DC Rises: New Design Group, Classic Paper Show

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Last year, the decades-old Art Directors Club of Metropolitan Washington shut its doors. But people like John Foster, principal and superintendent of Bad People Good Things LLC (and former ADCMW president) refused to see it totally disappear, and jumped in to fill the void. In addition to unveiling their new organization—the DC Creative Guild—the group is gearing up for its classic Paper Show tomorrow.

We touched base with Foster about what role he hopes DCCG will serve on the Washington DC design landscape, how it will benefit both veteran and new designers alike, and what everyone can expect at the Paper Show.

What happened to the Art Directors Club of Metropolitan Washington?I wasn’t close to the club at the end, as I had been estranged the past few years after my presidency ended amid a major philosophical disagreement with the executive director. … When it was suddenly presented in August as a detailed plan in place to dissolve, it was a shock to those of us who had given decades of our time to the club. … I can’t overstate how important it was for the design community during the ’90s and onward.

What made you and others decide to take action and form DCCG?The one thing that the club’s announcement of its plan to dissolve did do was galvanize many of the old board members. … A small group of us knew that we couldn’t fathom all of the amazing things that the club did just disappearing into thin air. We quickly explored the options and decided a new organization that would carry on some of the core work was the best avenue, and we had to act quickly as many of the events are annual and would be lost forever if just one year was missed.

Who all is involved now?Former board member Cliff Farbstein was the driving force in quickly holding on to what we could from the old club and getting the new organization together. Our attorney, Jamie Silverberg, who has long helped out DC’s creatives, has been an essential piece in making sure that we do everything the right way. Mary Coppola has been amazing and is running the upcoming Paper Show. I will be heading up our education outreach, returning to my roots as I co-chaired the ADCMW education committee on my first stint on the board in the ’90s. Many former club members will be involved in important ways as we move along this year, with people like Dave Plunkert, Carolyn Sewell, and Nolen Strals and Bruce Willen from Post Typography having already given their time to our education activities. People are volunteering right and left, with folks like Photogroup, Sharon Ritchey and Capitol Communicator lending an important hand. It has been amazing.

What all will DCCG do?DCCG was formed because we believe there is a void in the creative community that can be filled by an organization that embraces all members of the field equally. This will be an organization where designers and programmers and printers and photographers and manufacturers and students and educators and copywriters and everyone involved from top to bottom in the creation and execution of projects in our field can find common ground. The most important thing is that we already have good relationships with many of the organizations that serve these folks individually, so we won’t be looking to compete with that, but rather work with them and promote those events to our members as well.

Will DCCG operate differently from ADCMW in any major ways?ADCMW was an amazing organization but I think it struggled to modernize in ways that fit its niche in the community. We will be focused on working with others who are already doing a great job at things like training workshops or throwing big galas while we make sure that signature programs like The Real Show and events like The Paper Show are the best that they can be, and are self-sufficient as well. … We also want to bring back some of the established creatives in town that had drifted away from ADCMW, as well as inspire some of the young guns in town. Part of that will be finding ways to be flexible in how we connect on a personal level. The DC region is enormous (and congested), so having everything be “downtown” focused made it hard for people to always attend events. Along with larger gatherings, DCCG hopes to have smaller events happening simultaneously around the region, so no one has to travel more than 30 minutes to get a chance to talk face to face with their peers. I think that is also a reflection in how the economy has splintered things here, with the reduction in big agencies and a lot of us (myself included) working in small offices or solo at home. Those people would really benefit from connecting with people like themselves who work essentially in their neighborhood. I foresee a time not long down the line when a designer, programmer, copywriter, photographer and printer all come together on a project and they all work/live within 30 minutes of one another. It is so old school that I have to smile. The wonders of technology today mean that you don’t have to work that way, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could every once in a while? … That also works around our overall philosophy, which is to do what you know really, really well, and build slowly from there.

Tell us about the educational outreach you do (or plan to do).One of the most important things that ADCMW did so well was work with the education community to help prepare students for a career in the design industry. We will be continuing The Real Show, which is a competition where students are posed with real life creative briefs to work from and submit solutions to. Some of the top designers in DC over the past 30 years were winners when they were in school. It has grown beyond the local schools and now receives entries from as far away as Mississippi. It might not be this first year, but we will also be looking to continue Career Day in the future, where students could get a day’s worth of professional portfolio reviews, and we will be organizing studio tours for students. Almost everything we do will have some education outreach aspect to it, as we all agree that it is vital to the overall health of the community.


How about the Paper Show set for tomorrow?This will be the 11th Annual DC Paper Show. Representatives from many of the top paper companies in the world will be there, along with some local printers, showing off recent innovations in paper and printing. It is a swatch-book nirvana for those of us who geek out on that stuff. You can speak directly with reps and really get an in depth knowledge of a sheet’s capabilities, and there are always fun giveaways and lots of unique informative items. There will also be an intimate interview where I will talk with current AIGA DC president and screen-printing genius Anthony Dihle about his design inspiration and his unique printing process, followed by a book signing for Paper and Ink Workshop. And I can’t forget one of the most important parts: the chance to network and connect with other creatives, and chow down on some tasty BBQ!

What else can people expect from the show?One of the best features is that everyone attending gets DCCG membership for all of 2014
. We also expect that many of the paper companies will be unveiling new parts of their lines as well as new initiatives. [Overall,] it’s a great chance to have the equivalent of every paper company in the world coming to your office for a demonstration of their line over the course of 12 months happen in just one night. It keeps the community as a whole informed of trends and innovations in the industry and leaves us prepared to quickly take advantage of that knowledge, all while also seeing old friends and making new friends.

What’s your favorite part of it?It is always hard to have BBQ at an event and not list it as your favorite part. I really love paper and ink and could talk about those things endlessly and I also love seeing familiar faces.

The Paper Show is set for 6:30–8:30 March 5 at NRECA Headquarters (4301 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA). For more about DCCG and the event:@dccreativeguilddccreativeguild.tumblr.comfacebook.com/dccreativeguild


The 2014 Regional Design Annual competition is still accepting entries. Put your work into the hands of creative professionals across the country and enter today.