About The Victory Garden of Tomorrow (in Joe’s own words)
The Victory Garden of Tomorrow is a self-commissioned poster campaign designed to channel the bold energy of historical poster propaganda. It is committed to civic innovation and social progress– better food, better gardens, better cities. It is artful advocacy for the modern homefront.
In terms of conceptual design, The Victory Garden of Tomorrow is an exercise in blending WPA-era eat-your-peas propaganda with the awe-inspiring 1939 World’s Fair (motto: “The World of Tomorrow”) and its big-vision, world reshaping ambition. I believe the spirit and skills of that old generation lay within us today. We simply need to re-deploy ourselves if we are to shape our uncertain destiny.
Awesome! Another great artist with a great message. No, not just another one. Joe’s story has some great take-aways that we can all learn from. Joe didn’t start out big. He didn’t get an idea, dump a ton of money into making products, and then look for people to buy said products.
As you know, I am a big fan of the lean startup methodology. What he did was clearly leaner and more difficult in the short term, but it paid out in dividends later. What he did was that he kept his day job as an in-house graphic designer while he worked away at his craft on the side–i.e. he bootstrapped his company. He kept his overhead extremely low and slowly began marketing his products. First he opened an Etsy shop and as bloggers started picking up his stuff and blogging about it he saw spikes of sales. It wasn’t until an editor from Martha Stewart Living called him in early 2011 and asked him if he was “ready for this,” that he had to take a financial risk. When Martha Stewart’s people call your people, the decision to use the credit card that a friend offers you, isn’t all that big of a risk. I mean come on, now!
So what can we learn from Joe? A metric ton, duh! But first, a little about his story.
Joe is from Dayton, Ohio, a city he aptly descibes as “hating itself.” He moved to Portland, Oregon with his girlfriend, Taylor, a few years ago. He is a self-taught graphic designer with a thing for camping.
“It’s a story that has a bunch of angles but the basic gist is that I’m a history nerd, love vintage graphics and poster art, and I also have opinions on how our cities should be healthier places. -Joe
1. Finding a niche market-Going green, sustainability, recycling, and urban gardening are buzz words we have been seeing on t-shirts, zines, and posters everywhere from Etsy to Living Simple Magazine. From Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine, you can find designs encouraging sustainability. What makes Joe’s work different is that he is combining that message with the historical connection of the Victory Gardens from the 1940′s and the imagery of historical propaganda posters, such as the World Fair in NYC. In doing so he created a niche market for himself of nostalgic, geeky, green, yuppies. Brilliant!
2. Taking calculated risks-Joe operated with a very low overhead and purposely kept his costs low. In fact he slept and worked in one room (his bed was a fold up futon) for years. In doing so, he was able to keep his business afloat until he could break through. It wasn’t until he got the call from one of the editors of Martha Stewart Living that he pulled out his credit card (knowing that he would need a lot more stock for the flood of interest that would ensue). Bottom line: He took a risk only after he found a market for his products. This is so “Lean” it’s not even funny.
3. Joe’s work tells a story- One of the reasons Joe was inspired by the vintage propaganda posters is that they encourage the viewer to take action. What is better than a great message creatively depicted in a poster that asks you to take action? Talk about sheer effectiveness! Joe has it down. In fact, it makes me think that his posters need to be in every CSA, food co-op, school, and library.
“Joe’s work has the ability to evoke the optimism and conscience of both past and present, and captures the foodie zeitgeist with bright, poignant printmaking.” (Robyn Jasko)