The People Behind SpokesPeople

The People Behind SpokesPeople
Natalie Kozma
July 16, 2015
SpokesPeople Logo

GÜD PEOPLE

On my first day at Güd Marketing, I walked into the office I formerly knew as Pace & Partners to find the company had changed its name. Feeling dazed, I referenced the freshly painted mission statement on the red wall for answers.

“We are stewards of the greater good; promoting positive change by strengthening, shaping and sharing stories that inspire action and engagement.”

It didn’t take long for me to understand that those values aren’t just reflected on the wall or only in our business. It is clear where they originate: at the core of our employees. It isn’t just our job to serve the greater Güd – it is a personal commitment we share to make the world a better place.

Don’t believe me? Let’s pick on our art director, Terry Sieting, for a moment. And by pick on, I actually mean acknowledge, because he’s produced some incredible work in his personal time with his best friend and talented photographer, Khalid Ibrahim at EatPomegrante, in a poster series aptly titled “SpokesPeople.”

SPOKESPEOPLE

“Like any good project, it started with a cause.” – Terry

SpokesPeople is a portrait and graphic collaboration that underscores the miscellany of individuals who collectively construct the group title of “bicyclists.”

Khalid and Terry describe it as a movement to inform the public about the world of cycling, which works to debunk stereotypes motorists hold about cyclists on the road.

Furthermore, it is an effort to humanize bicyclists and ensure their safety. According to Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, 1,763 bicyclists were involved in crashes in Michigan in 2014, and 21 bicyclists lost their lives. In the Lansing area and other parts of Michigan, there are bikes painted white, referred to as “ghost bikes,” used as markings to memorialize those who have died from being hit by a car while on their bike.

“Bicyclists, often when you are driving, are just an object in between you and your destination – you don’t see their face. You just see them as someone in your way.” – Khalid

Khalid, an avid bicyclist himself, experienced this common mistreatment as he was riding one day and felt the wrath of an angry driver’s honk. The driver had no idea who the biker was until Khalid turned around, exposing his identity but also exposing his humanity. This moment, along with a pre-existing admiration for the biking community and the Lansing Bike Party, inspired the mission of SpokesPeople.

“When Khalid approached me with this idea, it was already kind of formed because of the cause. When it came to me it was simply how do we take that cause and allow it to have the most powerful voice.”– Terry

They discovered the best way to display their message was to highlight the details of the bicyclists that people miss at 45 mph. The poster series features mid-Michigan bicyclists turned around along with their bike seats. Accompanying each poster is a quote from the bicyclist describing his or her connection with biking, the community and other bicyclists.

Terry explained how the poster series is designed for three levels of viewing. The first level is catered for the “up-close viewer” who reads the stories on the poster. Next, you have the viewer who takes a step back to examine the bicyclists and sees details such as the stickers on the bike or the expression of the individual. The last level is for people who look at the photographs from a greater distance, to see how the individual posters form various groupings.

“These people could be your family members, your friends, members of your community, and you are annoyed with them because of the stereotype. But if you maybe knew who they were, that might encourage you to be more safe on the road, and be a little more harmonious in the community of transportation.” – Khalid

SpokesPeople made its debut in Detroit at the Center of Creative Studies back in December 2014. But fret not, Lansing dwellers, because it made its way to Old Town! SpokesPeople had its opening night at MICA gallery. Members of the Lansing Bike Party peddled from East Lansing to the event, joining about 200 individuals who came to view the poster series. The series will last at MICA gallery for nearly two months.

Spokespeople Event Image

“The last thing I ever want anybody to see this project as is a project just about bikes. It is. It totally is, right? Because that is the community we are examining. But if you were to step back, this project is really an examination of one part of our culture. One thread of the fabric of culture.” – Terry

Terry’s interest in the cause wasn’t sparked by his own affection for riding (he admits he is not a huge bicyclist but does enjoy it from time to time). It was inspired by a love for storytelling, design and photography, but most of all a love for the people who surround him. His brother. His best friend. Those are the people on the road. Which translates to the major theme of the exhibition: “Everyone’s a bicyclist.” People of all ages, genders and races make up the biking community, and they each have an untold narrative.