Monica Swope founded the Learn The Brand Artist Shop to express her beliefs about how kids learn. Working alongside designer Erick “Roho” Garcia, her Impact Apparel line is part of her effort to ‘rebrand’ the perception of the learning process.
We talked to them both about their new venture to learn a little bit more about the brand “Learn the Brand”.
Welcome to Artist Shops! Tell us a little about yourself.
I am the founder of a Chicago-based educational consultant company called Learning Dimensions. My company’s motto is: “True learning is driven by curiosity, transforms and makes a difference.”
What do you mean by ‘true learning’?
We believe that when one engages in authentic learning experiences, one becomes better able to confront complex problems, to create inventive and original solutions to those problems, to make a difference in their communities, and serve a greater good.
What made you want to start your own Artist Shop?
We wanted to be able to make decisions on customizing our own store in a manner that fits the mission and vision of LEARNtheBrand Impact Apparel and provided us the tools to build our catalog of items.
But there’s an element of social consciousness too?
That’s the most important thing. LEARNtheBrand will be shaped by our customer community, so we were looking for a platform that could provide us with an opportunity to also be part of a community of artists and creative and forward thinkers.
Can you explain the genesis of the Learn The Brand name?
The name of our apparel line, LEARNtheBrand is somewhat a play on words. It has a double meaning. The first meaning is literal, simply that our brand is called ‘Learn.’
The second meaning is the cryptic message. This is the call to action statement, which is saying that it is time to learn the “new” brand of what authentic education is; a type of learning experience that is innovative and passion-led.
And is your blog part of this ‘rebranding’ effort as well?
Learning Dimensions: The Blog is dedicated to showcasing the many layers of learning. One of our popular features is the Learning Change Agent; profiles of people connected to organizations that we have identified as game changers in education.
Is it important to recognize those people?
These organizations range from those who empower at-risk youth through arts education programs, to those providing tech resources to underrepresented communities. They provide workforce development, foster STEM education programs in low-income areas, provide mentoring and training to those interested in a career in the entertainment industry, and bring graphic novels to the classrooms to enhance student engagement. We want to recognize different types of learning spaces, engagements and experiences.
Are these designs related to the Learning Dimensions curriculum?
LEARNtheBrand Impact Apparel is a subsidiary of Learning Dimensions. The T-shirt designs are not related to any curricular products developed by Learning Dimensions. Rather, the designs are based on statements that I have come up with that I believe capture the essence of true learning and learning experiences.
For our ‘No One Is Perfect’ design, that branding message is the first step to getting better at something, is getting rid of the need to be perfect at it. Rebranding statements for our next collection are already being determined.
Erick “ROHO” Garcia created these designs. What’s it like to work with him?
Roho – my designer and partner – is a kindred spirit! He is a multifaceted artist, a creative individual, and has the knack to create artistic representations of my idealistic thoughts. His demeanor is real chill.
Along with being a multi-talented artist, he teaches art to high school students, and has his art focused venture called Expo Collective that is dedicated to building community through art, all over Chicago. Roho is grounded, focused on the mission of LEARNtheBrand, and we make a perfect pair in this venture.
Erick, you’ve taught mural classes at Friends of Community Public Art. Tell us about your interest in public art.
(Erick): My interests in public art grew from an appreciation for graffiti art at a young age. The beauty, colors, and abstractions of figures made me fall in love with a major element of the hip-hop movement. Then came all the Renaissance style murals that Friends of Community Public Art (FCPA) created around Joliet, Illinois, that inspired me to pursue my own vision of murals for the city of Chicago.
How does your mural painting influence your T-Shirt design?
(Erick): My mural paintings influence the t-shirt designs by having a professional eye for good composition. All of my murals start off with having a natural flow that can keep the eye moving with a smooth current around the paintings; I accomplish this in any mural design or graphic design.
What influenced the color palette used in the designs?
(Erick): Any good design starts with strong composition that the viewer should be able to see within a few seconds. So, we kept the color palette minimal with only three colors to have a sense of a brand. So the customer can see one shirt and immediately identify with the rest of the limited edition designs.
Which design gets the best reaction?
(Monica): The design that seems to get the best reaction is the ‘Think Outside the Box’ design. This is the first design Roho created when I commissioned him to design a T-shirt to wear while being a speaker for the TEDx PilsenWomen event on the subject ‘Moving Beyond Mental Blocks.’ At this time, LEARNtheBrand was not even a thought. I simply wanted what I was wearing during that talk to reflect a major point that I raised during the talk.
Roho was able to capture my thoughts in the design that he created for me. The shirt was a hit! After the talk, members of the audience commented on the shirt and inquired how they could get one. At that point, I began to think about selling the ‘Think Outside the Box’ design/shirt.
We plan to always carry the ‘Think Outside the Box’ design in future collections, but change the color pallete, add some abstract shapes, and continue to make this design creative. It’s our signature design and we intend to have it to reflect the direction that LEARNtheBrand is going for each collection.