Picture this: Wonder Woman holding a Starbuck’s cup, a man trapped in a computer screen and another looking into the face of his own severed head. No, you’re not reading the opening to a bizarre fantasy novel. If you’ve ever been inside our office, you may recognize these images from our self-portrait wall.
Everyone who works at WhiteSpace Creative – from interns all the way to the president of the company – completes the infamous self-portrait assignment.
The parameters? It shouldn’t be bigger than 24” x 24” or smaller than 16” x 16”. You can use crayons, clay, scrap metal, watercolors, photographs – anything – but if it costs more than $30, we aren’t paying for it. Oh yeah, and you need to pour a very real piece of yourself into a piece that will hang on a wall for years to come.
Then you have to present it to the entire company.
Making a blank space our space
At WhiteSpace, the self-portrait assignment has become a celebrated initiation process. President and CEO Keeven White assigned the first self-portraits in 2005 when we moved into our current office space on North High Street. On a practical level, the assignment began as a creative solution for filling a blank wall. Over the last 10 years, we’ve come to realize that it displays our eclectic talent base and reinforces two of our core beliefs:
- We are all creative in our own way
- Our people are our greatest asset
“I love passing the self-portrait wall,” Vice President of Talent Development Jen Snider said. “It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day. The self-portraits are a constant reminder of all the people, past and present, who have contributed to our success.”
Jen also loves watching the new hires open up through the process of self-exploration and company-wide presentation. Now, as part of the “explore” phase of our #WSCevolution, you get a glimpse, too. Check out this Q&A with our newest self-portrait artists.
What was your first reaction to the assignment?
“The idea of creating something personal and then presenting it to new coworkers was intimidating to me.” – Alicia Jordan, graphic designer
“I felt like it was too personal of an assignment for work (if you want it to be good art, that is).” – Jef Etters, video producer
“Fear. Excitement. Then more fear.” – Erin Monsman, graphic designer
What surprised you about the process?
“I know it sounds odd, but I was surprised to have to think about a self-portrait visually. Having a background in creative writing, I’m used to self-portraits being poems with weird titles like ‘Self-Portrait with Cured Meats’ or ‘Self-Portrait with Balloon Animals.’ I’ve always thought of self-portraits as acts of writing.” – Eric Morris, copywriter
“Since I don’t have a design background, I was surprised to see how quickly I gravitated toward an idea. And that I didn’t end up changing my mind a million times in the process!” – Isobel Parish, account coordinator
What did you learn?
“I can take photos and make things on a computer screen, but my drawing and painting skills are weak. This process gave me more confidence in creating things on paper.” – Kate Brandenstein, graphic designer
“I’m even self conscious about what cartoon me looks like.” – Megan Bush, graphic designer.
“I need to make more art outside of the office.” – Jim Lightcap, graphic designer
“I looked at my life, and I realized I have a lot of really positive things happening. I’m sincerely happy with where my life is going both personally and professionally.” – Mary Wunderle, graphic designer
Stop in anytime to view our self-portrait wall yourself! And, make sure to keep following #WSCevolution to learn more about how we are exploring our own identity.