About Creativity and Hope

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May 11, 2009

We are well midway into spring. The past several weeks for me have been marked by encounters and events that brought home, and together, in more than one instance, the elusive meaning of words such as “creativity” and “hope” – which can otherwise pepper language and conversation in pretty banal ways.

(photo courtesy Peggy Brisbane, CMU Photographer)

(photo courtesy Peggy Brisbane, CMU Photographer)

At the University of Central Michigan, I was thrilled to spend time with a terrific group of graphic design students from the BFA graduating class of David Stairs (check out his always deeply engaging Design Altruism Project.) Invited as the outside evaluator of their capstone exhibition project, I got a first hand look at the research they led to produce a fresh identity and a series of campaign materials for Central Michigan’s GEAR UP program which provides funding and training to underserved populations of high school youth to access a college education. It was special to witness how this social impact project brought the students together as a creative team – a bit despite themselves – and it is exciting now to hear from David that a good portion of the work will be implemented.

In Queretaro, central Mexico, I got to stand in front of a thousand communication design students from all over the country who rallied in the city’s main auditorium for an educational conference now in its 12th year organized by the graphic design studio of Eduardo Espinoza and his team Tipos Libres. While sharing highlights of some of the Designmatters projects in the past couple of years, the title of the gathering kept echoing in my head – Dejando Huella(”Leaving Your Footprint”) – and I was reminded that it feels good indeed to dwell for a moment on that concept, and ask yourself whether your creative process is getting you there, to a place where you are making a dent, with awareness and integrity.

Driving to Queretaro allowed me to indulge in documenting some of the modest brick and concrete one-story buildings that populate the sprawling urban landscape that extends beyond DF. The reinforced metal rods that stick from the rooftops of these structures stress their unfinshed quality. A couple of years ago, when I first inquired about them, a Mexican friend explained that they are called “cirillios de la esperanza” (which roughly translates into “matches of hope”). “Many locals may run out of money after they build the first story of their home,” she said. “The rods are left out there, to signal future construction, but mostly they also stand as a reminder, and hope, that a more prosperous day will come [to build a second floor].”

Metal rods pointing up to an open sky: a humbling image that conjures up the creative and bright side of the human spirit. A sensibility that I trust is at work in each of our Designmatters Projects.