Positive Posters

This is the work I am most proud of. It's the work I did that shaped both my career and life the most and introduced me to some incredible people and places and showed me what is possible when we combine design, technology, the internet and community.

Positive Posters (PP) was an annual International poster design competition that I founded in 2009. Each year designers (students, freelancers, studios) were invited to submit a poster to our website promoting a cause that they believed needed more attention. Each October, we would shortlist the entires down to the 30 best posters then hold an exhibition in Melbourne, Australia. At the exhibition we would announce a jury selected winner and that would be pasted up on city streets around the world.

In our first year we launched with a scrappy Wordpress website. I visited design schools to promote the competition and we sent emails so some blogs. We received 351 entries from 57 countries. It was an overwhelming response!

In the second year, blog coverage from Swiss Miss and The Design Files drove an explosion in entires from Australia and overseas.

This was back in the days where you could put a Facebook like button on each page on your website and if you clicked like, it would post to your wall. Our traffic began to grow.

The venture was set up as a non-profit org (which I thought mean we couldn't make money) so we relied on community donations to fund our operating exhibition costs.

I was the chairman of our board (at 22 ) and also web-designer, customer support, exhibition organiser, social media manager etc. We also had a small and dedicated team who helped pull everything together each year.

Most days I would wake up to 10 - 20 emails saying something like, "I can't find the log in button" and I would got and change the design and update the site. Later, I would learn that this was called user interface or experience design.

In 2011 I woke up to an email that changed everything for us. Right at the beginning of PP, I had spontaneously decided to send a letter to Yoko Ono (I found her Central Park address online somewhere) telling her about the project we had started. I pointed out that it had similar energy to the War Is Over posters her and John Lennon had distributed in 1969.

The email was from Yoko's assistant. He was cleaning out her store room and had found my letter and they wanted to know if we were still running PP and if so, could Yoko get involved? Shocked, I replied and said we were still running it and their timing couldn't be better! We were about to announce the 2011 competition.

Yoko offered to send out a tweet to here then 1 million followers and design a poster for the competition. Her tweet went out in November 2011 and our website proceeded to break (this was pre-AWS).

Traffic and entries hit an all time high with a few months each year regularly hitting over 1 million unique visitors a month. I was working a part time job in a factory to keep the lights on.

We build three more versions of the website and continued to hold our annual exhibitions.

In our final year, we had over 10,000 people send us 20,000 posters which ended up resulting in a $30,000 hosting bill. To pay for the hosting, I started a design conference (Sex, Drugs & Helvetica), but it was clear that without revenue, PP couldn't continue.

So in 2013 we closed the website and stopped running the competition.

Our top entries by country were:

1. Australia
2. United States
3. Iran

Iran had then and still has today, a rich and large graphic design culture. Due to various internet censorship issues, PP was a place where they were still able to share their work online and I'm grateful for our partnership and support we received from the Iranian Graphic Design Association who promoted PP heavily.

The most exciting and fulfilling part of running PP was walking around the exhibition at the end of each year, watching people walk around the gallery and pause in front of a poster from somewhere they hadn't been, about a topic they didn't understand and learning more about the world we live in.

In five years, I learned a enormous amounts our world and about running a venture, team, designing for the internet, and more.

Below are some photos from the PP adventure.