Jess Wickstrom and her husband Andy are traveling the United States in their “DesignEgg”, providing crowd-funded creative design work to non-profits and small businesses in need. They’ve minimized their living space into a Scamp trailer, while maximizing an infinite backyard.
Learn more about DesignEgg and its mission. Interview with Jess after jump.
All photos above and below (C) 2015 Andy Wickstrom
Tell me about DesignEgg. What motivated you to donate your time and energy to provide design for others’ projects?
DesignEgg was founded in summer 2014 as an aspiring nonprofit design firm on wheels. While living our dream of traveling the county and visiting world-class climbing destinations, my husband Andy and I are providing over $25,000 worth of in-kind creative services to artists, non-profit organizations, and entrepreneurs in need. The one-year pilot program was funded with Kickstarter. The amount raised covers travel and administrative costs—Andy and I donate the design and photography work on behalf of our freelance business, Wickstrom Design. Award recipients applied online and were selected by an outside committee based on the excellence of their project, the degree to which their work helps others, and financial need.
After eleven years spent living and working full-time in Chicago—Andy as a graphic designer and me as designer, curator, and administrator—we started to crave change. We weren’t wholly unhappy, but we felt like our day-to-day was becoming too predictable, too safe, and lacked the element of risk that has potential to help one grow. The DesignEgg project was motived by a desire to have an adventure with purpose—to see the country, climb as much as possible, and help others. By extension, we hoped to diversify our portfolio and connect with new clients in an effort to establish our own non-profit organization.
Why do you think people are drawn to the concept of “community-funded design?”
In talking to people about our model and raising funds for the project, I found them receptive to the premise that: (1) good design can impact the success of any great cause, and (2) organizations on tight budgets often lack funds for hiring professional designers. We sought to bring these two factors together in a project that rewarded the best ideas with free design. I think our backers were interested in the concept that their donation would both support the work of socially-conscious designers and help a variety of people in need of creative services.
Crowd-sourced (or “community-funded”) projects are exciting—people like becoming part of a story, part of an initiative. The community behind DesignEgg enjoys following our travels as well as seeing their contributions being put to work for deserving clients.
You’re doing the creative work out of a Scamp trailer. How have your clients shaped your travel in your four months on the road thus far?
In the first few months on the road (August-November), we spent most of our time creating the DesignEgg website, establishing the application process, and generating interest among potential candidates. From Wisconsin to California we left a trail of stickers and postcards and used every opportunity to spread the word about the November 1 deadline to apply. Our committee reviewed and voted on submissions and seventeen were chosen to become a part of the inaugural class of DesignEgg Creative Service Award recipients (learn more about them at www.designegg.org/awards). They are a diverse group of individuals and organizations from ten cities across the nation who are making substantial contributions in the areas of: animal rights, education, environmentalism, health & wellness, humanitarian relief, theater, social services, sustainability, and visual arts.
During the next 6 months (January – June) we will be executing the projects. Some will take us on-location to places like Joshua Tree National Park, CA; Portland, OR; Columbia, MO; Chicago, IL; and Bozeman, MT. Other projects will be done remotely from locations of our choosing (climbing destinations, cities, national parks, etc.).
How do you think appealing graphic design and photography help non-profits spread their message?
Solid design and photography lends critical support to non-profits. Whether it is clear messaging to constituents or documentation for funders, design that is thoughtful and compelling sends a message of confidence and proficiency. This is important for any business but especially those who rely on volunteer donations and community support.
Has travel spurned your creativity?
Waking up in a new location weekly, sometimes daily, can be a jarring experience. But when you’re doing creative work, new surroundings elicit inspiration. I’m influenced by the immense beauty found in nature, as well random urban discoveries (signage, architecture, food, music, people…). Additionally, my creativity is fueled by a cycle of physical exertion followed by time devoted to work. Since we began our travels in August, I have found nothing more productive than a great day of climbing followed by a long evening at the computer.