Maybe the Carafe Café on Folsom Street was a little too dark for a wintry San Francisco chapter meeting.
But it could be argued that the ambiance let inspiration shine brighter as a dozen old and new friends traded stories and tried to lace a loose AFH Chapter together for a marathon year 2016. Not to say the SF Chapter is starting from scratch (especially as it picked up a handful of projects last year despite the jaw-dropping news of the parent organization’s closure), but the time now just seems ripe. A new enthusiasm buzzed among this group of old, returning, and aspiring members, aided by evidence of an emerging, restructured chapter network nonprofit organization.
Garrett Jacobs, the freshly appointed Executive Director of “The Chapter Network,” made it out and shared the status of the international collaborative. A to-be-announced new name has been selected by the Network’s steering committee and leadership, and Garrett was now working with a branding consultant to refine logo options. Here Garrett brings out the 23-page presentation now circulating among chapter leadership. This table met at least two of the three options with enthusiasm. Garrett looked relieved – the action of the Network’s branding endeavor has finally crested (after an 84-message email thread), and now the nascent organization is cruising to a finish on this particular race. The brand’s launch is slated for early March, Garrett said, accounting for a few minor delays. Also – and significantly – the unveiling will be accompanied by collateral and presentation templates for the chapters. The gear, the beginning of what Garrett hopes to be a robust trend of resource provision to aspiring do-good designers, will resolve the identity crisis each AFH chapter had to navigate during the past year.
The rest of our conversation functioned as though no name was no issue at all. Legacy members shared bit on AFH-SF’s active work. Late last year, Chapter volunteers rendered a second pocket park for the Portola Neighborhood Association; now, the project is awaiting approvals, and the Chapter is standing by for news on continuing services. In a similar vein, the Oakland City Hall Design Hub concepts drummed up in November’s charrette is awaiting approval, and Chapter member contributions to the San Pablo corridor visioning are being built out by the community and managing org EBALDC. So – we are in a lull in the Chapter’s project pipeline.
However much prosperity is associated with the Bay Area these days, plenty of forces still challenge our neighborhoods, who may be seeking the support professional designers can provide. The group noted a big Chapter need to beef up outreach, and attendees brought some new prospects to the table (to be discussed next month in more depth). We are also reaching out to local organizations like AIASF, SPUR, the City, and a handful of neighborhood groups and nonprofits to begin strengthening the web of the network around us.
Attendees included longtime SF Chapter participants (who worked on the West Oakland Health Clinic programming) and recent participants (who worked on the Thornton pocket park renderings), former AFH HQ staff and volunteers, and AFH transplants from Chicago and the Haiti office. (Several others apologized for sudden conflicts.) A pair of landscape architects were keen to pursue a pocket park / parklet initiative to parts of the region where open space was lacking. A designer mentioned how her firm performed pro bono projects, and has reached out to the Chapter for the right fit. Another designer from the East Bay reported how businesses along a forthcoming BRT route were being pushed out for not having the resources to refurbish their shops. The group was a good size and impressive makeup that the happy hour wasn’t afraid to focus on developing the chapter – not only taking a moment to celebrate all that we’ve been doing, but secure a productive 2016.
The pending new brand does limit our abilities – but the turnout and conversation the other night showed that, regardless of a formalized “identity” for Chapters 2.0, the mission and passion are speaking for themselves. For now.
SF Chapter examines the logos developed by the Chapter Network and graphic design company Homestead; photo by Garrett Jacobs. Top photo by Matt Baker.