks for sharing this.

Posted by naomi  on  08/14  at  05:53 AM

I love vintage stuff. Your pictures reminds me about my childhood.

Posted by design Ploiesti  on  10/04  at  08:51 AM

Really nice poster I hope people will get inspired on that and realize that Somalia need us so that we can make a better place just for the Somalian.

Posted by Reylan | Labor Posters  on  11/11  at  09:52 PM

Joe, these are AMAZING. Really.

Posted by Gail Anderson  on  11/16  at  06:50 PM

Great stuff! Seriously.

Posted by DonHerbarni  on  01/19  at  12:47 AM

Can we buy online some of these? is there a shop or specific place for doing that? many thanks in advance!

Posted by Matt Lampard  on  02/29  at  09:19 AM

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