Citizen Project: Collaboration, Freedom, Purpose
Note: You can find additional information about this project on: Facebook, Rapid Growth and purchase them on mmm good art.
The Citizen Project is a collaborative of four creatives in Grand Rapids, Michigan—designers Jody Williams, Brian Edlefson and type designer Terrance Weinzierl, and illustrator and designer Michael Nÿkamp. Formed by Williams, the collective was established with the intent of collaborating on side projects with a purpose: to raise awareness of the amazing talent in Grand Rapids.
“As independent creatives, corporate projects tend to keep us isolated. We wanted to find ways to collaborate with our friends and peers. The Citizens Project lets us choose a common cause and theme, then produce our own visual interpretation of it. We hope to collaborate on at least one new project every year and bring other artists with other skills and interests to our effort.” —Jody Williams, Designer.
Williams added that the goal of the collaboration allows the friends and artists to work on a personal project with a common theme. “We set our owngoals and guidelines and we choose a project that interests all of us. This allows us to work together on a single project that means something to all of us.”
“We would meet up once or twice a month to discuss concepts and how to fund the project,” Michael Nÿkamp recalls. They devised this year’s theme commemorating the 200-year anniversary of Francis Scott Key’s writing of the Star Spangled Banner. Each artist will designeda limited-edition poster that will be silkscreen-printed by Continental ID. “We all created an inspired poster featuring our interpretation of the American Flag,” Nÿkamp added.
Color Wave by Jody Williasm. Printed on Smart White from French Paper Company.
Thirteen Stripes, Fifty Stars by Michael Nÿkamp. Printed on Neenah’s Classic Crest® Cover Avon Patriot Blue.
Citizen Project used Kickstarter to help fund paper and printing costs, with print runs limited to 250 of each poster. Donors receive a set of four signed and numbered posters. Chuck Oleniczak at Central Michigan Paper helped the artist choose a sheet that would work best for each design. Nÿkamp’s poster is printed on Neenah’s Classic Crest® Cover Avon Patriot Blue. Brilliant choice!
“Thirteen Stripes, Fifty Stars, was created by deconstructing the flag elements and rebuilding its form while maintaining the flag’s inherent characteristics. Some people see a building in a night sky, some see Morse code, and others see a waterfall, but I leave the interpretation of my piece to the viewer – to create their own meaning and make it their own.” —Michael Nÿkamp, Designer.
Canton by Terrance Weinzierl. Printed on Smart White from French Paper Company.
Weinzierl, of course, employed typography for his poster design, while the others used more literal forms of the flag in their interpretations with varying results. Three of the four posters were shown in a Star Spangled Banner 200th anniversary exhibit in Baltimore, Md., with Nÿkamp’s design receiving an Award of Excellence.
“A future goal is to work on a project that either generates income for a cause and/or serves a non-profit or other needy institution with our respective skill sets,” says Williams. “The original intention of this year’s project was to exceed the printing costs of the poster run and donate proceeds to a veteran’s organization. Kickstarter, ultimately did not allow that to be part of the funding parameters. As we move forward, we may choose another source to fund the project, which will allow more flexibility.”
American Portrait by Brian Edlefson's , printed on Brilliance, Super Reflector Film from Decorated Paper. Please note: the American Flag is a reflective – this image shows a resemblance of what a user would see when looking in.
The Citizen Project hopes to broaden its pool of collaborators. The core group of four wants to draw in artists with different talents to collaborate on future projects. “The side effect of this process has been that we created new personal and working relationships with each other and had an amazingly fun time doing so,” says Nÿkamp.
Collaboration. Freedom. Purpose. New friendships. That is a what we’d call a Star Spangled success.
Note: This article was originally published on Neenah Paper's blog, Against The Grain in December of 2014.
This article was written by Emily Potts has been an editor and writer working in the graphic design publishing trade for more than 20 years. In that time she’s managed a slew of publications, people, and events. Since July 2014, she has been an independent writer, editor, and consultant working for a diverse range of clients including Neenah Paper, Creative Live, AIGA, Goodtype, Elements, and more. Emily loves interviewing people and telling their stories.
The Face Behind The Faces
Note: This article was originally published on October 2014 by CanUX which provided background to its audience about myself and the process creating the speaker avatars.
Michael is an designer and illustrator born and raised in Ontario Canada, his only complaint (politely filed, of course) is that there are never enough pencils in the office.
The product of a tiny hamlet in Southern Ontario, called Nelles Corners, Michael is Dutch by blood but as Canadian as they come. One of seven children, Michael spent his days frolicking through the wide open spaces of the family farm. That’s right, Michael was not only one of seven, he frolicked; deal with it. When he wasn’t out and about in nature, he could usually be found holed up in the house watching his favorite shows “The Friendly Giant” and “Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings.”
Michael loved to draw and create from a very young age and couldn’t understand why something artistic wasn’t incorporated into every class in school. He just knew math and science would be so much better with a little drawing or painting mixed in. He carried this certainty and love through grade school and high school and settled into Illustration, and New Media Design at Sheridan College.
After working in Toronto for several years, Michael met a beautiful Michigander and left his homeland for West Michigan. He worked at several design firms in Grand Rapids before going out on his own, “I was exhausted from trying to play the political game and do the design work” Nÿkamp says.
Michael has combined his experience, direction, design, and illustration to create mkn design. Michael regularly works with companies of all shapes and sizes, be they profit or non-profit, e.g., Herman Miller, Steelcase, Thesis:, and Hospice of Michigan. His design and illustration work has been recognized and awarded by Communication Arts and he was recently a finalist for his interpretation of the American Flag on behalf of The University of Baltimore, AIGA Baltimore and AIGA Blue Ridge.
Perhaps because of his Canadian roots or his general pleasantness, Michael is genuinely excited about being a part of his community and creating spaces for other designers and illustrators to connect. He’s a member of the AIGA and IxDA. And as if that isn’t enough camaraderie, Michael is also a member of Citizen Project and a founder of The Illustration League. When he’s not helping with one of these organizations, you might find him volunteering at or attending an event like Design for Good or Midwest UX. Michael is either the world’s most giving individual or too Canadian to say “no” to anyone. He’s not sure which either.
Process and Projects
Michael was always drawn to detailed organization and the idea of simplification; “All the blue legos went in one place and the red in another,” Nÿkamp chuckles, “And I still do that with my sons, Emmett and Landon. Throughout my life and education, mentors and teachers showed me that design was a process of simplification we use to create clear and informed pieces through avenues of distillation.” Nÿkamp began seeking out others who exemplified these design ideals and became influenced by works of Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Alexander Calder, Dieter Rams, and Stefan Dziallas. “These people all strive for simplicity and balance in their work and as I began to recognize and understand that, I began to emulate it in my own illustrations and design,” says Nÿkamp.
Left to right: Pablo Picasso, ‘Bull, plate 1 – 11’; Piet Mondrian, ‘Composition with Red Blue and Yellow’; Stefan Dziallas, iconwerk; Alexandar Calder, ‘Mobile’; Dieter Rams; ‘SK4 Record Player’
“Good designers use this process all the time,” Nÿkamp points out. “Most designers strive to create a solution that is easy and pleasurable. I think about it every time I use my iPhone. The change from iOS6 to iOS 7 and 8 was a real design revolution. The simplicity of it is perfect. Windows 8 utilizes similar principles for their tile interface and it’s pleasant to use. So, whether we’re illustrators or UX designers, I think we’re all trying to recreate a simple, beautiful experience.”
This dedication to balance and simplicity can be seen and felt in Nÿkamp’s Iconified project. “I started creating these iconified faces as a fun, self-initiated project using my friends from Facebook. Looking at profile photos, group shots, and selfies, I had a ton of material to help me create each individual. I find it difficult to illustrate people I don’t know so I tend to like a lot of background info. Whether it’s Einstein or my best friend, I’m trying to distill their essence into one image and that requires seeing them in a lot of different situations. Nobody is just one thing.”
Art board of mkn design’s iconified process of Einstein’s face
The simplicity of his images belie the time and attention Nÿkamp puts into all of his work. As UX designers, you know you’re always striving to use less and accomplish more; Nÿkamp’s images do just that. Using only a few curves, lines, and dots, he distills the tale of each individual into one, single icon. They say less is more. Well, we think we’d like more of Nÿkamp’s particular brand of less.
Some of mkn design’s iconified faces, from left to right: Brandon Satterlee of The Forest; Lotta Nieminen; Mallory Bartz of Mutually Human; Steve Frykholm formerly of Herman Miller
This article was written by Mallory Bartz, a writer, performer, and creator. She has strong likes, dislikes, feelings, and emotions about things; especially things that are important to her; but, don’t worry, she is in no way weird. She currently resides in New York and is a student at the Maggie Flanigan Studio Inc.