In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, when all of us were still reeling from the shock and dismay of enforced quarantine, Jason Rothman found himself wondering—as many of us did—what he could do to help out.
A Philly-based creative director for San Francisco agency HUb, Rothman turned to what he knows best: design. In particular, he spends his days curating teams of designers for client projects that include LinkedIn, Redbubble and Oculus. So he turned his attention to doing the same thing for Covid-19.
“My brain went to, How can I use my powers for good in some way?” Rothman says. “One of the cool things about this—I’m all about the silver linings—is that a lot of creative designers are doing something to help the cause. I figured we could bring together all these people, make all this artwork and donate all the money.”
The result, launched this week, is COGRID-19, a pair of posters—one from Philly and one from the San Francisco/Bay Area—that each present 19 local designers reflecting on their experiences in quarantine. The Philly poster—a vibrant orange and pink grid—includes work from Frank Baseman, Woody Harrington, Timothy O’Donnell, Hilary Sedgwick, Kara Weintraub and others. (See the full list here.)
Some of the pieces are literal: A soup can of Covid crushed spirits, a gravestone reading “Normal Never Was”, just the words “Love You.” Others are more abstract and sensory. Together, they evoke a series of emotions—despair, yes, but also silliness, stillness and joy.
Rothman, who lives in Fitler Square, moved to Philly two years ago after 13 years in San Francisco, and immediately immersed himself in the city’s vibrant creative community.
During last year’s DesignPhiladelphia, he curated a show at Huddle Gallery—ad agency J2’s exhibit space—called All Hands, showcasing the work of local designers with one parameter: They could not use a computer. (Proceeds from sales of the work went to ArtWell.)
He reached out to some of the same artists, and some new ones, this spring for COGRID-19. Most agreed right away to participate; some, though, were still too overwhelmed by what was happening around them to commit.
Eventually, he did find 38 artists on both coasts, and was prepared to launch the poster in June—just when the world’s attention had turned to the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests in its wake. “It seemed like not the right time,” Rothman says.
Rothman acknowledges that there is no guarantee that the poster will be something people want; after all, post-Covid, it may not be appealing to have a constant reminder of this time hanging on a wall. Rothman designed them, though, to be beautiful pieces of art as well as poignant reminders of 2020.
“I wanted them to feel alive and energetic,” he says. “It embodies people’s emotions in this time in an interesting way, some uplifting and some not. It shows the emotional roller coaster we’re on. I love that it’s capturing a moment in time that no one is ever going to forget anyway.”
Purchase the Philadelphia poster here, for $19, with all proceeds going to the Philadelphia Black Giving Circle.