Sustainable Design and the See America Project

Sometimes the stars just align to help and this is what happened when I was able to merge my classroom instruction on sustainable design and the See America Project. During my package design class at the Art Institute of California, Orange County, I have a module on sustainable design. It was meant to be an introduction to the concepts and theories about how we can work in a smarter way to help save our environment and resources.  While I was developing my lessons I learned about what C.A.N was doing with the See America Project and its support for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).

I thought getting the students involved by designing posters for a national park would be a great way to peak their interest in sustainable design. What better way to open their eyes to the beauty of our world and in particular to the beauty of our national parks, and start to understand the importance of preservation and ecological solutions? Our national parks are places of great beauty and history.


First I introduced the great naturist John Muir who helped pave the way to saving these magnificent landmarks. Muir’s writings help America to gain further understanding of these unique places that needed to be preserved for future generations while advocating good stewardship. Then we explored the WPA posters for the national parks created during the “New Deal”. At the time, these posters showcased the greatness of our country and uplifted the spirit of the people during the Great Depression. At the same time they promoted the ethos of nature’s beauty. This brought us to our modern day versions of the WPA posters, the See America Project.

One visit to a national park can make anyone a believer in designing and living in a more sustainable way. I had each of my students pick a national park that they could relate to; one they have visited or wish to visit in the future. They then researched the park and presented visuals to help promote and showcase its uniqueness and history. They utilized their visual research to create posters to support the See America Project and also to create a sustainable package design for various products that could be sold to visitors at the parks, for example: t-shirts, water bottles, coffee mugs and playing cards. The poster art became the prominent design element for the product. They then packaged each of their products in a sustainable way using the tenets of sustainable design; reduce, reuse and recycle. Exploring materials, processes and production methods that would conform to designing in a sustainable practice was paramount.

This project gave my students an opportunity beyond the classroom walls; it turned out to be a wonderful way to help give back to the community, support the NPCA, the See America Project and allowed them to gain a positive professional experience.

You can see the amazing submissions from Daniel’s students by visiting the links below. 

Mount Rainier National Park by Agustin Contreras

Olympic National Park by Cody Willems

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail by Ian Wells

Channel Islands National Park by Ian Wells

Katmai National Park and Preserve by Leonardo Priego

Joshua Tree National Park by Tarek

Daniel Gross

Creative Director, aNEW.designs

website / blog / twitter / about me

Proudly Announcing: See America, Reviving The Legacy Of The New Deal Arts Projects.


(Original See America posters from the New Deal arts project of the 1930’s)

Over 75 years after the government first commissioned posters to showcase the country’s most stunning natural features under the banner: “See America,” The Creative Action Network (CAN) has set out to do it again by launching a new version of See America, a crowdsourced art campaign, enlisting artists from all 50 states to create a collection of artwork celebrating our national parks and other treasured sites. The campaign will kick off with an exhibition in the William J. vanden Heuvel Gallery at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York on January 10, 2014.


(A sampling of posters from the new See America project)

"With so many artists in need of jobs and so many causes in need of national attention, our government set out over 75 years ago to put the nation’s artists to work, illustrating and celebrating our shared national identity. With today’s digital tools, individual artists have the power to create and share their work like never before. That’s why now is the time to pick up where the New Deal left off, and harness America’s creative energy in celebrating the beauty & importance of our natural & cultural landmarks,” said Max Slavkin, Co-Founder & CEO of Creative Action Network.

With the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service approaching in 2016 and the continued threat of budget cuts today, Creative Action Network put out a call to its community of artists and designers around the world to create a new collection of See America posters for a new generation. The posters will highlight natural, cultural and historic sites across the country depicting our shared history and encouraging individuals to reconnect with these places. CAN has partnered with the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), who stepped up to sponsor and support See America.

“As we approach the 2016 centennial, it’s increasingly important that we inspire new audiences to appreciate and connect with America’s national parks to keep them relevant for future generations,” said NPCA President Clark Bunting. “Artists and photographers have inspired millions of people to visit our parks throughout their nearly 100-year history. This partnership with Creative Action Network will continue that tradition and looks to re-imagine See America in a digital age.”   

This new collection of See America posters will be on display in a special exhibition at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York, opening to the public on January 11, 2014. The exhibition is scheduled to run from January 11 through June 30. Another exhibition is scheduled in San Francisco at Intersection For The Arts from January 13-24,  and additional exhibitions are in the works across the country.

Director of the FDR Presidential Library Lynn Bassanese said, “As he worked to lift America out of the Great Depression, FDR also strove to raise the nation’s battered pride and spirit. One way to do that was to celebrate the country’s stunning natural wonders — and encourage Americans to visit them. Artists employed by the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) were enlisted in this campaign. They created striking posters promoting America’s natural beauty, including its national parks and monuments. We are delighted to be working with both the Creative Action Network and the National Parks Conservation Association to tell the story of this historic American arts program and showcase the new collection of See America posters.”

Creative Action Network (CAN) is a marketplace of original, visual, meaningful artwork, harnessing creative talents for good. CAN campaigns are crowdsourced and open for anyone to contribute their own design at:  See America is not a contest, but rather a campaign to showcase our most precious American sites, and all designs are available for sale as posters, tote bags, and more at 40% of all proceeds go directly to the artists involved. For more information, visit

Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice of the American people in the fight to safeguard our National Park System. NPCA and its 800,000 members and supporters work together to protect the National Park System and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit

The 13 Moments That Shaped Our First Year

We launched The Creative Action Network almost exactly a year ago with the mission of putting our nation’s artists to work making a difference. A year later, who could have imagined we’d make it this far! Here’s a look back at the biggest moments of 2013.

#1. We launched our first campaign. After so many artists reached out to us following the tragedy in Newtown, we launched The Gun Show, a crowdsourced collection of posters to promote gun safety. To date we’ve received nearly 300 amazing posters, and counting. 


#2.  Our first design was seen by over a million people. It came from artist Chris Lozos, flew all over facebook, and best of all, you can still get the poster!


#3. We put on a one night only pop-up show! With our friend Van Jones and his organization, Rebuild The Dream, we hosted a pop-up gallery show in San Francisco! 


#4. Let’s re-cover the classics. At the start of summer, in partnership with DailyLit, we launched a new campaign - Recovering The Classics - crowdsourcing original covers for some of the greatest works in the public domain, and selling the new covers as posters, or with the full text of their book as ebooks and special edition paperbacks printed at the Harvard Bookstore.


#5. Road Trip! Then we took Recovering The Classics on the road, meeting with librarians, bookstores, and literature lovers from New York to Chicago to Las Vegas, with an amazing show at Housing Works Bookstore



#6. Let’s hear it for the courts. DOMA is struck down, equality is upheld in California, and Mr. Furious is on it right away with the image that says it all:


#7. Influencing the national conversation. Minutes after George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, Nikkolas Smith’s image from our Gun Show campaign goes viral across social media and news outlets across the country.


#8. From online design to CNN primetime. And the very next day, Nikk was invited live on CNN to discuss his poster, artistic expression, and social justice. 


#9. Give a frack. When our friends at approached us about crowdsourcing a series around the Keystone XL pipeline we had to say yes, and the work that came in is outstanding, like this one from Brixton Doyle. 


#10. Let’s stay together. Working with artists online is fun, but working with artists in person is even better. So we hosted our first ever Design Jam, this time around Recovering The Classics, at Betaworks in NYC!


#11. #UnitedForReform. In partnership with Organizing For Action, we launched a #UnitedForReform, crowdsourcing artwork for immigration reform. Have you seen the gallery yet


#12. We got into the best accelerator program ever. In October, we were accepted into Matter, a program here in San Francisco helping start-ups working to “change media for good” through a seed investment, mentorship, and a community of amazing entrepreneurs. 


#13. Next Up: See America. Kicking off January 2014 is our newest and biggest campaign to date: See America. We’ve partnered up with the National Parks Conservation Association, enlisting artists from all 50 states to create a collection of artwork celebrating our national parks and other treasured sites. Sign up to be first to see the new collection when it’s live


Most importantly, thanks to all of you, for joining our crazy experiment in harnessing creative talents for good. Thank you for making such amazing work contributing to CAN. Thank you for buying so many posters and supporting our artists. And thank you for sharing these designs with your friends, together we’re gonna make big things happen in 2014. 

Happy New Year, 

Max and Aaron, Co-founders, Creative Action Network

F@#k Contests

Crowdsourcing has come to represent everything unethical about working with creative people. It is almost always synonymous with spec-work, or contests where everyone is making work for free hoping to be named the winner and receive the fabulous prize. Sadly, by design, 99% of the entrants will be labeled losers and the contest organizer will get to chose from a big pool of work that they didn’t have to pay for.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. It is possible to ethically work with a big, group of creative people. I’d like to talk about how and why to do this.

Let’s start with the why. If your goal is to to get the most art for the least amount of money, then please stop reading now. This guide is for people who want to build and serve communities; people who understand that well organized groups of creative people can make things that are bigger and better than anyone could by themselves. Your job isn’t to find the single winner, but to make everyone a winner by spreading rewards, valuing diversity and bringing the voices of those on the edges to the center. The best work will naturally rise to the top but a rising tide floats all boats.

Some principals and guidelines on the how:

Extend a personal invitation.

You should approach online organizing as you would approach organizing a potluck dinner. Be a human, ask people nicely, tell them what they need to accomplish to make it a success.

  • Forget email lists, send a personal email.
  • Be a real human, be friendly and welcoming.
  • Communicate a goal and how participation helps to accomplish it.

Build creative constraints

Many for profit companies that crowdsource are too restrictive (the logo has to be this big, always here, use only this language, etc) while many non-profit organizations are too general (tell your story with a video, song, poem, story, photo, etc). It’s true that constraints make it easier to be more creative (a blank page is really daunting) but too many constraints can become restrictive. What can you decide to make the job of the artist more interesting and the collection coherent?

  • Deadlines are very important, as is leaving enough time for word to travel and work to be made.
  • Standardizing things like size or color palette are good places to start.
  • Set the tone you wish the work to have.

F@#k contests. Find ways to spread the love

This is the most important rule. Everyone has to win, just by participating and being a part of something larger than themselves. Rather than selecting several entries to be honored, honor everyone’s contribution.

  • Don’t over-curate. Diversity can be very beautiful.
  • Gallery shows, publications, and press-exposure are good ways of showcasing large amounts of work.
  • Always credit everyone.

Happy organizing!

- Aaron Perry-Zucker, Co-Founder, Creative Action Network

CAN Artist Spotlight: Roberlan Borges


Contributing illustrator Roberlan Borges talks about what drew him to Recovering the Classics, and opens up about his design process.

If it is true what they say, that the first impression is the one we remember, then that first impression must be unforgettable. 

When I was invited to participate in the Recovering the Classics project, I remember that my first thought was “AWESOME!” But I didn’t really even have a clue just how awesome it is proving to be. It’s so big and amazing! It’s uniting talented artists from all around the world. I have been invited for other great projects, but none of them really made me feel quite as inspired and enthusiastic. For me, this project was love at first sight. One of the things that really impressed me about the project was how so many artists have joined with so many different styles and visions. There is just so much inspiration. So many people are engaged by it. When I first saw the book list on the website I knew right away that I wanted to make covers for “Frankenstein” and “The Brothers Karamazov”.



These are two intense histories, full of conflicts and with interesting plots. I always envisioned this project as if it was made in the 50’s or 60’s. If Illustrators and painters of that time were invited to recreate those covers, I imagine that they would have come up with some hippie, psychedelic and colorful artworks. That was what I had in mind. I wanted to make those dark, dramatic histories into colorful paintings. For the “Karamazov Brothers” I knew exactly what visual I want to achieve, but for “Frankenstein” I had lots of ideas.



Later I created more artworks for other books that always fascinated me. In each one I tried to capture the spirit of the story and the author as well. Always seeking to maintain a retro, vintage feel to it. I love how all of them look. I’m happy with all the results.


It is no doubt how important covers are because it’s the first contact you have with the book. It’s the first thing you see on the shelf or when you’re going to download it. Even before you read it you are looking at the cover art. We can say the cover is the “face” of the story and so needs to translate all the elements, scenes, and characters in a simple, visual way. Well, if it is badly designed maybe it will lead people to think the book is bad and maybe they will not want to read it. If it is well designed and beautifully illustrated (even if it’s bad) maybe it will make people want to buy it. No, just kidding. These are all great books.


So that’s the reason why this project is so cool: it is making artists create unforgettable impressions for unforgettable books.


Roberlan Borges is a digital artist and illustrator from a sunny and warm city called Vitória in Brazil. He lives with his wife and three daughters. He likes old movies and good music. And coffee. 

See more of Roberlan’s work for the Creative Action Network or browse his portfolio on Behance

On the Search for Artists in the WWW

Words from a young and speculative intern:

Today I spent the day “winning the internet,” looking for artists and illustrators to reach out to for our upcoming call for submissions forRecovering the Classics (Round II). I have some experience being on the outreach end of things, (good times were had recruiting for eVolo Magazine’s quarterly issue one LA summer) but instead of recruiting prestigious architects and futurists, I browsed through a range of illustrators—students, working professionals, hobbyists, dreamers…

A few clicks in, I realized how empowering the internet can be for anyone who ever wanted to be an artiste—that profession often discounted from the priorities of society—though now in a digital sphere. There is software to create digital art, as there is software for it to be uploaded onto a virtual gallery on design-y communities like CargocollectiveBehance, and Tumblrfor the world to see. People spend hours scrolling and clicking, being inspired by art, memes, content digitally published and passed on by people. Websites and blogs are the new canvases for artists to cut through the noise of preexisting media and deliver honest messages that make the average internet user already stop and reflect—so why not fuel a conversation that will spark social change? Can we call it the art movement of digital social change?

I love having the responsibility to browse through all the kinds of artists there are on the internet and learn about what their causes and passions are as individuals. To my findings, some are already using the internet to spread their messages across the globe, congregating in small scales. But some have yet to find their cause, and some have not found ways to make their efforts count. 

For those who have yet to experience or who want to engage in the intersection of art and social impact, the Creative Action Network seeks to do just that—choose a social issue that is pertinent to our time and mobilize artists, or anyone who has a creative flair, to take action through art. 

We are adding 50 more books to the list.

Time to Recover the Classics…the way you interpret them.

Published by Jessica Escobedo

Wait, WHAT?! People Still Have Feelings?! My First Day At #PDF13

The last few years have seen no shortage of excitement, hype, and genuinely awesome game changing in the realm of big data. Bearded & be-flip-flopped data scientists bedazzled the press in the 2012 election cycle. Organizations like Code For America,  New Organizing Institute, and BlackGirlsCode, are doing incredible work, building the scaffolding to support a new industry of activists and entrepreneurs leveraging data and analytics.


I love this. And I think most people at #PDF13 do too. 

But it can’t be JUST data. As my old boss Sara Critchfield said in her talk, “Analytical Data+Emotional Data = Awesome.”

Data is vital. But it’s only half the equation. 

Becky Bond and Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman both reminded everyone that behind all the conversion rates and the A/B subject line tests are real. live. people. People who respond to neighbors knocking on their door or calling them on the phone because they know them. Because they feel comfortable. We can optimize campaign tactics indefinitely forever. But will it result in real change?

While big data has taken up the center stage - in living rooms, and on literal center stages across America, culture has continued to reframe narratives, introduce ideas, and change our hearts.


Of course organizers were crucial in passing the Civil Rights Act. But to what extent did America watching Jackie Robinson play baseball, or listening to Bennie Goodman’s integrated Big Band, play a role? How many people voted for Obama in 2008 because of Shepard Fairey’s “HOPE” poster? Are Mitch & Cam of Modern Family at all responsible for the wave of progress we’ve seen around marriage equality? 


Is it even possible to know? Would the answers fit on a spreadsheet? Is that even the point?

For me, Day 1’s conversations at PDF signal a swinging back of the pendulum and a step forward in balancing our heads and our hearts. I hope it means we’re beginning to bring the same level of enthusiasm, attention, and resources, to optimizing our culture that we do to optimizing our campaigns. 

Max Slavkin is co-founder of the Creative Action Network, a community of artists crowdsourcing creativity for causes.

Recovering the Classics: A Week of Press & New Friends

It’s now been a week since our launch of Recovering the Classics, and it’s been nothing but great news and collaboration! Stay tuned for Max’s recap of New York.

Many thanks to the following publications for helping us launch with so much positive support! 

Fast Company Design: "Crowdsourcing Spiffy New Book Covers For 50 Literary Masterpieces" 

The New York Observer’s Betabeat: "Recovering the Classics Launches to Give Public Domain Books Decent Covers, at Long Last"

Publishers Weekly: "Plympton Gives Classic Lit A Facelift Through New Promotion"

The Huffington Post: "Classic Book Covers Reinvented"

TODAY.Com: "Judge By Their Covers: Classic Book Designs Reimagined"

GOOD: "Why We’re Crowdsourcing Art For Classic Book Covers"

PaidContent: "Liked Jane Eyre, hated the cover? Now designers can sell classic books with new jackets" 

Print Magazine: "Weekend Heller"

WBUR: "Classic Book Covers Reimagined"

Publishing Perspectives: "Recovering the Classics: DailyLit Gives a Facelift to Public Domain Titles"

Upstart Biz Journal: "Slideshow: Crowdsourcing the classics: Iconic book covers re-imagined"

Wwwhat’s New: "Renewing Classic Covers with Recovering The Classics"

Operagasm: "O’s Book Club!"

Apartment Therapy: "Classic Books Get Crowdsourced Cover Art"

Skullastic: "Recovering the Classics"

Brainstorm9: "Recovering the Classics: Ajude a recriar capas de livros clássicos" "Una iniciativa para rediseñar las portadas de los clásicos de la literatura"

Why We’re Crowdsourcing Art for Classic Book Covers

Written by Aaron Perry-Zucker on GOOD

The idea of the “public domain” goes all the way back to ancient Rome (probably further), where the law prohibited certain things from being owned by citizens because they existed for all to enjoy—like air, sunlight, and the ocean. As societies around the world advanced, copyright laws emerged to protect the interests of the content creators, and soon only work that was too old or uninteresting “fell” into the public domain.

In the United States, the first federal copyright legislation (the 1790 Copyright Act) set the maximum term of ownership for content creators at 14 years, with the ability to renew for another 14. Then Congress doubled that term (several times) before they changed it to the number of years after the life of the creator, then they added more time after that. Protecting copyright for 70 years after the creator’s death (as is the standard now) does a great job of protecting the large corporations and media companies with vaults of content to profit from, but this leaves that much less content for the rest of us to watch, remix, and enjoy without paying for it.

It doesn’t have to be so all-or-nothing. Content can and should be reasonably available to everyone—and content creators should be reasonably compensated. Luckily, new technologies for the creation and distribution of content are making this process more possible and democratic every day. Our latest project, Recovering The Classics, is an attempt to highlight just a glimpse of what’s possible when we embrace the public domain.





On May 28, we rolled out the beginnings of a crowdsourced collection of original book cover art for 50 of the greatest works of fiction in the public domain, including Moby Dick and Les Miserables, and we’ll be selling those books with their new covers as high quality ebook and paperback editions printed by the Harvard Bookstore. Because these classics have fallen into the public domain, artists from around the world now have the opportunity to re-cover these classic books and share them anew, without requiring a license from the copyright holder. Book lovers get fresh content, artists get exposure and get paid—and if the content creators were around today, they would see new audiences experiencing their work.

It’s time to reclaim the public domain for its original purpose: making information and beauty accessible to everyone.