Graphic Design alumnx Sarah Flood-Baumann (’16) is the recipient of the 2020 PRINT Editor’s Choice Award for her design package, “No Justice, No Peace,” for Louisville Magazine on police violence in Louisville, Kentucky, and the death of Breonna Taylor in March of 2020. In a recent virtual interview, we spoke to Flood-Baumann about her design, her PRINT award, and the importance of using art to amplify change. Below are edited excerpts from our conversation.
ON THE CREATION OF “NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE”
“No Justice, No Peace” is a design package made up of two photo essays and a transcribed roundtable conversation featuring several prominent leaders from Louisville’s Black community. When I came into the picture as the freelance designer, the conversation was about to take place and the photography had already been assigned. The photography that came into my inbox was mind blowing, and the final copy from the roundtable stopped me in my tracks. I knew once I read some of the suggested pull quotes that this design was going to be heavily type focused. I didn’t want any fussy or overly-designed designs to muddy up the honest language and vulnerable viewpoints.
[In addition] I want to give a massive shout out and thank you to fellow alumnx Aldrena Corder, as she created the cover art for the issue that the “No Justice, No Peace” package was featured in. Her work was smart, iconic, and a beautiful testament to Breonna Taylor.
ON HER DESIGN INSPIRATIONS AND ON HOW DESIGN CAN BE USED FOR SOCIAL CHANGE
[For “No Justice, No Peace”] I wanted to keep everything stripped down to allow the words to really be the star of the show. That meant creating only in black and white with pops of bright yellow. The yellow intended to shine on the leaders as bright spots of hope. Martin typeface (designed by Vocal Type Co.) was chosen as the headline because of its bold and unapologetic forms but also because it has strong inspiration from the 1968 civil rights “I AM A MAN” posters. Choosing Martin felt like a no-brainer. With the weight of the protests and pandemic, time in Louisville felt so disjointed and broken, so the photo essays were treated as a warped timeline so that the RHR images bleed onto the next LHR.
I believe good design is a well choreographed dance between content and form. One informs the other. Without good design, well-intended messages and movements can’t catch fire and spread to the masses. Without the foundations of solid messaging, content, and viewpoints, the design can feel vapid or unnecessary. Design can help amplify, clarify, and catapult the movement into households, mailboxes, and smartphones everywhere.
ON THE PRINT EDITOR’S CHOICE AWARD FOR “NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE”
Determined by the internal PRINT team, the Editor’s Choice award is given to the overall favorite design. I had submitted several other projects in the earlybird stages of submission and dragged my feet on submitting “No Justice, No Peace.” I was feeling that pesky imposter syndrome. It wasn’t until I got the final submission e-blast reminder from PRINT that I quit waffling and decided to submit the spreads.
Of course, it always feels great to have your work validated with awards, but without the courage and honesty of the Black community leaders and the trust from my editor to experiment, this award would not have happened.
ON THE IMPACT OF THE PROJECT
I’m currently living in North Carolina, but Louisville is my hometown and where my heart will always belong. During the height of the protesting and the pandemic, I could only be a virtual witness to the aftermath of the Breonna Taylor case. Since I felt fairly useless being so physically far away, working on this project gave me the space and opportunity to do my part in helping my city.
Honestly, I hope this piece provided a shakeup to our readers and viewers. The impact is to be confronted with the harsh realities Black Louisvillians face every day. I hope people take the time to read this package and then pause, reflect, and ultimately make adjustments to both their daily lives and the systemic problems within our city.
ON HER ADVICE FOR OTHER ARTISTS LOOKING TO CREATE ON THE SUBJECTS OF CHANGE, SOCIAL JUSTICE, AND CURRENT EVENTS
I think an important piece of advice is to understand the bias you bring to the table. Involve the community from the movement to inform and guide, and don’t assume you know the best way to represent a population of people. As a white designer working for an all-white magazine staff, I was hyperaware that our bias and very privileged viewpoints could obscure and distort the very voices we were trying to amplify [in “No Justice, No Peace”].
ON THE IMPACT OF VCFA
While at VCFA, I worked, played, and experimented with design as means to discover my personal ethos. I explored how place and intuition shaped my way of looking at the world. I found that I couldn’t extrapolate my experiences from the work I produced and that being vulnerable is a source of power and strength. My final thesis book was a physical manifestation of this realization. The words I wrote in that final thesis lived in a container that physically expressed my experiences and work. Form and content danced together with my work at VCFA, as it now does in “No Justice, No Peace.” The content informed my design choices, and my design choice amplified and layered the messages within the content.
I could share loads of design and life wisdom gained from my time at VCFA, but I think what still fuels me today is the general vibe from the faculty in the importance of experimentation. To get messy and weird. Play. Try and fail. Try again. I carry this attitude to view each new project as an experiment. It allows for me to be unafraid to explore and push beyond the normal boundaries of what is “good design.” It’s almost as if the faculty gave me permission to bring up wild and weird ideas to my editors and authors. Some of those ideas have been duds, but when they’ve hit the mark, it’s been spectacular.
ON HER UPCOMING PROJECTS
Well, here is a shameless plug for my freelance biz! I’m finally heading back into full-time studio hours, and I’m trying to line up clients beginning in May 2021. I work with self-publishing authors, editorial teams, publishing houses, and nonprofits to both art direct and design covers, interior pages, and long-form publications like annual reports, etc. If anyone needs a freelance designer for their print project, I’d love to be considered!
You can learn more about Flood-Baumann’s work and freelance opportunities at sarahfloodbaumann.com.