Justin Kemerling – “Work hard. Make this place better”
This week Creative Chair in Nebraska with Justin Kemerling talking design, activism, and collaboration for the 22nd instalment of 50 States.
Justin’s work is steeped in purpose and regional flavour. You can see a lot more from Justin Kemerling on his website.
Tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you do
I’m an independent designer trying to make high-quality design available to the do-gooder community. And doing so in the city of Omaha with a trusted group of highly-talented collaborators, who are friends before co-workers. Branding, web design, graphic design, creative direction, and such.
How has your state influenced the work that you do?
The great state of Nebraska is in the middle of flyover country America. Not a place known for high-quality design, booming creative industries, or interesting cultural forces. Which is what makes trying to build a very focused design practice so interesting.
I for sure own my upbringing, a man from Nebraska, with everything that comes with it; rural, conservative, boring. But also independent, collaborative, and with a good supply of grit.
On one hand it feels small, so you can make an impact if you put in the effort. And on the other, it’s medium enough to have a community of creative, progressive, boundary-pushing people where individual efforts can feel part of an important whole. All that certainly effects the type of work I do and who I do the work for; progressive non-profits, liberal political campaigns, social good start-ups, or culturally interesting businesses. Every little bit helps. Work hard. Make this place better. That’s the ethos of a lot of young professionals and community leaders who do great work in the state. Something I certainly strive to be a part of.
Of your own work, what is your favourite project and why?
Film Streams in a non-profit cinema in downtown Omaha. Devoted to the presentation and discussion of film as an art form. They’ve just celebrated their 10-year anniversary. They are also leading the opportunity to reopen the historic Dundee Theatre in midtown Omaha. Since last summer I’ve been working with them closely on their brand evolution, new website, Dundee capital campaign, and signage for the new theatre. Huge project. Lots of moving parts. Many people involved. So much work; which has made it particularly challenging and equally rewarding.
In terms of scope, it’s been my biggest project to date. It will most likely be close to complete at the end of this year. Along the way, the client has been super thoughtful and intentional with every single aspect of the project. From new print templates to the new theatre marquee. I can’t tell you how many emails have gone back and forth over the life of this thing. Oodles and oodles.
The project represents a community moving forward. Midtown Omaha is a special place for sure. There are lots of exciting things happening here and the new Dundee Theatre will add to that. And Film Streams will continue to bring amazing arthouse films to the city. There’ll be plenty of important discussions for many years to come. Having a small hand in their exciting future, I love that. My design career is about 15 years old, 7 and half of those as an independent. This project has been one of my favourites and something I’m proud to have worked so hard on.
The 104th 366 Award goes to Justin Kemerling for his outstanding creative work.
And finally, if you died and got reincarnated as a song, what would that song be?
Loser by Beck. 1994. Also probably my karaoke song even though I’ve never done karaoke.