JUNE’S CREATIVE SPOTLIGHT: Kunal D. Patel

Sr. Interaction Designer on the Material Design team at Google, working on patterns and guidelines to help people create beautiful, usable applications. Kunal studied architecture at Carnegie Mellon University and began his career in that field, before a love of making Flash websites led him to Parsons to get his MFA in Design and Technology.

In 2018 he started Letters of San Francisco, an ongoing collection of his favorite found typography in the city, digitally recreated one letter at a time. It began as a simple drawing exercise to practice hand lettering, but has turned into his primary lens for seeing and understanding San Francisco. By isolating the letters from their surroundings and presenting stories about the places they belong to. He hopes to share that view with others and help them appreciate the city in new ways.Find out more at: @lettersofsanfrancisco

Q&A with Kunal

  1. What does Wonder mean to you?

    To me, wonder is about curiosity. When something surprises or amazes me enough that I want to spend more time with it, or learn more about it in order to increase my appreciation.

    How is this concept reflected on your creative work?

    Letters of San Francisco is powered by a sense of wonder for our everyday environment and curiosity for the stories and people behind it. When I moved here 3.5 years ago, I was struck by the city’s bold colors and neon signs and began taking photos of my favorite found typography on long walks around the city. I wasn’t really sure what to do with them, but I continued to scratch that creative itch as the project evolved from reference material for hand lettering to the ongoing digital collection of recreated letters and stories it is today.

    Would you share a bit more about the CM/SF collaboration and how you came about developing it?

    When the CM/SF team and I discussed potential themes for collaboration, “Wonder” was instantly such a perfect fit. There is no Letters of San Francisco without a sense of wonder for the city’s typography and the stories behind them.
    For the collaboration, I picked letters from around the city that are in the word “wonder” and designed printed cards for each one. Every creative decision was made to inspire people to visit these locations themselves and spark their own sense of wonder for their everyday environment. I only picked letters that are still available to visit, put a single letter on each card to keep the goal simple, used a postcard size so they’re easy to carry, and ended each location’s story with a prompt to go visit.

    What have you been inspired by lately?
    A friend recently shared the transcript version of Jenny Odell’s talk at Eyeo 2017 about “How to do Nothing”. Her framing of the power and importance of observation and reflection, and examples of her own work in re-contextualizing found material (“making nothing” new) was both inspiring and helpful as a way to think about my own work and the fulfillment I’ve gained from it.
    Randall Ann-Homan and Al Barna, who started San Francisco Neon and host neon walking tours of the city, were early supporters whose work I greatly admire. Their journey from artists with a niche interest, to publishing a book, advising on local sign restorations, to national neon preservationists is quite inspiring.Any advice for someone in our community who is looking to tap in more traditional techniques or creative pathways?
    Rely on existing habits: Don’t feel like you have to adopt a whole new way of working just because the subject matter may be different. If you have preferences or routines for your profession, or activities like fitness,, try to apply the same structure here so that everything isn’t new. This wasn’t something I thought about explicitly as I began working, but as someone who creates a lot of structure to manage other parts of my life, it wasn’t a surprise that wound up being the case here.
    Start really small: Set an initial goal for yourself, then cut that one in half. A week later, feel free to cut it in half again. This project started out of an interest in hand lettering, but I didn’t know anything about it. Rather than start with a goal of a sign, or even a word, I limited myself to single, uppercase letters to keep things simple.
    Identify meaningful constraints: Letters of San Francisco really took off for me when I committed to publishing a new letter every day last year. Suddenly, everything clicked into place: I needed to regularly explore new parts of the city, keep track of my backlog, and set aside dedicated time to work on this. The daily deadline also meant I was learning from repetition and would dwell less on a particular day’s outcome.
    Find a support system: One thing that kept me going last year during the daily project grind was live encouragement from friends and digital support from strangers who found my work on Instagram. It was motivating to know even a few people were following along, sending me signs to go visit, and sharing how their own perspective had changed. I’ve been too afraid in the past to share personal work for feeling it wouldn’t be “good enough”, but it’s been so important to my continued interest in pushing it forward.Thanks to Kunal for collaborating with us and sharing his own unique vision of San Francisco.


    CM/SF’s Creative Spotlight looks to highlight local creatives by collaborating on a fun project centered around the monthly theme. There are tons of local artists, makers, and creators in our city who are doing rad things – we want to spread the world and spark our community with their creativity!Know someone doing rad things? Drop us a line or two over email at sf@creativemornings.com.

  2. June’s theme is Wonder 

    Our sense of wonder is the code for tapping into our most creative selves. It enables us to expand our horizons and encounter parallel universes that haven’t been explored yet. This month’s theme was chosen by Copenhagen chapter.

    This month’s CM/SF Creative Spotlight is Kunal D. Patel  designer and typography aficionado. He created his own version of this theme Illustration (see above) and shared with us what Wonder means to him:

    “To me, wonder is about curiosity. When something surprises or amazes me enough that I want to spend more time with it, or learn more about it in order to increase my appreciation.”

    - Kunal Patel.

    If you’d like to learn more about Kunal and this month’s speaker Lea Rosberg, join us at our next event on June 28th at General Assembly. 

    Our Community Spotlights are back! 
    We do our best to give you great talks, inspiring spaces, and tasty coffee every month, but the best part of CreativeMornings is the people. So we’re showcasing a few of the faces of CMSF, and you could be next!

    MEET MEG


    What do you love about San Francisco?

    The farmers’ markets. I’m obsessed with produce and the farmers’ markets in this city make me swoon. Every week I aim to visit 2 different markets… it may seem excessive, but the ritual is very meditative. 

    What do you enjoy most about CreativeMornings?

    The people! It’s an incredible self-selected group of people who are engaged in the speaker or activity. I love that they listen attentively and no one seems to be on their phone… it’s refreshing. Also, the CM community is extremely well-dressed, so the style inspiration is a bonus. What are a few of your favorite themes/talks/speakers we’ve had here in SF?

    Erin Gilmore: The power and healing in owning your mess.
    Also, the January theme of Anxiety is one I could talk about endlessly. 

    What’s one thing you’ve been inspired by lately?

    People watching in The Marina. Never ceases to amaze and entertain. 

    What is one piece of advice that is overrated?

    Break-ups need closure; in my experience, the closure comes from time and space.

    Where can people find out more about you (Twitter, Instagram, or website)?

    Instagram (@thecompostcook), where you can find me creating some 5 am doodles, with frequent running breaking, or spotlights on my dog, Moses Waffles. Photo by: Ben Conde @kidconde 

    MAY’S THEME IS PRESERVE

    The beauty in our world deserves to be cherished, sustained, and rediscovered. We share this life, and every day we have the opportunity to act as thoughtful participants in it. What do we care about? What do we take for granted? Would we miss it if it disappeared? Preservation begins with asking deep questions and turning our attention to the environment around us. Marine biologist and explorer Sylvia Earle wrote in her book, The World is Blue, “Should we race to see how quickly we can consume the last tuna, swordfish, and grouper? Or race to see what can be done to protect what remains? For now, there is still a choice.” Our daily habits are a mirror reflecting back what we truly care about. Our actions are key to protecting the wellbeing of our communities, cities, and planet. Pause for a moment to notice what is being neglected and take an audit. We can break out of patterns, simplify our lives, and focus on the things that will last a long time. Together, we can chart a brighter path into the future. Our Charleston chapter chose this month’s exploration of Preserve and Chris Nickels illustrated the theme. Thank you to our Global Partners—Mailchimp, Adobe, and WordPress.com—for supporting us.JOIN OUR NEXT EVENT - MAY 31ST with Shobha Rao

    MARCH’S THEME IS WATER

    image

    It’s the main source of all life. The lifeblood element that makes up 60% of our bodies. 

    It’s the liquid that we don’t drink enough of, yet waste effortlessly. It’s home to millions of species, mysteries, and undiscovered knowledge. We know more about the stars in the sky than the depths of our oceans. We can use it to save lives. If used foolishly, it can take lives. We think there is an abundance, yet only one percent can be touched. If we don’t protect our waters, then what will happen to life? Our Perth chapter chose this month’s exploration of Water and Sofia Varano illustrated the theme. This month’s speaker is James Trucker on March 29th, grab your tickets here.

    CM/SF is turning 8 years old.  Happy Birthday!

    Thank you for celebrating #CMSF8 with us! We had such a magical evening dancing, smiling, and graffiti-ing with all of you. We hope the feeling was mutual! 🎉

    The biggest of shout-outs to BiteUnite, 1AM, ColorBloq, TagPrints and Casper, for helping make it a party. If you’re looking for an awesome team-building activity (or need somewhere to host it), don’t hesitate to reach out to these local organizations!

    Photos by: Ben Conde

    Photo by: Tanarak Photography

    More photos in our flickr album.

    FEBRUARY’S THEME IS SYMMETRY!

    What do a planet, an attractive face, and a snowflake have in a common? Symmetry. Symmetry is prevalent throughout life. You can fold a sunflower in half, stories have an arc, and the human body can bend and create mesmerizing shapes. There are also irregularities that enhances life; it adds beauty and complexity. If there’s symmetry in nature, then there must be a kind of symmetry in the way we lead our lives. Symmetry cannot be possible without asymmetry, the same way sadness magnifies joy. Alan Lightman wrote in The Accidental Universe, “I would claim that symmetry represents order, and we crave order in this strange universe we find ourselves in.” But chaos will happen whether we like it or not, it’s how we respond to it that either creates order or more chaos. When in chaos, create your symmetry. Our Saint Petersburg chapter chose this month’s exploration of Symmetry, Anna Fadeeva illustrated the theme, and Mailchimp is the presenting partner.Join our next event.

    WELCOME TO 2019!
    JANUARY’S THEME IS SURREAL

    When you look at the artwork of Frida Kahlo or Salvador Dalí, there’s an element of surprise. Why does it feel familiar yet also otherworldly? Surrealists sought to break free from the shackles of the rational mind and dive into the deep end of the unconscious. The canvas, then, became a mirror for what emerged out of that process. This movement was inspired by events in the 1920s on the heels of the first world war and continues to influence artists, writers, photographers, and filmmakers. This cultural and artistic movement ushered in new techniques that helped humans expand their minds. Today, we recognize a sense of the surreal in unexpected moments in daily life. Art exhibits like Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room are becoming readily available, encouraging people to immerse themselves in experiences that break reality. A ballet performance or a silent meditation retreat can be a dreamlike experience. Whether we experience a surreal moment or dabble in processes like drawing without thinking or writing without self-editing, there’s something to be learned about ourselves and what lingers under the hood of our desires to keep life orderly and controlled. Happy New Year! Our Brussels chapter chose this month’s exploration of Surreal and Charlotte Dumortier illustrated the theme. SURREAL is presented globally this month by WordPress.com.

    JOIN OUR NEXT EVENT with Jeff Raz at Heron Arts on February 1st.

    HIGHLIGHTS GLOBAL PARTNERS

    Wordpress

    Join the platform you won’t outgrow. Our global partner Wordpress.com is offering a discount to CM members. You can learn more at wordpress.com/creativemornings! You’ll be building your idea on the platform that powers more than 30% of the internet.

    MailChimp

    Our global partner Mailchimp has made it easy to create posts for Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter right from their email builder! Read how in this blog post.

    Adobe

    Fit five years of artistic growth in one. The Adobe Creative Residencyprovides a year of support as you focus on your art. This year-long program provides mentorship to artists specific to their creative niche and business needs. Application opens in January. Visit their site to learn more: Adobe Creative Residency

    DECEMBER’S CREATIVE SPOTLIGHT: Hope Meng

    Graphic designer and letterer, maker, seamster, problem solver, mama (of 2), plant mama (of 50+), swimmer, and eater. Not necessarily in that order.

    Three years ago, I began an ambitious personal project to draw every combination of 2 letters that the alphabet provides us. Monogram Project (see it on IG @hopemengdesign) kicked off with AA and will conclude sometime in the (very) distant future with ZZ.

    More recently, I’ve been working on a project that merges two of my disparate interests: sewing/quilting and design/typography. Text/tile (@texttilestudios on IG) is a multi-disciplinary project that consists of a typographic system based on quilt blocks. At first glance, you may only see a random geometric design, but upon closer inspection, you may notice that the quilts contain an embedded message.

    Find out more at: www.hopemeng.com @hopemengdesign and @texttilestudio

    Q&A with Hope

      What does Tradition mean to you?

      Tradition is a starting point, but a crucial one. My practice in design and lettering has been rooted in an understanding of graphic design history and traditional letterforms. You can’t really do original work or innovate unless you know what has been done before you to set the stage.

      How is this concept reflected on your creative work?

      I think tradition really shows in my work. With Monogram Project, even the pieces that push the boundaries of legibility start from a place of our common understanding about what makes an A an A and what makes a B a B (for example). I try to boil the letterform down to its true essence before building it back up to another form.

      It’s a similar thing with the Text/tile project, though that’s further constrained by the medium of fabric and the visual language of quilts. I just love the concept that quilts have traditionally always carried stories and with Text/tile, that’s just being made explicit.

      What have you been inspired by lately?

      I am inspired by humanity! By that I mean: the mark of the hand, imperfection, wabi sabi, the organic form that flows from the hand when you’re trying to draw a perfectly straight line. My own work tends to be really polished and perfect and I am trying to evolve from that, and let go—allow my hand show through.

      Any advice for someone in our community who is looking to tap in more traditional techniques or creative pathways?

      Try to make something directly with your hands—when we use a mouse, it controls a cursor which then moves pixels on a screen. Find a practice where you are directly manipulating a tool, even if it’s just making marks with a pencil on paper. There honesty in using a tool directly. There is something so satisfying about creating a physical object, not just one that lives in 0’s and 1’s.

      Thanks to Hope for collaborating with us in a unique knitting piece that we’ll be giving away at our even on December 14th - join event here.


      CM/SF’s Creative Spotlight looks to highlight local creatives by collaborating on a fun project centered around the monthly theme. There are tons of local artists, makers, and creators in our city who are doing rad things – we want to spread the world and spark our community with their creativity!

      Know someone doing rad things? Drop us a line or two over email at sf@creativemornings.com.

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