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So far Tom Styrkowicz has created 9 blog entries.

Museum uses photos of over 300 of their guests, created during my ONE by ONE Community Portrait event, to populate an entire branding campaign.

On the 3rd of July I got a call from Mary Beth Smith, Director of Marketing for the Oakland Museum of California. They were throwing a museum wide party to kick off their 50th anniversary, and she wanted me to capture as many portraits of their guests as possible, for use in the accompanying branding campaign. 

Only catch was, the event was NINE DAYS AWAY! No problem. Loaded up all the gear and got on a plane to Oakland a week later!

Big event was setting for my Community Portrait

Big event was setting for my Community Portrait

Working with their design agency, Image Design Works, I tried to explain what they’d get, saying I would provide them “over 300 photos” to use for their branding campaign. Their creative director replied, “Our photographers always give us 300 or more photos.” “No,” I corrected her, “we were going to give her over 300 photos of 300 DIFFERENT PEOPLE!!!’

Later, during the actual photographing she came to me and apologized, and said she had never seen a photographer capture so many great photos of people so quickly.

Photographing over 300 guests in one evening

Photographing over 300 guests in one evening

I shot the photos in color, for their branding campaign, but delivered black and white prints to the subjects, and for the wall.

Photographed both in color and black & white

Photographed both in color and black & white

I came back two months later to do a follow-up Community Portrait and I was amazed by how far reaching the branding campaign was. Street banners, subway posters, website, video, a picture filled brochure. The images seemed to be everywhere, which provided me with quite a fulfilling thrill.

My images EVERYWHERE

My images EVERYWHERE

Here was and organization who found use for the immediate community building results of the photos and the “wall,” but extended their value by asking the subjects if the museum could use their photos for the branding campaign. Everyone wholeheartedly agreed, so the museum ended up with this extensive library of photos that underscored the museum’s mission of being “the museum of the people.” 

Inventing a new way to use photography that utilized my unique ability

A conversation with Kimberly Young about a grant that the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, in Kansas City, received led me to proposing a concept to them.

Photographer Rankin, in London, had just done “1000 Britons” where he took everyday Londoners and made them into fashion models. I wanted to do lots and lots of people like that, but I wanted to capture them just the way they were.

When I suggested this to the museum they wholeheartedly got behind the idea. And so “500 Portraits in 5 Days” was born.

I contacted an old friend, Wilbur Montgomery,  a photographer himself in Indianapolis, and enlisted him to be my technical director. My idea was to take someone’s portrait and almost immediately give them a print. Photo printers were too slow, but Wilbur reminded me of our experiences with office machines, and we realized we could use a color copier for the 8 1/2 x 11 prints. A print in 15 seconds, instead of the 3 minutes an ink jet printer would take.

Signing up at the Nelson

Signing up at the Nelson

I also wanted to display a copy of each print, so I had the museum construct a display wall made of 4×8 sheets of foam-core. It would take 6-4×8 panels, using both sides, to hold the anticipated 500 prints.

Building the wall at the Nelson

Building the wall at the Nelson

We started on a Wednesday, then on Thursday Kansas City experienced a city-shut down blizzard for two day. I had no idea if people would turn out Saturday and Sunday, but the event had acquired quite a buzz, and by the end of Sunday I had photographed 816 people!

Photographing at the Nelson

Photographing at the Nelson

64 of the 816 Nelson portraits

64 of the 816 Nelson portraits

All this had been created in my mind, so I didn’t know if any of it would work. Turns out I discovered that I had an ability to very quickly size up a subject and direct them to an interesting pose. In fact, 80% of the photos I created IN ONE SHOT! The people loved them. And even more…they loved the wall. Seeing themselves, their friends on the wall proved to be the most popular aspect of the whole event.

How did it change  my life?

I created a book about the event, and when I started sending it around I received inquiries from other museums to do similar events with them. I will write about this in coming posts, including the one where I photographed 1246 people over 3 days!

A book, and the start of a new chapter

A book, and the start of a new chapter

Creating a way to present a client 35 different design ideas. Innovation or heresy?

I was asked by Richard Bird, of the package design firm R.Bird, to help them rethink their design process. Since I had never worked in a design firm I only had my own methods.

The firm consisted of 4 designers, a creative director and Richard. Their typical process was for the creative director to assign a new project to one of the designers, and to approve two or three designs to present to the client.

Throughout my career I have switched between being the client and the designer. I knew from being the client that the outside designer rarely could absorb all the shifting needs of the client.

What I created for R.Bird, which they named PROCEDE, was a start to finish series of design exercises that gave them an insight into the client’s product that was broader than even the client’s thinking. 

How did I do that? I had the whole design team work together on the project.

  

Tempur-Pedic in stores

Researching Tempur-Pedic pillows and their competition.

 

First they all went out and researched the product in stores. 

Next we went through an exercise called “expanding the brief.” Everyone brainstormed about who else might use the product. In the case of the Tempur-Pedic client, the brief said the product would be for a 40+ woman with neck problems.

The brainstorming session led to two other areas…following the trend of “wellness.” And because it was the most expensive pillow on the market, treating it as a luxury item.

Tempur-Pedic design process

Tempur-Pedic design process

The design process

I then encouraged the designers to, in one half a day, generate 20-30 designs. GACK! They all responded. We can’t design 20-30 total package designs in half a day. Sorry. My bad. Not total design…just a logo and visual concept. Print them out and stick them on the wall. By the end of the day there were over 70 designs scattered over every wall space in the R.Bird office!

Tempur-Pedic quick design sketches

Tempur-Pedic quick design sketches

How to decide what to show the client? I gave everyone  a Post-It pad and told them to mark any designs that they liked. That ended up being 38 of the designs. 11 x 17 printouts were put into a bound book, but upon looking through that many designs one kept wanting to refer back to previous designs. Stratton Cherouny, one of the designers suggested putting each design on a 5×7 card. Brilliant! Now they could be shuffled and moved around and compared.

How the client reacted

The client was taken aback when presented with 37 choices, but when the individual cards were spread out one of the clients chose one of the cards. Then another of the clients picked a different card and said, “I like your choice, but what if it had more color like this one?” A third client said, “Yes, but what if we added an image like this one?”

Presenting to the Tempur-Pedic client

Presenting to the Tempur-Pedic client

Magic

Tempur-Pedic the final choice was chosen because of the PROCEDE process

Tempur-Pedic final choice came from the PROCEDE process

What was happening was that the client was engaging in the design process! They were reacting to actual possible solutions, including ones they never though of. In the end the design that was chosen was from the “wellness” category” and not the “40+ woman with neck problems.

In opposition to traditional design firm thinking

Most design firms would never dream of presenting clients with 37 different design choices, presuming that they would get confused and choose “the worst design” (hint…don’t show any designs your wouldn’t be proud of!) Because clients, like all of us, are time pressured, they don’t have time to think through all the possibilities of their product. How valuable is a design firm that does that for the client?

Postscript

R.Bird and I used the PROCEDE process for another client, Avon. When they went to present their multitude of choice the client informed them (only then, not before they did all the design work) that the brief had changed. No problem…19 of their 40 designs addressed the new brief with relevant solutions.

To this day R.Bird still uses the Procede process that I developed with them.

By |2022-09-02T12:26:56-05:00July 19, 2022|8th chapter, rethinking creativity, Tom thoughts|

my 10th chapter begins

Here are the chapters:

  1. High school and before
  2. School of the Art Institute
  3. Chicago
  4. New York
  5. Columbus
  6. New Jersey
  7. Upstate New York
  8. Leawood
  9. Leawood after Deborah
  10. Today

There are, of course sub-chapters to all of these. Each one signifies either a change in geography, or profession…or life events.

I won’t be writing chronologically. I will key word the posts so that they can be sorted and grouped.

Tom's old business cardsSome, but not all, of my various business cards through the years.

By |2022-09-02T12:27:35-05:00July 18, 2022|10th chapter, history, Tom thoughts|
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