Being a member of Emma's design team is a pretty great gig. It's even better when we're able to use our design chops to contribute something meaningful to our community. When the right opportunity comes along, we help nonprofits effectively communicate their mission to their target audience — and it feels great to be a part of something so valuable.
Last year at a local design conference, keynote speaker Tasha French wowed us with her passion and devotion to Nashville's street newspaper, The Contributor, which she founded in 2007. Since then, Tasha has worked with a fantastic team, dedicated vendors and the Nashville community to turn The Contributor into the biggest street paper in North America.
Homeless and formerly homeless vendors sell and distribute the paper, which covers various aspects of homelessness and poverty in its monthly issues (although Tasha's hope is to increase publishing frequency soon). Many of the Contributor vendors sustain themselves through this work, and more than 35% have gone from homeless to housed since they became vendors.
After meeting with Tasha to determine the best ways for us to help, the design team began working on a fundraising and awareness campaign to target Nashvillians and tourists alike. Together, we established a consistent aesthetic for the project, and each piece went to a different designer. Here, each one shares details about the work they did.
by Kelly McClain
The main push behind this entire campaign is to encourage supporters to not only buy the paper but to also read and enjoy it, since a lot of great work is put into publishing each issue – and ultimately, its long term success depends on readership.
To that end, we used actual vendors' and readers' comments about their favorites parts of the paper (in their own words – and even in their own handwriting). We also featured beautiful photographs, taken by Tasha, of the people we quoted. This gave the campaign a very personal feel, which we particularly loved for a newspaper that is sold face-to-face, person-to-person.
For the postcard, I made a stamp-like graphic with the simple phrase I read it, and gave it a weathered texture in a stand-out color. We wanted to create a look that was the right balance between clean and professional, but with a print feel (without getting too carried away with the street paper aspect).
Project: Email stationery
by Seth Wood
Collaborating with The Contributor over the past few months has allowed us to peek into the inner workings of the paper and see how it really affects change in the lives of its distributors. It's affirmed the good that The Contributor is doing for our community, and I hope my piece of the project serves as a meaningful contribution to their campaign.
I was tasked with creating their new email stationery, which is fairly neutral in tone — its colors and textures are highly reminiscent of what one might see in an actual print publication (e.g. roughed edges and a slightly distressed texture). To keep continuity with the different designs, I repurposed some elements from other pieces of the campaign, such as a stylized version of The Contributor's logo, parts of the footer and the image of a vendor.
by Lauren Johnston
I am thrilled that we had the opportunity to work with The Contributor. As a team, we decided on a lot of the design concepts before we got started individually. For example, we agreed on font styles and a color scheme and then delegated the specific projects. I love that all the pieces are cohesive, but each one is unique to its designer's style.
I created the poster, which was the perfect assignment for me. I crafted a vintage, collage sort of feel, and paired it with solid type treatments and plenty of white space to keep things easy on the eye.
The poster has a subtle newspaper background texture, and an actual vendor is highlighted on the front. In the top right portion, printed in the vendor's own handwriting, it reads, "I read the Contributor about the issues that happen around us." I cannot wait to see the whole campaign up around Nashville.
by Elizabeth Williams
I had the pleasure of working on the billboard design for The Contributor's "I Read It" campaign. It was quite exciting for me as I'd never had the chance to design anything over five feet. It was a challenge, too, because its message had to be slightly different from the other pieces in the campaign.
According to conventional wisdom, a successful billboard consists of seven words or less, as people only have about 10 seconds to absorb your message — not an easy task. Because of that, we decided to change the message to a question: Do you read it? We really want viewers to ask themselves that question. Hopefully, they'll think about about why they buy The Contributor and what value they place on it, and it may intrigue non-readers enough to pick up a copy next time they see a vendor.
Once we settled on the message, it was a matter of perfecting the typography — making sure it was legible, well-designed and consistent with the other campaign pieces. Along with the typography, I used one of Tasha's photographs of Dunn, a Nashville vendor, who just happens to look as if he's waving to the people passing by the billboard. Plus, he has such a genuine smile that his photo was really the ideal choice for the billboard design.
It was such a meaningful experience to work on a project that is making a difference in the lives of so many. When you care about a cause and your professional skills can help lift it up, it becomes your responsibility to do your part. We were fortunate to be able to take on this partnership with the folks at The Contributor, who so graciously trusted us with delivering their message.
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We enjoyed working together to create a campaign that The Contributor will use to spread awareness throughout Nashville and surrounding areas. And we hope you've learned a bit about our design team's process and enthusiasm for this project. We'd love to hear about other nonprofits that are making a difference in your community.
Do you love The Contributor as much as we do? Support it here.