A work by Lenz Creative Director Ben Barnes recently received worldwide recognition, when it was hosted at a museum in Milan, Italy.
The poster, entitled “Sow,” is the first in a series of three posters. Ben created the poster back in the mid 2000s based on the World War II Victory Garden Posters, most notably borrowing their militarist feel with a strong call to action. When asked why he made the poster, Ben said, “I wanted to do some good with the skill set that I had.” Ben wanted to motivate people to help the environment, and the poster does so by encouraging everyone to plant a garden.
When Ben began creating the poster, a professor that inspired Ben pointed him in the direction of a contest. The contest, called Green Patriot Posters, was hosted by two professors at the Rhode Island School of Design through an idea they called the “Canary Project.” The professors, just like Ben, wanted to use design as a way to do good and help the environment. The contest called for posters that had an aspect of environmental activism, and Ben’s poster fit right in. A year after the contest, the Canary Project picked Ben’s poster to be a part of a book produced from other art entered in the competition, alongside artists Shepard Fairey and DJ Spooky. The book received recognition from multiple online sources, including wired.com.
From there, the success of the poster snowballed. A year later, Ben was asked if his poster could be included in a large format calendar which would be released in Germany. Of course, he said yes. Fast forward yet another year, and the poster was included in a nationwide design museum tour alongside several other graphic design works. The exhibition was called “GRAPHIC DESIGN: NOW IN PRODUCTION,” and its travel list would make any voyager jealous. From New York to Texas to Los Angeles, Ben’s poster traveled across the states.
But the poster’s journey wasn’t done. Ben’s work made it all the way to Milan, Italy at the Triennale di Milaon Musuem. The poster joined other photographs, publications, and graphic materials produced by artists, architects, and community gardeners from across the globe. The exhibition, called ‘Urban Orchard’ and a part of the events of the 21st Triennale International Exhibition, presented a series of subjects related to urban agriculture.
Ben says, “It was all overwhelming, shocking, and surprising! I wasn’t expecting anything to come out of it. I was just thinking that this is something I could do and maybe use for my portfolio to show potential employers where my head is at. It’s just nice to feel like I could do more.”
Ben also said that, to him, his design and work isn’t about the recognition or awards. It’s about doing what he loves.