Wonderland II

Finally. The mushrooms are done. The designs are finished. The 24th annual fundraiser for the Golisano Children’s Hospital has come to a close. The event is over. The balloons have fallen, the money has been raised. This was the largest event in recent memory for the hospital. Over 900 people joined together to celebrate one night in Wonderland. My mind and body have endured a lack of sleep not witnessed since Rebekah was a newborn. My lungs, still heavy from the contact high from the mushrooms, welcome the time to heal. It was the most rewarding design project I’ve been able to be a part of to date as a Creative Director. Large scale mushrooms, 8 in all, invites, signs, ads, and the custom deck of 52 playing cards which is a bucket list design project for me that lived up to the 20 year wait. Over 20 custom illustrations don the face and numbered cards. Carrie Perlet, the Art Director, at Brite computers was a big help in the overall execution of the playing cards. They would not have happened without her help. All the copywriting was by Robin Lohkamp and Courtney kept me on track to finish in time.

Would I do it all again? Absolutely… next year is the silver anniversary.

Here are some photos from the night.


Be Strong, Take Heart Poster

My good friend Mary, her husband Andy and their beautiful daughters are going through some trying times. In December 2008, Andy was diagnosed with Behcet’s disease. A rare, incurable and highly variable disease. A couple of months ago they held a fundraiser to help raise money for their family, their medical bills, their life. I designed a poster based off a theme for their cause. The image of the angel is an interpretation of the tattoo on Andy’s forearm that says “May Grace Free You Forever.” “Be Strong. Take Heart” is their mantra. Not only for Andy’s recovery from this disease but also them getting to the point to where they are helping others in similar situations. Mary and Andy are two of the strongest people I know. And the ironic thing is I never have met Andy in person. I have gotten to know him through his wife and my friend Mary, through his blog, through his struggles and the brief times I have spoken to him over the phone.

This is the poster that I created to help raise money for their benefit concert on August 8th. It’s all hand drawn, then Tony printed 100 on his letterpress printer at Dock 2 Letterpress. If you are interested in donating to their cause I am sure Mary and Andy would be willing to provide you a poster in return. If there are any left.

Reflecting on this poster, the reasons why it was created, and the impact Behcet’s disease is taking on the Barwick’s certainly gives me pause to always try to remember to live their mantra. “Be Strong. Take Heart.” No matter how hard it may be.


In the spring when my friend and fellow co-worker Courtney asked me to be involved with the Golisano Children’s Hospital Annual Fundraiser Gala I said “Sure” before really knowing what I was getting myself into. It didn’t take me long to realize that it was a very good decision. The children’s hospital is very important to her so in turn it’s important to me. We landed on the theme of Wonderland (as in Alice in Wonderland) and went right into concepting. Alice in Wonderland could be viewed as a tired concept, and my challenge was to give the gala a fresh perspective. I focused my attention around the Queen of Hearts and my interpretation on her flower found on the Queen’s face card, I did some custom illustrations for the invites and graphics, and overall am very happy with the outcome.

My theater set design background also has also come in handy. Courtney had given me the freedom to concept out the set designs for the entire night. One idea was building large scale mushrooms for the gala. So far I have made two, and hope to make a lot more. (Though I’m quickly running out of time, the gala is at the end of October.) The following pictures detail my process from start to finish for creating the large scale mushrooms.

I started with a sheet of 4’x8′ insulation foam that was cut, glued and stacked. Then carved by hand with a blade. And sanded smooth with my blocks and electric sander. Meanwhile I made the stems out of pvc pipe. Next I covered the mushrooms with an epoxy resin used in fiberglass construction. Then puddy some of the larger holes. Primed white, and finally painted with color. The large one stands over 7′ tall the small one is about 4′. Like I said. These are two of many I need to make. I had originally thought to make about 14, but in order to do that I would have needed to start last month, and well there was ceramic tile to lay, and a house to renovate. So as for the final number of mushrooms, well we’ll see how it goes.

Now Carrie and I need to finish the custom deck of 52 playing cards…

Play Defense.

Play Defense. That’s what Mike May told me in Memphis, Tennessee minutes before going in to meet my client for the first time. (The picture on the left is from one of our trips, drawn in December of 1999. Mike was a few rows ahead of me.) His philosophy was clear. Don’t open your mouth and say something stupid that you will be remembered for the duration of you tenure. He said “Just listen the first time. Take mental notes. Resist the urge to comment or make suggestions. Let them come away with the notion of ‘Hey, Joe’s a good guy, I like him’, in the long run they will trust you more when you do make strategic suggestions. Then you can sell more creative and have some fun, and this job will be much easier.”

So that’s what I did. Some of my fondest advertising memories came from those monthly trips to Memphis, talking to guys like Crutchfield, Frank Black, and Randy. Mike’s play defense strategy worked like a charm. It was the one piece of advice I took with me. And he was right, The job got much easier. What Mike failed to tell me was when to turn this little gem of advice on and off. Guess that was for me to figure out on my own. There were times this year where I used it a little more than I should have, and at times I did not employ it enough.

Over the last four months I have played defense a lot more. I have been in several situations where I remained quiet, and unfortunately my silence translated into outcomes that were different than the ones I was screaming in my head. And for the record screaming in my own head, answering questions or responding to statements between my own eardrums is very unproductive, and give the person, client, friend or family member I am with a big zero. I need to think back to why Mike told me those words many years ago, and try to understand that what he was really trying to tell me. What he really meant was “First impressions are everything. Listen first. Take mental notes next, and respond with informed answers last, so that you can do what is in the best interest of the client. After you do that feel free to speak your mind with confidence and as often as you’d like.”

I feel like I at times have let some people down as a result of playing defense over these last four months, Julie included. So if I am quiet when I am with you, punch me in the shoulder. Remind me that I should no longer play defense as much and just speak my mind with confidence.

Consequences be dammed.