Four years ago, AIGA had asked that every local chapter have a designer create a “get out the vote” poster (a tradition they will continue this year as well), and the AIGA Nebraska Board was deciding who would be a good firm or individual to choose when the worst decision possible came up… why not have a committee do it?

The people at the meeting, myself included, didn’t want to pass on this opportunity, and five board members agreed to work together: Nate Voss, Superstar Designer Drew Davies (registered trademark of Andrew Davies), Tom Nemitz, Heidi Mihelich and myself. We met at the studio of Oxide Design Co. (which Drew owns), and found this to be the hardest creative briefs we had encountered in a while. It was a non-partisan vote poster, no position on any individual race or issue in any campaign. Basically: vote, but nothing more, nothing less. So how do we make this any bit original or exciting?

After a while of just throwing out ideas that seemed to be re-hashing the ideas presented from AIGA’s 2000 collection, or ideas that would in no way fit into the creative brief. Nate got on the computer to try to narrow down the audience a little, and found that males ages 18-24 are the least likely to vote, so suggested we try to focus on them. I said “Voting is Sexy.” Heidi instantly said that that was it. Drew and Nate had a sketch of what they wanted the visual to be like in minutes, and the meeting was over. By the next day I had photographer Geoff Johnson volunteer to take the image for us for the same fee we were all getting, that of the pro-bono nature.

Our first choice of leg model was called, but had hurt her ankle in a basketball game the weekend before and was in a cast. She told us who to call next, and it was set.

I met Geoff at Malone and Co. Photography for the shoot. He had arranged to borrow an actual voting booth from the county, and was showing me the tile he had bough the day before. We told him we wanted the shoot to look like it was taken in a bingo hall, or a church basement, and he went to the hardware store to get 2 boxes of tile. Ends up, when someone at The Home Depot or Lowe’s asks if they can help, and you say you want to buy the cheapest looking tile they have, they give you a blank stare, and act like they only have superb tiles in stock. Once Geoff explained what he was using it for, they knew exactly what box to sell him. The model showed up, and after four hours, 200+ photos, different shoe options and curtains, various lighting, and everything else that goes into a full shoot, the committee settled on what ended up being labeled image number 1.

We met one more time to decide on layout, and three of us brought ideas, mine was selected. Geoff had Kate Heller make the changes we requested on the image, as well as work with the color, and we were done.


(photo of poster also taken by Geoff Johnson)

After it launched on the AIGA site for anyone to download, print, and hang in a full quality resolution, where it still resides, and printed copies were distributed with the other chapters’ selections nationwide. We were all happy that a committee of five designers could do something we would be happy with, that would win a couple of awards, and I thought the story on this project was over. Two chapters remained.

The first, was that STEP Inside Design wanted to run it with two other samples on an article about the project, the first time I had heard of it since the magazine was renamed and branded, and the first time I had my work published in a design magazine.

Then, when Nate and I were still hosting the Be A Design Cast, our traffic went way up for a day, and I had no idea why, so I started seeing if I could find a link from another site to explain it. When I came up empty, I started searching our names when I saw something strange.


This poster looked like our image, it was our image, but the text was in Albanian. It was plastered all over Albania. I couldn’t even find an online translator that would change Albanian to English in anything more than one word at a time, but somewhere on the forum, a reader had found the award we won on the AIGA Nebraska website and posted the credits to the original image there (hence my name pulling up this page in Google). I was kind of flattered, the rest of the team thought it was kind of cool, but also had that feeling you get when you know you were just ripped off. Our leg model sent out emails to friends letting them know she was now an “International Model”, but when I told Geoff… you don’t steal an image from a photographer, that is not cool.

Geoff spent the last four months emailing people in Albania, and dealing with the company that ended up using the image. As of last week, he reached a settlement. For images of the actual check he got, and to read his thoughts on the theft, read his blog. And don’t forget to vote this year, no matter who it is for.

Update (10/29/08): Brainstorming meetings with multiple people talking at the same time are always slightly difficult to re-tell accurately a couple years after the fact. I was recently reminded that after Heidi mentioned that the “Voting is Sexy” was it, she also stood up and demonstrated how legs would appear from beneath a curtain, the description Drew and Nate based their sketch off of.