Most of the Boston Cyclists Union’s volunteers are highly visible all summer fixing thousands of bikes, handing out helmets, and getting people involved in community planning processes all over the city, but there are a few you never see who happen to be responsible for how it all looks. They are the creative types who design the Union’s visual identity; from the logo to the website, to brochures, t-shirts, stickers and more. For the curious, here’s a bit about these unsung heroes.
The Union’s brand is anchored by its logo, which was created by Lauren Hewitt, a graduate of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University, in 2010.
“Even though I was busy with graduate school and other design projects at the time, I was excited to lend my talents in any way that I could,” Hewitt said. “I started out with about eight sketches and refined three into prospective logo choices. Pete [Stidman, back when he was just another volunteer himself] shared those three designs with Union members, and they chose the rough design of the current logo. Pete suggested that the logo evoke union patches from the 1920s. I found one from an electrician’s union that displayed a spread-wing eagle across a circle, which I thought could be easily replaced by a bicycle. It was important to Pete that the logo also expressed Boston’s political history, which led to the inclusion of the stars and stripes, with 13 stars to signify the 13 colonies. We then polished it further to make it clean, crisp and contemporary, so that it would appeal to a large audience.”
The Union’s design needs have only grown since the creation of the logo, according to Dana Busch, a freelance designer and currently the acting chair of the Communications Committee.
“I got interested in volunteering with the Boston Cyclists Union in the summer of 2010,” said Busch. “Back then, Pete didn’t have a dedicated design volunteer to help with any of the materials. All we had was the logo designed by Lauren. We’ve been establishing a visual style guide for all the Union materials, and with each project it evolves a little bit. Since I usually spend so much time designing things for the web, my favorite part [of volunteering] is seeing something I’ve designed out in the real world.”
Busch has done the lion’s share of the Union’s design work, and is always on the look out for new designers to help the cause. She put together the Union’s fancy blue T-shirts, the big blue canopy tent for Bike to Market, and several flyers and posters, such as the one for last year’s annual meeting with illustrations from artist Fish McGill.
“One key part of Bike to Market is the series of maps we created,” said Busch. ”Folks in Boston’s neighborhoods where there aren’t bike shops can get their bike fixed, and any passers-by can also give input on our maps, to tell us where they want to see bike lanes, where traffic calming needs to happen, etc. This input is a huge help in guiding the Union’s advocacy. The map part of the project took a lot of tedious work in Illustrator, to make the raw maps easy to draw on and easy to identify types of buildings. Matt Moore illustrated the stickers that people can put on the map, and he was a total wizard at re-working the map files.”
The list of artists volunteering continues to grow, and includes new edition Bekka, of Bikeyface fame. (If you don’t know it, check it out at bikeyface.com!)
“Last year I wanted to volunteer for a bike non-profit but didn’t see myself doing something like bike valet or manning an info booth,” said Bekka. “I wanted to do something more creative. However, I didn’t know that there were any opportunities to do that. So that’s when I started bikeyface.com. Then the Boston Cyclists Union contacted me through the blog and now I’m partnering with them on some projects.”
If you receive the Union’s e-mail newsletter The Union Rider, you have already seen her whimsical comics, and should expect to see Bikeyface’s work in a new educational project sometime in the next year or so.
Illustrators such as Sarah Gay and Fish McGill have also contributed their time, turning out drawings for the Annual Meeting program and the Join the Union cards that are just beginning to hit the streets now. Photographers like Josh Campbell and Frank Curran have helped document Union work and celebrations, and sound designer Billy Wrasnik and videographer Matt Relstab have been hard at work creating videos, such as one extolling the virtues of the at-grade option on Casey Overpass late last year, and an upcoming video supporting the state’s application for a TIGER IV grant to fund the completion of the Neponset Greenway.
“We have been totally blessed by the contributions of some incredible artists over the past two years,” said Stidman, now the Union’s executive director. “When people see good design, they want to see what it’s all about, so I truly believe these volunteers in particular have helped grow the Union in myriad ways that we don’t have a way to quantify. All this design work is important to moving our work forward. We have a lot of projects in the pipeline.”
“In 2012 we’re going to be spending some time overhauling the website, which will take some time, so we really need more hands to help with all the other projects,” adds Busch. “The other Union volunteers are really friendly and passionate. I will continue working with the Union to guide our visual direction, and I’m looking forward to collaborating with more creatives to help it evolve.”
More Union design projects can be seen on our tumblr site. Anyone interested in volunteering their artistic abilities to help promote bicycling in Boston can email firstname.lastname@example.org, call the Union at 617-620-1989 or fill out our volunteer survey to tell us how you’d like to be involved.