I have never especially liked banks, or been very attracted to them. They were institutions of function and sometimes, more often, frustration. But- Somerville's Community Credit Union was anything but the norm. When I walked into the their light filled space, I immediately noticed a difference. Their CEO, Nick Sarantopoulos, was engaging and friendly- so open to every idea I offered, not to mention the many he suggested as well. But more than that their mission was unique and unlike anything I had ever heard before. All the members are share holders instead of merely faceless customers. Their emphasis is not financial gain for their board members, but for the support and growth of their very diverse community. Social justice is central to their foundation as a business.Community Credit Union is an incredible and imaginative solution to the problem of big banks.
CCU always looks to highlight people within their community. So in that way, they wanted to focus their Earth Day party as a way to honor members of the Somerville community who have spent their livelihoods protecting and supporting our environment. Nick and his team were looking for a visual installation to help capture the energy and emphasis of the evening.
"How about a garden in the middle of the bank, we can all touch the dirt and feel mother nature!" Nick suggested enthusiastically. Have you ever thought about a garden in a bank? I hadn't, but I was loving the idea. After talking with Jodi Dugan, the head of HR and marketing, as well as other staff members for some time, I began to get a fuller picture of what could really impact and unite their event visually.
Their company logo features several triangles- so I designed a triangular planter that hosted three sides of robust succulents to compliment their branding, as well as bring to light the goal of growth and sustainability. Thinking of CCU's member focused spirit, I made enough small planters that each party goer would be able to take a succulent home. It was a great door prize, but more than that I also felt that bringing home a plant from CCU felt like it fit the larger motif of their institution. Bear with me, but people will take the plants home to grow. With the right attention and support these plants will become strong and hardy, beautiful to look at and beneficial in oxygen creation! A complete win. Likewise, CCU looks to help their members cultivate financial security so that people of all backgrounds and cultures can foster their best life, and by doing so improve the lives of others around them. The metaphor feels apt to me.
While I was in the bank, I noticed the positive rapport of the entire staff.
"We're pretty excited about parties," Jodi had mentioned, "and love a good backdrop."
When designing their backdrop, I thought a lot about the best materials and process to use. 100% recycled paper seemed like a no brainer- earth friendly and renewable. I was able to build a dynamic backdrop that featured more of elements of their brand logo, as well as tied in the imagery of succulents and plants.
The process of design and execution was exciting and filled with some problem solving. For instance, how do you transport a 100 pound planter in a standard transmission when you only know automatic? Solution: bribe your friend to help you and get through the city with much laughter and only a bit of anxiety.