Maya Kopytman

GREEN19-MAYA-KOPYTMAN

C&G PARTNERS
NEW YORK NY

I’m a Partner at C&G Partners specializing in branding, interactive technologies, and websites, with a career-long passion for socially responsible design.

Born in the Ukraine, I immigrated to Israel at the age of 10 before coming to the US in 1991. Along the way, I earned a B. Des from Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem and an MFA from Pratt Institute, where I was a visiting instructor in the Department of Digital Arts. In my spare time (ha!), I sing in a choir and serve as an executive member of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.

I focus on interfaces for interactive media, from software to location-based applications and websites, alongside my first, true love for print. I thrive when my work requires reading and learning — this is what keeps me going. The work I’m most proud of is for nonprofits and cultural institutions dedicated to positive change, including foundations (Helmsley Charitable Trust, Low Income Investment Fund, The Kress Foundation), cultural institutions (US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture) and universities (The Rockefeller University, Columbia University, NYU).

C&G Partners has been a great fit with my design passion, as we are a multi-specialty creative studio dedicated to design for culture — from cultural organizations to organizational culture. We believe that culture is our most valuable asset, from the culture of the workplace to the culture of the arts. Because culture is intangible, existing as a set of created stories shared by a group, the creation of these stories is the creation of real value and, ultimately, the designing of culture itself.

HOW AND WHY DID YOU COME TO USE DESIGN TO ADVANCE SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE AND/OR SUSTAINABLE PROJECTS, CLIENTS AND CAUSES?

My love for cultural projects comes from a deep fascination with history and with the way design simplifies and uncovers hidden connections between past and present, and makes history vivid and relevant.

In my MFA thesis at Pratt I designed an interactive module about the history of writing, charting the route of the letter “A” from cave drawings to modern alphabets, and discovering hidden connections between cultures. My design brought to the surface what was hidden in plain sight in the scholarly texts ingested during my research.

The project helped me land a job as an art director of interactive exhibits for the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, devoted to the Native American tribe that suffered a terrible massacre and was dispersed among other nations for centuries until reclaiming their land following federal recognition. The immersion in meaningful and poignant content about people could not beat any other topic on my end, even if I had to exercise some visual restraint in my work.

Historical projects kept clinging to me — from an interactive exhibit telling the story of collaboration and complicity during the Holocaust for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the stories of 13 young adults coming of age during the Holocaust for the Museum of Jewish Heritage, to a multi-platform virtual calendar depicting the evolution of the events that lead to Kristallnacht in 1938 for the Leo Baeck Institute. Working with this topic has been quite emotional, as both my parents managed to escape the Nazi regime in Europe but lost family members in the Holocaust.

My latest project, “People Not Property” for Historic Hudson Valley, depicts the stories of enslaved people on the largest plantation in the Colonial North. Since we knew very little about these individuals, we had to resort to a variety of storytelling techniques to portray their lives, their hopes and despair.

Working with history helps me uncover and reinforce the relevance of universal themes that are resonant in today’s reality — those of oppression, racism, betrayal, resilience and hope.

DOES 2019 PRESENT ANY SPECIAL CHALLENGES, OPPORTUNITIES, URGENCIES, OBSTACLES IN DEVELOPING GOOD AND/OR SUSTAINABLE DESIGN?

Historians will tell you that history should teach us how to make more informed choices, to become better citizens, and to prevent injustice. As we observe the current changes in the political environment across the globe many feel a creepy sense of déjà vu, and that the lessons we thought we learned in the 20th century were not quite internalized.

Social media, with its ability to reward and augment outrage, doesn’t always support authenticity, as we often react to things without context or fact-checking. When we invoke the image of a crowd burning books 80 years ago, we must consider the similarities with our digital world where we can shame and destroy the other with the power of our phones. I believe that design has the power to make historical lessons clearer and more impactful in drawing quick analogies and promoting empathy.