Civilization on promoting a greater awareness through graphic design

Thomas Dahm talks with Corey Gutch, Michael Ellsworth and Gabriel Stromberg, founders of Seattle based graphic design studio Civilization, about promoting a greater awareness, producing self-initiated projects as the Design Lecture Series, Non-Breaking Space graphic design gallery, the design podcast Beyond This Point and how this all influence their personal and studio live.

The story that let up to the interview with Corey Gutch, Michael Ellsworth and Gabriel Stromberg is one I would like to share with you. I’m a big podcast fan, I quit listening to (talk) radio when Apple added podcasting to iTunes in 2005. One day, I think eleven years later, I found the Beyond This Point podcast episode with Kristian Koreman of Dutch architecture firm ZUS. Started listening, followed by all previous episodes. Later while researching design events, for Neon Moiré, I found out about the Design Lecture Series in the Seattle public library. Looking closer to the people organizing the event I discovered they were the same people as from the podcast: a design studio called Civilization. And as you do, you start following the cool people on the block, right? But then out of the blue, Civilization submitted their events to Neon Moiré. A moment of recognition to me. A confirmation that what I’m building is working. So I added the events to our agenda, even though it’s not completely right with the set of rules we set for ourselves. But gathering 500+ people on a Friday night, that come and listen to a single speaker is impressive.

Some months go by and a new US president got elected, and Civilization opened their graphic design gallery Non-Breaking Space. With as its premier show the 2017 version of The Design of Dissent exhibition. Originally The Design of Dissent exhibition was displayed at The School of Visual Arts, New York in 2005 and was curated by designers Milton Glaser and Mirko Ilic. The exhibition and the book that came with the show are a survey of prominent graphic works on social and political protest and critique spanning the last fifty years. So for me a perfect opportunity to ask the three graphic designers, why they do what they do and why graphic designers or designers in general are such good organizers?

Corey, Michael and Gabriel share some amazing insight in how they see all their self-initiated projects in relation to their design studio. How organizing events or making podcasts influences them in their daily life and work. The interview was lots of fun and I learned so much during and after the interview. I hope you can hear that in the edit. Enjoy :)

Civilization. Corey Gutch, Michael Ellsworth and Gabriel Stromberg


00:00 Introduction
00:21 Story behind starting the design studio
02:01 Story behind the name Civilization
03:28 Organizing the Design Lecture Series
14:15 Story behind Beyond This Point podcast
18:29 Starting the Non-Breaking Space gallery
25:39 Why are designers good organizers?
28:20 How self-initiated projects influence the studio work
30:51 The Neon 5, are five recommendations in a single category
31:05 Book
31:59 Event
32:34 Food
33:31 Movie
34:30 Miscellaneous
36:05 Non-Breaking Space gallery tour

Civilization's Neon 5


Burrito food truck and restaurant Marjorie both in Seattle.


Designing Design by Kenya Hara


Michael: Television serie Atlanta.
Gabriel: Documentary serie Abstract on Netflix.
Corey: Moonlight

Conference: Miscellaneous:

Michael: San Fransico Museum of Modern Art.
Corey: Art/Basel in Hong Kong.
Gabriel: Colorplan paper by G.F Smit, favorite color is Mist.

Design Studio Civilization online

Studio –
Lectures –
Podcast –
Non-breaking Space –

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