The Freelancers Union is a national organization based in New York. They’re dedicated to promoting the interests of independent workers through advocacy, education, and services. In the fall of 2018 they launched the Freelancers Hub in Brooklyn, a shared workspace that also offers a range of professional advancement course and seminars. They asked me create key art to launch the Hub with an outdoor poster campaign.
Freelancers Union executive director Caitlin Pearce and her director of communications, Nathan Bransford, had decided on a retro-futuristic look for the campaign. I had come to their attention because of my Jupiter Poster for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
This was an instance where I was brought on board for my ability to deliver a particular style rather than to provide conceptual or strategic guidance first. Which is entirely fine, of course, particularly when it’s a style I love. I call these assignments “designing from the skin in.”
The team had approved headlines that didn’t need a particular visual to pay off a verbal setup. They were complete thoughts unto themselves. The illustrations would exist purely to provide a cool vibe. My initial idea was to highlight the location of the Hub and the idea of creative networking. Both of those designs went over well. The team also requested a third option—an illustration of the space that felt futuristic and grand, but didn’t stray too far from the actual look of the space. This proved difficult.
The Freelancers Hub is a beautiful and carefully considered workspace, but it’s no space port. I tried many different approaches, but they either looked too mundane or too extravagant. Things weren’t made simpler by the fact that the campaign was jointly underwritten by the Union, the Made in New York Media Center, and by the City Of New York (through the Mayor’s Office for Media and Entertainment.) There were conference calls and long email threads trying to balance the needs of all parties involved, while still producing work that would catch the eye of a sophisticated audience in one of the most visually saturated environments on the planet.
My original assignment had been creating a campaign of three images. This had been a misunderstanding. The actual brief was to produce three directions. Only one image would be released. Once this became clear, I asked if we could take a step back.
In trying to work out the image of the futuristic space we’d lost sight of the fact that we already had two designs everybody liked. Could we not just pick one of these two, or—better yet—produce them both? Happily, the team agreed. This put the primary focus back on the fact that the new space is located in the heart of Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood and provides a space to network with other freelancers. We’d let the website take care of the rest.
For the first poster, I simply took the existing Freelancers Hub logo and turned it into a giant Google Maps pin that marked the location of the Hub. For the second piece, I created a stylized silhouette of the Hub’s 30 John Street adress with its view of the both the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, and put a floating network in the middle of the street. Problem solved!
The camapign posters would run on phone booths and bus shelters, but the posters would also be displayed on Link NYC panels throughout the city. My brief for these panels was simply to reformat both pieces into 1080 x 1920 pixel JPG files, but as I looked over the spec sheet I noticed that we could submit 15 second videos instead. Who could resist? Off I went to make the already kinetic compositions actually move. You can see the result in the videos at the top of the page.
In the end, the work turned out looking great! It was a pleasure to work with the Freelancers Union team, the Media Center, and the Mayor’s Office to bring this campaign to life. It was an honor to see my work in the streets of New York once again, and on the New York City subway for the first time!