When it came to creating an anti-drug messaging campaign for Minnetonka Schools, designer Rich Stromwall and creative consultant Jonathan Bing found themselves working with an interesting theme—penguins. “Tonka Cares (the community coalition behind the campaign) had done a survey with a multiple choice question about a favorite animal,” says Bing. “It turns out penguins scored really high.”
The pair were new to working together after meeting via their children. “As both consultants and freelance creatives, we often work with those outside our own skill set, so I was interested in Rich’s work and I loved that we both lived in Minnetonka,” says Bing. “We were at a complete loss for how to make penguins fit any kind of anti-drug message, so this is where good collaboration matters.”
“Jonathan is ridiculously creative and has tons of ideas,” says Stromwall. “Studies show that if kids think risky behaviors are typical, they’re more likely to join in those behaviors. So we promoted statistics that show how drug and alcohol use at Minnetonka is really much lower than kids think.” Stromwall also worked to illustrate these kinds of statistics on posters separate from the penguin project.
In addition to his work on this campaign for Minnetonka Schools, Stromwall is an accomplished artist, though it wasn’t always a clear career choice for him. “I’ve always liked to draw, but I wasn’t particularly creative,” he says. “When I was young, I didn’t think much about what I wanted to do. Art was barely a hobby, and I didn’t consider it a career path.” After college, Stromwall took some art and design classes and found work as a graphic artist with state government, followed by a position at an agency. “Then in 1998, I began freelancing,” says Stromwall. “Still am!”
Stromwall works on projects ranging from ads to brochures and reports to t-shirts. His projects include everything from poster prints for the 10,000 Lakes Concours d'Elegance auto show to stylized caricatures of cultural icons like Frida Kahlo. He works out of a home office in Deephaven using Adobe products to create his designs, as well as an iPad for sketching.
Stromwall describes his creative process as trial and error. “I make lots of small sketches and refine the ones that look promising. I rarely have a clear picture,” he says. “Sometimes I’m convinced I have a great idea and I can’t get it to look anything but crappy. Other times I have no good ideas and still somehow cobble together something decent. I persist until something works.”
“I’m such a fan of his style,” says Bing, who writes picture books and children’s literature in addition to his creative consulting work, and is
currently working on a new book. Though it may involve fewer penguins, future collaborations between these two creatives may be in store.
Take a look at Stromwall’s work on his website, stromwall.art. Keep up with the work of Jonathan Bing at jonathan-bing.com or on Twitter at @thingofbing.