Hey Santa Fe, you heard about this Santa Fe Promise campaign? It's a new thing from the city that basically asks us denizens to pledge to a code of conduct while the pandemic rages on.

Here's a look at its tenets:

  • I promise to act as if I carry the coronavirus.
  • I promise to maintain social distancing of at least six feet.
  • I promise to wear a face covering, wash my hands, use sanitizer.
  • I promise to buy from local businesses that also make this promise.
  • I promise to practice patience, compassion, empathy, connection, respect and love.

There's also some stuff about businesses getting acquainted with the new CSPs (COVID Safe Practices) developed by the state, and you can learn more by visiting the website (the staff of SFR totally promises to do these things; we already have been, even).

But I'm actually here to talk about the logo for the campaign, because it was created by one of the most exciting young designers working today anyplace (I said what I said), and he's got Santa Fe ties.

I'm speaking of Julian Williams, a graduate of the former Santa Fe University of Art & Design who lives in Amsterdam these days, doing sweet design work for the likes of Nike and Tommy Hilfiger. You may have even seen Williams' designs already, as he's worked with companies like La Fonda on the Plaza and Cooking with Kids.

I wanted to learn more about what went into the design process, why Williams was willing to work for free during a pandemic and what people living abroad think when they look at America right now.

SFR: How were you approached about designing the logo? How does a city get in touch with an artist overseas, even one who spent time here?

Williams: For many years I have been working remotely with the Santa Fe creative agency Ideas and People. Their founder's name is Bob Borden, and I've been lucky to work with him throughout the years on a number of branding projects for the city of Santa Fe. It was through Ideas and People that I was invited to work on this project.

I’m curious about your Santa Fe ties since you’ve not lived here in some time, but now you’re designing logos pro bono. Is there something about the campaign that spoke to you?

So I've lived in five states and four countries in 24 years, and I have to say Santa Fe is one of my favorite places on earth. It's magical. To me it feels like it is its own eclectic and inviting little country. I've always felt that any design work reflecting Santa Fe should reflect the same magic and intrigue I found while living there.

What went into the design? Is it as simple as you just envisioned something, or did you spend time considering its messaging and intent? 

I wanted to clearly display a sense of togetherness, which is difficult to do in design. Oftentimes, designers are asked to create logos about things like 'hope, love, inspiration.' These are really broad things that aren't so easy to portray visually, but I sat down and considered the brief I was given and visual cues from the city to complete the design. We actually went through a few rounds, and in the first, I made something we all felt was quite successful that combined a heart with city architecture. But in the review process we felt that there was something about it that wasn't hitting the mark. I wanted to hold onto that heart as part of the final design, because I felt it really conveyed this sense of community and togetherness we were aiming for.

The campaign’s messaging seems pretty universal—people who refuse to wear masks and such notwithstanding—as an artist, it must be easier or more enjoyable to work on something when you believe in what it’s all about (assuming you believe in what it’s all about)?

I won't work on something I don't believe in. Design is about communication—I am a visual communicator, and the things I choose to communicate to people matter to me. In the last few years I changed the focus of my personal design manifesto to focus on creating 'good work with good people.' Doing so has brought me a lot of joy, as well as a lot of inspiration and meaningful projects. And yes, I believe in this! Wear a freaking mask! Over in Europe, we can't believe that this is a debate.

Doing pro-bono work at a time like this, when people are struggling with unemployment—I think that could either sound awesome to people or like someone asked for something unfair. Do you have any thoughts on that?

I have been extremely fortunate in this crazy time in the world. I am doing work that I love with people I love, and am able to do so comfortably from my home. This was one of the deciding factors in me doing work for free for something I feel is important.

I have also been looking towards ways that I can give back to young queer and POC designers and communities in the wake of the pandemic and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement. I do want to emphasize to younger creatives that they need to be very careful with free work. People look for it all the time, especially in students, and it is messed up because the students are very often creating better work than the established designers and agencies who are charging for work—especially in the city of Santa Fe, no shade. But something I've learned from the people who believed in me, and also from working in Europe, is that good work costs money. And I am thankful for the people in my career (like Ideas and People) who recognized this.

Is it strange living overseas during a pandemic and do you have any plans to return stateside at any point? If so, is Santa Fe on your radar?

I am very happy to be living outside of the United States right now. Public health should not be a debate, and it makes me sad to see one of my home countries handle this pandemic in such a way, though Santa Fe seems to be on the right path. That being said, I do have many friends and family members I wish to see again stateside, and Santa Fe is definitely on my radar. It always is. I love that place so much. Santa Fe taught me a lot about communication, and now I get to share what I learned there with the world.

To find more design work from Julian Williams, follow his Instagram @joofwoof