Civilization is a design practice that builds identity systems, digital experiences, printed materials, environmental graphics, and exhibitions that are engaging, empathetic, sustainable and create meaningful connections. Our studio is a recipient of the National Design Award for Communication Design from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in honor of “excellence, innovation, and enhancement on the quality of daily life.” Our internationally recognized work is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and the Milton Glaser Design Archives at SVA, has won numerous awards including a Webby Award for Best Activist Website, and is regularly featured in print publications as well as most major global media outlets such as The Guardian, The New York Times, The Huffington Post and NPR.
We have been fortunate to work with organizations such as the National Head Start Association, The Nature Conservancy, Shout Your Abortion, The Museum of History & Industry, SFMoMA, and The Biennale of Sydney. Outside of our day-to-day design practice, we also produce three not–for–profit initiatives. These programs include our on-going Design Lecture Series, our interview series Beyond This Point, and our gallery, Non-Breaking Space, which sits at the front of our studio where we exhibit prominent works of graphic design.
Studio Culture by Adrian Shaughnessy and Tony Brook, of Spin Studios and Unit Editions fame, is a fantastic resource. Adrian and Tony sit down with studios around the world to discuss the daily workings of their studios. Every design studio operates completely differently, making it very hard to prepare for the environment you might be walking into when you go out for a new job or are looking to start your own practice, Studio Culture helps bridge the knowledge gap.
The Design of Dissent by Milton Glaser and Mirko Ilic is a compendium of socially and politically driven graphics throughout history. If you happen upon the newest edition published this year you’ll see protest posters Civilization created for the social movement Shout Your Abortion.
Neon Moire is a curated event guide of the world's most interesting design conferences and events–including film festivals, summer workshops and lectures. It is run by Thomas Dahm, who also produces the Neon Moiré Show podcast.
Teaching is another form of learning for us, so we jump at any chance to lead workshops or give talks. Last year our creative director taught a semester-long History of Graphic Design course for a local university. When we were in Breda, The Netherlands for the Graphic Matters festival we led a 3-day long workshop that resulted in multiple social impact campaigns being executed and distributed around the town of Breda during the festival. We also regularly give lectures at conferences around identity, action and connection.
Digital design plays a huge role in our practice. Every project we work on has some digital element — whether it’s a complete web platform for a client or project or an identity design. All identity work we do today requires digital elements such as social media marks, website icons, animations, etc., which requires us to consider and solve for how an identity will exist in the digital realm. In regards to tradition, graphic design is problem solving, and we are utilizing this traditional skill to solve digital problems.
We recently received perhaps the biggest highlight of our career. It was announced Civilization has been awarded the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian National Design Award in Communication Design for our entire body of work since we first started out. The award celebrates design as a vital humanistic tool in shaping the world. Past winners have included some of our personal heroes, Paula Scher, Milton Glaser, Massimo Vignelli, and outside of graphic design, Opening Ceremony, Rick Owens, Tom Ford, and Frank Gehry.
Make your practice personal. Build a strong visual vocabulary by looking to history for inspiration. Begin to develop a point-of-view and a philosophy. No matter what your day-to-day work life may be, you will always have an opportunity to infuse creative perspective and personal values. Focus your limited free time on collaborating with other students on passion projects outside of school. All of this work will inform your studies and ultimately what you want to do outside of school. Start a social action campaign, an exhibit, design a project for a friend–above all, work on things that have real world applications outside of academia.