Project Retrospective: 2013 Holiday Gift

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Each holiday season, we gift our partners and publishers with something that reflects the work we do and the values we hold. Whether it’s combining our love of data visualization with coffee to create an interactive poster or sharing our hard-earned knowledge through our book, we pour our hearts and souls into choosing and creating these gifts. This year, we sent our partners a unique set of fine art limited-edition letterpress prints inspired by one of our Five Columns: “Be Good to Each Other.”

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The Column Five 2013 gift: A unique three-print series

The Concept

When we began the creative process for this project, we started ruminating on our working relationships, particularly with our partners. We are deeply grateful for our partners; they are the reason we get to do what we love each day. Together, we create beautiful work, learn new things and build lasting relationships. We believe in honoring the relationships that help us succeed, which is why we ascribe to the “Be Good to Each Other” philosophy.

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Each of the Five Columns adorns our office walls, reminding us to practice what we preach.

But being good to each other isn’t always easy. Relationship dynamics can be complicated. In some cases, conflict and frustration occur, while charity and generosity triumph in others. In ideal cases, we work together symbiotically to achieve a greater good. But always at the core is the push and pull, the struggle of compromise, the balance between collaboration and conflict, while striving to be good to each other. This was the complexity that we were eager to explore—thus it became the foundation of our concept: to showcase the evolution of relationships, from enemy, to ally, to symbiotic partner.

Because we are all ultimately animals, we turned to nature for inspiration, searching for examples of animal kingdom relationships that best represent the spectrum of these relationship dynamics. We delved into research, considering well-known animal relationships (like the age-old conflict between dog and cat) and reading about lesser-known and more unusual pairings that seem almost inconceivable. We finally settled on three unique animal relationships:

           ∙Red Fox & Gray Fox
           ∙Lioness & Baby Antelope
           ∙Wolf & Raven

Each of these relationships teaches us a valuable lesson about interacting together.

The Artwork

Once we selected our animal pairs, we searched for the perfect way to present each as a visual metaphor; the yin-yang juxtaposition immediately came to mind. Although it depicts polar opposites—light and dark, good and evil—it symbolizes the interconnectedness and interdependency of two life forces. We knew showcasing our chosen animal pairings within this yin-yang formation was the ideal way to complete the visual metaphor.

We then asked some of our favorite fine artists, David D’Andrea, Erica Williams, and Tim McDonagh, to turn our ideas into beautiful illustrations that would serve as powerful inspiration in our partners’ lives. Each artist was assigned an animal relationship depiction and directed to present the pair in a yin-yang formation to create a cohesive look and keep the focus on the illustrations. (It was auspicious that these three artists, as well as our selected printing company, all use animals in their own logos). The results:

Red Fox & Gray Fox

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Illustration by David D’Andrea

As humans, we often overlook our similarities, focusing instead on our differences—a mindset that serves to stoke and perpetuate conflict, rather than unite. This destructive dynamic mirrors the plight of the Red and Gray foxes, both common in North America. Deforestation has led to a reduction in territory, increasing competition between these animals. Despite the animals’ many similarities and common enemies, they view each other as opponents in a war for food, territory and dominance—a lesson in the benefits of working together, rather than at odds.

Lioness & Baby Antelope

Be_Good_Lioness_AntelopeIllustration by Erica Williams

One of the human species’ most noble traits is our ability to empathize and show compassion—key in building healthy dynamics. Beautiful examples are also evident in the animal world, even among natural-born enemies. Such is the case of a lioness in Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve who famously adopted newborn antelopes, protecting them from other animals and humans and even showing signs of grief upon their death—showing that our nature and interactions are what we make of them.

Wolf & Raven

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Illustration by Tim McDonagh

The strongest human relationships are those that work symbiotically. In the same manner, we admire the unusual partnership between wolf and raven, which has long been recognized in folklore and in modern study. Ravens have been known to travel with wolf packs, and wolves are said to watch for their circling as an indicator of food. They have also been observed sharing meals, as wolves invite the ravens to partake in their kills by opening the carcasses to expose the meat. In this way, working together serves both species’ greatest needs.

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Each gift set included the three prints, a thank you letter and postcards featuring information about the project concept and artist bio. 

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Each print was impressed on environmentally friendly paper made from 100% cotton linters.

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To ensure each print was personalized, Column Five team members hand-signed, titled, and numbered each poster. 

 

Column Five’s chop mark featured a feather, based on our new logo. Birds are social creatures that communicate in a variety of ways, including visually, across great distances. The feather is symbolic of the bird and our own creative endeavors: the wisp of an idea, words written with a feather quill, the journey from conception to execution.

 

Debossed printer and artists’ chop marks.

In total, we produced 650 limited-edition prints. At times, the project’s creation itself tested the “Be Good to Each Other” philosophy, begetting concept disagreements, aesthetic critiques, and printer errors. But, in the end, this year’s gifts serves as a beautiful reminder to work together and, above all, be good to each other.

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