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Starting a Brand

Posted by Jake Kerr on


In 2013, an idea hit me to take the latest design I had made, a minimalist and stripped down version of the Bay Area transit map - you know the metro maps in popular cities that remind you of some board game, or busy-bee contraption with several lines, each a different color crossing and tangling through the other rails of color, looping again while some of them stop, and then turn around. To add to the mess (mix,) location stops are squeezed in wherever they might fit - wherever the dot, or line break calls to represent that stop. Yet the map never failed to grab my attention. Perhaps seeing it everyday, just naturally made it grow on me - more and more, since I was an artist and all, and I did love color. 

So on that day in 2013 while on the train back into the city, I would finally give the Bay Area Transit Map the attention it deserved. As I examined it closely through the final stops as I approached my exit, it was as though it knew my thoughts -

I'm going to make you pretty.

It took a few days, but the end result was a complete transformation from the original map - not in a bad way, but not in a good way either. You see, there would be no way the map I designed would make sense to a commuter, as I deleted everything needed for it to be a successful map. What I did create though, was a bit of art, and that was my intention. I made sure all lines fit a much bolder color pallet, intersections would break nicely in a fixed gap, and line turns would be an even degree. I blew up my final edit in illustrator, and had it set to print at 40 x 60 in. The result was spectacular. I hopped back on BART to the nearest Walmart, and picked up an inexpensive black poster frame. The next day I was overly happy at my accomplishment every time I glanced at the piece hanging over the futon. 

Nothing but praise came from anyone who saw it. I think everyone liked it, but I wasn't sure if anyone loved it, like I did. . . That was until the requests came in from closer friends and family to please make them one. And so I did, maybe a dozen or so - until it slowed down - like abruptly slowed down. The project file was saved and archived in my design folder, and I moved on with my normal life. 

In 2015 I moved back home from San Francisco, and needed some cash, or more cash. I was doing photography gigs for friends and family, and I had a few steady design clients, but still I wanted to harness more of my creativity. My friend has told me about this site called Etsy - an online marketplace for all things handmade, and fortunately for me, that meant art. I opened up a shop, called it The Camera Graphic, and started with a handful of products. Some where photographs, a couple were digital graphic illustrations, and one of them was the minimalist Bart transit map. The next few days my Etsy shop existed in slumber. Nobody was really even looking. Eh, I didn't mind, and it definitely didn't stop me from adding my next product, a redesigned transit map of Boston - sharing the same colors I used in the Bart map, and the same design principals. Over the next few days, I would hear the cash register notification repeatedly go off on my phone. The sales were starting, but all those sales were coming from Boston. This was still exciting. In the mix of activity, I caught a message from an Etsy buyer requesting me to make a Chicago version of the map. I did, and then Chicago started to sell too. This was cool - I was making a bit of cash from the maps I was so fascinated by, and what I found to be even more satisfying, was realizing the buyers must have been people who were just as equally as fascinated.

More maps were added, Los Angeles, Portland, New York City and San Diego, each one contributing to a growth in revenue. The holiday season began to come around, and during that time a few more maps were made and posted. Little did I know I would soon be in over my head. The joyous new time I had been having creating again lately, would be taken and replaced with a fear I never saw coming, a high demand, that grew and grew each day closer toward Christmas.

To Be Continued...

Jake Kerr

December 15, 2019

Thank you for reading, and for the positive advice!

Christina Juliano

December 12, 2019

Wow. Amazing. Keep racing forward and follow what you love!

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