Case Study: Brain Boelts

•September 6, 2009 • 11 Comments

Working pro-bono can free your mind and it will make you a better person and designer, or so they say. When asked to investigate the inner workings of a pro-bono project from conception I found myself asking, why? Why would you undertake a professional-level job without a cash return after you have spent a small fortune, not to mention years of schooling, all in order to get the professional-level job that HAS a cash return? I then started to look at pro-bono as no different then any other client, except for that one part about being free, and began to realize that all the rules and teachings still apply. Any kind of work you will always get something back, even if you do work for free. The process is no different either. There are questions asked. You learn about things you didn’t know before and when the work is done you show the world. Every designer or firm has a different process to their work, so what exactly is that process?

Picture 2Eric Boelts is the Principal and Owner of Brain Bolts, LLC (2001-Present) and was the Principal and Owner of Boelts Bros. Associates (1986-2001). Brain Boelts is a design firm located in Boulder, CO. The scope of work they create runs from logos and complete identity systems to brochures, web sites to booth designs, advertising to posters. The firm’s client’s function in a variety of fields including technology, healthcare, the arts, aviation and government. Eric was kind enough to lend me his time and insight on his process of pro bono work. Over the years Eric has taken on over 70 local and national notfor-profit agencies and companies with their communication needs, assisting groups including The United Way, Travelers Aid Society and Orts Theatre of Dance, averaging three to six a year. When it comes down to picking projects it used to be Eric would help anyone who asked, but over the last decade he has narrowed his focus to those groups with whom he has a personal connection with or whom someone in the family has a connection. Often times pro-bono takes a backseat to profit, because if he doesn’t make any money he can’t help anyone.  By taking on these types of projects Eric is able to have more creative freedom and less client input, something which regular client-based work caters to less. Pro-bono work caters to.

 

One pro-bono project, AIDS PACT poster, was a labor of love for Eric, his brother Jackson and their partner Kerry Stratford whose brother died of AIDS. They wanted to help an underserved group in Tucson, Arizona who had brought Kerry’s brother, Kenny, hot meals, vitamins and helped support him in many ways. The key problem that they were attempting to solve was that there was a lack of awareness for PACT, condom usage and clean needle use among high-risk populations. The posters were intended to serve the general population of donors and for IV drug users and gay males. They were given the task of address and solving these problems via a poster campaign, something which required an oblique angle, South by Southwest approach.

The first step that Eric takes in any project is research. Initially they spent about ten hours of research time, involving face to face interviews and hard copy reading. After a series of meetings with PACT and considerable research they hit the sketchbooks, which Eric feels usually offer pretty comprehensive roadmaps for the finals. They all sat down and shared a sketch pad between the three of them, passing it around until they had arrived at the concepts for two posters, the approach and the copy. From there they went about creating the artwork and soliciting printing and finally working with the AIDS group to facilitate the sales of the posters.

Picture 3After the completion of the project the posters were distributed through PACT at fundraising dinners, at the University of Arizona and through other AIDS groups. With client adoration the entire campaign was well received by the at risk population, while shocking some donor-types. The entire campaign was well received by the at risk populations, shocking to some donor-types and client loved them. Once a project is complete Eric generally lets follow-ups take care of themselves, unless there is a need to meet. When asked about the measurement of success Eric responded with, “by how well the creative works for the group and how much fun I had making it.”

At the end of the interview about the AIDS posters I told Eric a quote by Marty Neumeier that says “Design is about getting the right idea, and getting the idea right?” and I then asked him, “So, did you get it right?” and he leaves me with a simple, one word response. Yes.

Assignment Specs.

•September 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The Practice of Design Jason C. Otero, Lecturer

Digital Design jason.otero@ucdenver.edu

Project #1: Pro Bono Case Study


Find a pro-bono project that a design firm has created and create a Case Study

modeled after the format of the AIGA site (http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/casestudy-

rebranding-martha-stewart). You will need to identify specific steps in the

design process to profile and will be researching, documenting and writing your

findings in a format that best communicates what you have found.

What you will want to talk about is the process of the design, how the design firm

went about creating the project, their motivation, concept and it’s ultimate

effectiveness. Do not simply describe the final project as it was delivered, describe

the process involved in it’s creation.

You will need to contact the designers and the design firm to complete this assignment.

When you call, be prepared with a knowledge of the firm and of the project

you are investigating so that your comments will be informed. You many need to

contact several firms if you are unable to find somebody to talk to about the project,

so initially you will want to identify 3 or 4 projects to consider profiling.

GOALS

By examining a pro bono project you will be learning the process behind the

creation of what is usually one of the most innovative projects created by a studio.

You will also be learning how to approach a design firm and how to do preliminary

research prior to a “cold call”. You will also be documenting research online, linking

to other blogs and research material, thus joining a larger discussion on a specific

topic.


DUE DATES

Final Research Post Due:

Saturday, Sep. 5 @ midnight (to allow time for comments by next class)

Comments Due:

3 PM, Sep. 7

Critique:

Sep. 7

Interview Pt. 2

•September 1, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Picture 3Picture 2

This part of the interview was specific to the AIDS PACT posters that were done in 1994 by Eric.

What was the problem you were trying to solve in the AIDS posters?

A lack of general awareness for PACT and a lack of condom and clean needle use among high-risk populations

For whom were these posters intended for? What were attempting to achieve?

Posters intended for the general population of donors and for IV drug users and gay males. We were attempting to achieve a decrease in the use of unclean needles, an increase in the use of condoms and an increase in awareness for PACT in general so that when they came asking for donations it wouldn’t be the first contact with potential donors.

How did you approach this project?

From an oblique angle, South by Southwest

How much research was done prior, as well as throughout the duration of the project? What kind of research?

We spent about 10 hours of research time. Face to face interviews, hard copy reading etc. .

Were you given full creative control over the project or did the client take a shared role in that?

We had control

Did you envision what they would look like in the end?

Yes. Sketches are usually pretty comprehensive roadmaps for the finals

When did you know that the posters were going to look like? Was there a moment where you just knew… that this is it?

At the sketch stage after my brother and I traded tracing pads

There is this quote by Marty Neumeier that says “Design is about getting the right idea, and getting the idea right.” Did you get it right?

Yes

Where were these posters distributed? Were they well received? Was feedback given from client?

Posters were distributed through PACT. At fundraiser dinners. At the University of Arizona and through other AIDS groups. They were well received by the at risk populations. They were shocking to some donor-types. Client loved them.

Interview Pt. 1

•August 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

For whom have you done pro bono work for?

Over 70 local and national notfor-profit agencies and companies with their communication needs. Assisted groups include The United Way, Travelers Aid Society and Orts Theatre of Dance.

How many pro-bono projects have you done?
See Above

How many do you do on average every year?

3-6

When it comes to pro bono work what is your motivation? What gives you inspiration?

It use to be I would help anyone who asked. But in the past 10 years I have narrowed my focus to those groups with whom I have a connection or with whom someone in my family has a connection.

Do you go to them or do they come to you?

After an initial face to face I attempt to minimize expenses like travel through phone, email etc.

How does your pro-bono work fit into your normal workflow?

Pro bono has to take a backseat to profit. If I don’t make money I can’t help anyone. Which usually means nights and weekends.

Does your process change from pro-bono work and regular work? If so, how?

Yes and no. Yes – I demand more creative freedom in exchange for not charging someone. If they want to have massive input they can pay. No – I don’t just give them 1-solution to a problem and walk away. They get nearly the same quality of design as a paying client

What is the level of interaction with your pro-bono clients in terms of creative input? Are you able to “run free” with it?

Most of the time people are good with understanding that after the first meeting and if they want to inject more input than I’m willing to accept then we shake hands and part. Every once in a while one will slip through and cause a fuss but most are good with the results. Certainly with the price.

Out of all the pro bono projects you have done could you pick one and kind of describe the process involved in it’s creation?

(If possible, can I have copies of sketches, images, etc. of the specific pro bono project that can be accompanied with this interview. Anything you can provide would be well appreciated)

AIDS Posters – These were a labor of love for Me, my brother Jackson and our partner Kerry Stratford whose brother died of AIDS. We wanted to help an underserved group in Tucson who had brought Kerry’s brother Kenny hot meals, vitamins and helped support him in many ways. So we created the posters after a series of meetings with them, and after doing considerable research on the causes of  AIDS. Then we shared a sketch pad between the three of us, passing it around until we had arrived at the concepts for the two posters, the approach and the copy. Then we went about creating the artwork and soliciting printing an finally working with the AIDS group to facilitate the sales of the posters.

What is the first phase or step in your process post client contact?

Research and then drawing with a pencil

After everything is all said and done how do you handle follow-ups?

Generally that takes care of itself. When there is a need we meet.

How do you measure success in your projects?

By how well the creative works for the group and how much fun I had making it

Brain Bolts

•August 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I have gotten contact from Eric Boelts of Brain Bolts in Boulder, CO. I am doing an interview tomorrow.

Eric Boelts Background

•August 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

ERIC BOELTS
Is the Principal and Owner of Brain Bolts, LLC, 2001-Present and was the Principal and Owner of Boelts Bros. Associates, 1986-2001.

He was a lecturer at Colorado State University from 1999-2000, lecturer at University of Arizonia from 1990-2000.

He has a MBA at the University of Arizona in 1996, BFA from the University of Arizona 1984.

Brain Bolts is a design firm located in Boulder, CO. The scope of work Brain Bolts creates runs from logos and complete identity systems to brochures, web sites to booth designs, advertising to posters. The firm’s clients function in a variety of fields including technology, healthcare, the arts, aviation and government.

Eric has been a major force in Brain Bolts and Boelts Bros. creative awards. Eric has
collected over 400 awards in numerous design competitions throughout the world including the Czech Republic, Mexico, England, Canada, Russia, Poland and the USA.

Eric has been featured in Inc. magazine and his work has been featured in Graphis,
Communication Arts, Print, How, Novum and Graphic Design USA Magazines. In addition, frequent interviews in television, radio and newspaper media have been recorded.

Both personally and through his company Eric has assisted over 70 local and national non-profit agencies and companies with their communication needs. Assisted groups include The United Way, Travelers Aid Society and Orts Theatre of Dance.

Eric lives in Boulder, Colorado and is married with two children, runs long distances, paints with watercolor, is addicted to basketball and can both draw with a pencil and use a spreadsheet.

Design Firms

•August 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Here is a list of the potential firms I am going to try and interview

BLUE INK DESIGN

1115 Broadway Suite 202
Denver, CO 80203

(720) 351-3516‎

blueinkdesign.com

NEW MEDIA DENVER

Web site Link: http://www.newmediadenver.com/

Portfolio Link: http://www.newmediadenver.com/portfolio.htm

HYPERDOG MEDIA

Web site Link: http://www.hyperdogmedia.com/

Portfolio Link: http://www.hyperdogmedia.com/Portfolio.html

Brain Bolts- Eric Boelts

Boulder, Colorado