I have known from the beginning this foundation needs to be for the kids and by the kids. Once we had a name in place I reached out to a friend and Roland Story teacher, Amber, to ask if her kids could design some t shirts we could sell. The Foundation had hit some roadblocks in getting into the schools and getting our kids and teachers support, and I wanted the kids to know they weren’t forgotten about. I thought that maybe by asking them to design some apparel, they would feel remembered even if in a small way, and hoped the assignment would spark good conversations at the student’s level about mental health. I also am not a creative person and was looking forward to offloading a little bit of that work.
Amber, much to my surprise and delight said she had a graphics design class that was just about to do a unit on logos! She gave the students an overview of the mission of the foundation along with the color wheel we had decided on. And let me tell you, those students D-E-L-I-V-E-R-E-D. There were so many different ideas! Some were hand drawn, some done on a computer, some obvious and some subtle, but all of them had feeling and thought to them.
If I remember correctly, the only direction I gave was “let it resemble what mental health means to them” which probably frustrated Amber with its lack of direction but was all I could come up with. Their work was so much better than I had ever dreamed! (And I’m sure she gave them their own instructions, but it was incredible to see their personalities and journeys shine though.) It was also incredible the number of students that weren’t in the class but found me on social media and asked to be part of the project. They felt drawn to and connected with our mission and really appreciated having an outlet and an adult taking their ideas seriously! I was not expecting that to the extent it happened. It felt so rewarding for something so ‘simple’ to have resonated with so many of our youth!
I remember the night Amber sent over the initial drafts. Isaac and I sat on the couch and soaked in the joy and love (and nostalgia) we felt from looking at each design. Amber had to keep reminding me to not settle, to be honest not nice, and to give raw feedback. She would tell me it's important for the students to understand not everything they create will be perfect or picked and that that's ok. And that it’s ok to have to make a lot of adjustments along the way. I remember, with her encouragement and the belief to the deepest parts of my core that this logo needed to feel like V, I was able to finally begin to admit “I like this. I don’t like this.” And I have used the courage she lent me that night many times since.
I also remember feeling so enveloped by love and so in awe of the students' creativity. It was really hard to pick between them until I saw Clari’s design. She had never met V, but she got the essence of him, of that red shirt he schlupped everywhere and found such comfort in, and of this foundation, simply beautifully. We knew as soon as we saw it that while the others were really phenomenal (and we hope to incorporate some of them into future merchandise) Clari’s was the one. If you look closely, you can see she incorporated a couple V’s into her design, a detail that brought me to tears when it was first discovered.
Thank you Clari, and the rest of the class, for all your work on this logo. I imagine for you it was just an assignment, but for me it has become the logo that reminds me why we are fighting so hard.