PARTNERS, CIVILIZATION, SEATTLE WA
Civilization was built on a collaborative foundation of three, and over the years has grown into a small, passionate team of nine, that specializes in building identity systems, digital experiences, printed materials, environmental graphics, exhibitions and campaigns. We work with partners committed to creating positive change in the service of building community, promoting social change, and advancing culture.
Our practice is a recipient of the National Design Award for Communication Design from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in honor of “excellence, innovation, and enhancement on the quality of daily life.” Our work is included in the permanent collection of SFMOMA and the Milton Glaser Design Archives at SVA and has won numerous awards including a Webby Award for Best Activist Website.
Building and fostering community is an integral part of our mission. We regularly produce a series of public programs that celebrate the diverse history of design, which both inform our practice and inspires our work. Our design lecture, our gallery, our interviews bring together local and global design communities to explore our shared beliefs, stimulate conversation, and discover solutions that strengthen the community and help affect change. We have been fortunate to work with organizations such as the National Head Start Association, The Nature Conservancy, Shout Your Abortion, The Museum of History & Industry, SFMoMA, and The Biennale of Sydney.
HOW AND WHY DID YOU COME TO USE DESIGN TO ADVANCE SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE AND/OR SUSTAINABLE PROJECTS, CLIENTS AND CAUSES?
The ability to communicate and connect in such a simple and dynamic way is one of the elements that makes visual design such a powerful tool. Before we started Civilization, we bonded over the designers who inspired us, and most all used design as a platform for radical social change — M&Co., Pushpin Studios, Sister Corita Kent, Ken Garland, Gran Fury. Throughout history, there are countless examples of people using the power of visual communication as a catalyst to build community, to start movements, to inspire action. We recognize that while design alone isn’t the answer, it can help amplify a message and reframe a conversation.
ARE THERE ANY SPECIAL CHALLENGES, OPPORTUNITIES, URGENCIES IN 2018?
The current state of affairs in the world is overwhelming, there are no shortage of challenges. Here are a few projects we recently have been or are currently involved with which address these challenges:
In response to the drug epidemic in the U.S., we worked with drug and addiction experts to build a platform called Drugs Over Dinner that encourages visitors to gather family and friends around the table to engage in a compassionate conversation around drugs and addiction.
Women’s reproductive rights are under attack. To help take the conversation back we teamed up with Shout Your Abortion to build a digital platform where people can share their personal stories without shame. The platform received last year’s Webby Award for Best Activist Site.
America is the world’s largest jailer, bail has criminalized poverty, African Americans are criminalized at a rate of five times that of whites – the justice system is in need of radical reform. We are currently working with JustLeadershipUSA, a NYC-based non-profit, dedicated to cutting the US correctional population in half by 2030.
The climate is warming at an unsustainable rate, natural disasters are more intense and frequent, and people feel understandably powerless. The Nature Conservancy is working on a global scale to take meaningful climate action, conserving our lands and waters, defending nature through policy, working with corporations and communities to think sustainably. We recently launched a Washington-based campaign called Every1 to encourage people to take incremental actions in their daily lives.
In response to Trump’s inhumane zero tolerance policy we designed protest posters to encourage more people to call for an end to family detentions. These posters were screen printed and available for free at our gallery or free to download on our site.
SHOWN ARE CIVILIZATION PARTNERS, LEFT TO RIGHT: COREY GUTCH, CO-FOUNDER & PRINCIPAL; MICHAEL ELLSWORTH, CO-FOUNDER & PRINCIPAL; AND GABRIEL STROMBERG, CO-FOUNDER & CREATIVE DIRECTOR. PHOTO: ANNETTE CHEUNG AND SUMMER‑LEE SCHOENFELD