“GOOD DESIGN IS GOOD CITIZENSHIP”: A Chat with Artist and Designer Kristin DiBartolo

“As artists and designers, we can bring people to acts of courage and sacrifice, overcoming habit and fear. We can help change people, and people can change everything.” – Kristin DiBartolo

What do restaurant menus, State Penitentiary brochures and soap bottles have in common? If you’re graphic designer Kristin DiBartolo, they make up only a fraction of your portfolio.

I was drawn to Kristin’s work for her use of modern clean lines and bold colors, sometimes retro-inspired imagery, and gritty collage. She also has a wonderful series of political art called Project Peace, with messages of the impact of war and various pop culture media influence. Read below for the interview about this designer and her Curious Designs.

Read the INTERVIEW below.

Why did you choose the Lehigh Valley to live and work?

I currently live in Hosensack, which in German means pants pocket. It’s Southern Lehigh Valley, middle of the woods, too small for it’s own post office. This is where I grew up, then I went off to college near Philadelphia and now I am back mostly due to lack of funds to be anywhere else – but I do very much enjoy the peace and quiet away from the city while still being close enough to go have some fun!

When did you first take interest in graphic design? Was there a poster or label or something that made you think you’d want to do this?

I first took interest sometime in early high school when I took this class called “internet search and webpage design”. Now, I wasn’t interested in either of those things, but I did love creating art on the computer and that’s where I started to learn to use the programs. I’ve loved art since I can remember and loved making it even more and since the 2nd grade I’ve said I wanted to be an artist when I grew up.

More than a graphic designer, I would consider myself an artist of all types – whether it be on the computer or off. Graphic design is the contained, analytical and slightly obsessive compulsive, detail oriented side of me while the other art I create is where I let loose – it’s messy and chaotic and I will use any medium that I feel inspired by.

Can you explain any formal training you have, or what you have done to teach yourself?

I always took art classes as my electives in high school, but I graduated from Arcadia University with a BFA in Graphic Design. That F in the middle of the B and A makes it a Bachelor of Fine Arts which means I took all sorts of art classes from drawing and painting to ceramics and printmaking, along with my Graphic Design regiment. So I had the formal design training, but the art classes are where I really found my creativity. Often times I will use my skills from my fine arts training in my designs, working off the computer to give my projects a more personal and hand-made feel. Even though I am all done with school I am always trying to learn more and push myself and my work to new levels.

Tell me about your work with menus, or wine labels.

All the really cool fun stuff in my portfolio are mostly projects from college. I was lucky to have some great teachers at Arcadia who came up with some really fun ideas for projects. In the real world of freelance graphic design, fun projects like menus and wine labels where I really get to be creative rarely come around.

What is “Project Peace”?

Project Peace is not necessarily a real organization, but one that I created for my senior thesis at Arcadia University. I came up with everything from the original idea to the logo to the “branding” to the illustrations on the posters, stickers and t-shirts. From a design standpoint, I’ve always loved the aesthetic of old war and propaganda posters, so that was part of my inspiration for this project.

Obviously I was also inspired by current events and I felt compelled to put my opinions out there and make some bold political and social statements mostly because when else will I have a chance to put it out there for so many people to see? Probably not for a while. Every year the seniors in the fine arts program at Arcadia get a big show to display their senior theses for hundreds of people to see. If I had the support and means to though I would make Project Peace a real organization that creates awareness and inspires others to do the same. There are still some t-shirt available on my Etsy shop. (*Etsy shop linked below)

Do you consider yourself a political artist? Is it important to take on projects that you personally support, if it’s a company or brand?

I wouldn’t want to put myself into any one category because I do so much of everything, so I can’t say that I am a political artist – but there’s always topics to take inspiration from out there and I feel it’s almost an obligation as an artist. As artists and designers, we can bring people to acts of courage and sacrifice, overcoming habit and fear. We can help change people, and people can change everything.

Milton Glaser often says, “Good design is good citizenship.” We should all be good citizens by participating in the shaping of our government and society. At this point in my early career I haven’t come across a project that I personally did not support, and I’m hard-pressed to turn down any work right now, but if something came along where I would have to advertise something that I was really opposed to, I wouldn’t do it.

What was the idea behind the Campaign2Sustain posters?

I made two posters for the Campaign2Sustain poster competition on sustainability and environmental issues that AIGA hosted and showed at the Ice Box Gallery in the Crane Arts Building in Philadelphia. For this poster, I really wanted to make a statement without actually having to say anything amongst a show of posters with all sorts of type and writing. I think it speaks for itself making a bold statement about big corporations and their lack of consideration for the environment.

Where do you seek inspiration? Do you have a favorite style, or artist?

Always the most difficult question for me because I can find inspiration in anything and I never have favorites because I love mostly everything. I’ve always fascinated though with anything vintage or anything that looks antique which I think shows in my work. I love texture and color. Oh and mostly anything organic. I know this is really broad but so is what I do. When I am handed a specific graphic design project though I try to dive into the world of whatever/whoever I am designing for to find inspiration for the duration of the project and find out as much as I can.

Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about? Where can we view more of your work?

I’ve been doing a lot of my own artwork these days while I have little design work. Mixed media collage type pieces which will be online soon. I’m also making lots earrings these days which can be found on my Etsy shop soon, and are also at the Live Well Holistic Health Center in Ardmore who I have been doing a lot of design work for lately and they fell in love with them and wanted to sell them for me!

To purchase any of Kristin’s art, please visit her ETSY SHOP: Curious Designs

She also has a BLOG to keep you informed on what she’s doing: Curious Designs Blog

And if you like her work, you can LIKE her on FACEBOOK page: Like Curious Designs



Filed under Graphic Design, Visual Art

5 responses to ““GOOD DESIGN IS GOOD CITIZENSHIP”: A Chat with Artist and Designer Kristin DiBartolo

  1. joj hush

    amazing, amazing work.

  2. Colleen

    I love this post–the interview, the artwork, the politics, everything!

  3. Thanks Colleen! And thank you Jaime for this opportunity!

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