Every month, the next generation of great artists puts their spin on the ThinkNW logo.
Illustrator, writer and performer Haley Brown from Santa Cruz, California (Amah Mutsun land) takes a decidedly Pacific Northwest fungus mainstay to an interesting place. Haley’s work is always in service of envisioning a softer, more loving world.
How did you initially want to approach your interpretation of the ThinkNW logo?
I’ve been returning to basics and revisiting my longtime love of line art this season, so I knew immediately that I wanted to start there. I sketched out a few loose nature-y concepts.
Still, the first idea I began to get excited about was to create clusters of mushrooms growing around the text — I find them incredibly fun to draw, and I also love the symbolism of mycelium — these expansive interconnected root systems happening right under our feet! ThinkNW is that kind of root system!
What were your thoughts and inspiration? How did the direction in designing the ThinkNW logo evolve/change?
Years ago, I took a class at my community college about lettering and typography, and my favorite unit was on what I think was called “animated alphabets” — designing letters to look like specific things.
My first few sketches featured letters made of outdoorsy imagery — which I associate with the Pacific Northwest — and then I started writing the “ThinkNW” text in mushrooms.
What are some of the specific elements in the ThinkNW logo design that you feel are unique/cool/fun?
I enjoy working with a limited color palette and balancing minimalism and detail. Because the linework was intricate on this, I wanted the shapes of the letterforms to be the primary focus so that the logo would stay readable, so I kept everything else very simple! Although I played with color fills for the mushrooms and more intricate background art, I ultimately decided against it.
When did you know that art was something that you wanted to pursue?
Since I was little, making art was never a question, it’s always been more of a necessity for me. Growing up with BIG energy and a physical disability that made me prone to injuries, I needed an outlet. But pursuing art as my job is something I fell into and continue to choose all the time.
In 2015 I made an illustrated calendar called The Coping Calendar to help myself through a bout of depression and significant life upheavals. Since folks in my circle expressed a lot of interest in it, I printed and sold 150 copies that year, and the following year I just did it again… and again! That project is now entering its ninth season.
Over time, I started making and selling other things, and it slowly became less of a hobby and more of a job. Last summer, after working in childcare for over 15 years, I left to pursue my creative practice full-time.
What are your biggest inspirations in your art?
My friends, picture book authors/illustrators, community herbalists, libraries, public parks, artists, organizers and activists, therapists/therapists, and the weeds growing through the sidewalk cracks. Disability justice, clouds and stars, roots, stories, underworlds, inner child work, the concept of medicine. Faeries, rivers, and other things kid-me loved. Seasons and cycles!
Do you think that you have a style?
This is actually something I’m contemplating a lot right now, having recently made the jump into kinda “professionalizing” my art practice more. Because I don’t have a lot of formal education in this field (just one-off classes here and there), it’s still tricky for me to identify my “style” and what areas I genuinely need to improve upon! Other people have told me I have a style that’s quirky, whimsical, feminine, and at times strange!
What is most important to you when expressing your art?
So many things. The immediate phrase that comes to mind is: “Care at the center of everything,” which I heard powerful organizer Elandria Williams say at a Disability justice workshop I attended during the early pandemic times.
Where do you feel your art is going next?
Whew, I’m excited to find out! I want to make so many things! I’ve definitely been wanting to do more work with narrative and story (picture books! zines!), have recently started doing commissions which I’m really enjoying, and have a thousand ideas for everyday art (postcards, stickers, totes, calendars) I’d like to make and share. I would also be thrilled to gain more poster and logo design skills and wield that skills to serve the causes I believe in.
Find more of Haley’s work here!