Azure Family Concerts Logo

The amazing Tetra String Quartet asked me to create a logo for their new Azure Family Concerts. The free concerts are performances tailored to children and young adults who are on the autism spectrum or have similar challenges. All behaviors are welcome! This means that the kids can be themselves--usually mean vocalizing and moving around. The series is also for parents and siblings as it provides a nice afternoon out to see a concert where they don't have to worry about their child will act in a concert setting. 

designAlison IvenComment
Brooklyn Round Robin

I've always been interested in the New Casablanca Lounge close to my apartment. Unfortunately, I put off going until I was too late when it closed under Ethel's ownership a few years back. When news got around that it was being renovated, I became curious about the location's past history. In going through old newspapers, I discovered that it was a hip place that participated in the Brooklyn Round Robin.

Brace yourselves, Amigos...

In the Fall of 1949, a selection of Brooklyn bars came together and formed an association known as the "Round Robin," which was a social gathering held each Wednesday nite at one of the bars. Their goal was to bring about unity and top-notch social pleasures in New York's biggest Boro. The emcee was Larry Douglas, a columnist for the African-American Newspaper, New York Age. These bars would entertainment with big name personalities like Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaugh, Errol Garner, Savannah Churchill and Ruth Brown. 

The Round Robins were where you could to see and be seen. It was informal with an atmosphere of opportunity where regular people mixed with the famous movers and shakers. Whiskey, whiskey and more whiskey flowed until that evenings joint finally closed down. It was such a quick success that WLIB began airing the Round Robins on their radio program within a month of the first event. It also spawned similar events in Harlem and The Bronx. 

Get a taste of the music at



Alison IvenComment
New client, new work, new sources of anxiety

A friend works for the Development Office at Mount Sinai and I was recently contracted to do a few jobs for them. I get majorly nervous and anxious with new clients. I can't stop thinking "will they like what I made?" and "is this what they expect?" I know they wouldn't have hired me if they didn't like my work, but I still have this anxiety. 

One of the jobs is to create a map handout for the new Blau Center's ribbon cutting event. The new space integrates all these angular cutouts and interactivity on the walls so I tried to integrate these aspects into the piece while still making everything legible and coherent. I was provided a sample from a similar ribbon cutting event and mine looks radically different. It's a different space, of course, but the anxiety in me questions whether or not I should follow closer. 

Map side

Information side

The client didn't have much to comment about layout and design. Most of their edits involved the details like leading and alignments. So hopefully, my anxiety starts to dissipate and I gain steady work from Mount Sinai.

Rendering of Jack Martin Fund Play Space by Rockwell Group

Sagas of Plargerism

Sometimes, I get requests from random people who saw Jenna's wedding invites on Oh So Beautiful Paper. I haven't taken any on as clients as I haven't put the time into it. So recently, I set up my Etsy shop to be able to do this.

As I was searching for competing designs on Etsy, I ran across an invitation suite that looked really really familiar to me. At first, I thought they just copied the layout with shittier typography and illustrations. But as I looked harder, I realized the shop had tried to replicate my design, packaging, styling and illustrations so closely that they photoshopped my illustrations into their work!

 Their replica design

Their replica design

 My original design

My original design

I'm not anyone well known and, quite frankly, I'm surprised you're reading this. So I've never thought that someone would rip my work off! And yet, there it was.

I had no idea what to do. Was my work copyrighted? Did I need to talk to a lawyer? Etsy has policies against plagiarism, but could I prove they copied my work? What if they tried to say that I copied their work? And was there any way to get the plagiarized design off their personal website?

So I decided to learn about copyright law and what it means for my work. I found out that all work is copyrighted automatically. If it was not registered  before the infringement, you are limited to the infringer's profits as your damages. But the key is to get the work registered with the U.S. copyright office. If you have registered the art before the infringing happened, you are entitled to "statutory damages" of up to $150,000 per willful infringement, and you can elect to take that instead of actual damages and the court can make the infringer to pay for legal fees. And you can't take legal action until you registered it anyways. (source) It didn't look like they made a ton of money on my designs based upon their record of sold items but I set to work registering anyways.

I notified the seller of their infringement and the Etsy legal team. I tried to be as friendly as possible to both. My hope was to inform the legal team and get them all the requested materials they needed to be able to take the listing down. Because they seemed to be an unethical company, I didn't trust them and wanted to make sure I was on solid standing with Etsy's legal team. So I supplied them my listing, my portfolio site and the press dated from 2011 so the company didn't try to get my listing pulled. I also took to social media to try to get the word to my friends, family and Etsy via Facebook and Twitter to make it public and shine more light on the seller's policies and actions. 

In the end, the seller voluntarily took the listings off Etsy, but I'm still waiting to hear if they'll take it off their personal website. I have so many views and opinions and outrages on how unethical and unprofessional the seller is. I mean, seriously, if they found their work copied by another person or company, I'm sure they would be upset about it too. The seller also told me they reproduced the design for a specific client "years ago." So how does one educate potential clients (who most likely don't have a lot of interactions with designers) to respect the original work?

So how do I keep this from happening again? My work is   now registered but the cost of legal fees makes legal action an unlikely outcome. I can ask the blog to take down my work, but my work is my living so if people don't see it, I'm less likely to make money off it. Any suggestions?

My current bet is to set a google alert so I'll know when people are referencing "cactus invitations" and stay vigilant. 

thoughtsAlison IvenComment
Coding for Women's Health

I am in no way a programmer, but the lure of being around people who could create innovative products that could change how we interact with the world lured me into the start up world. And this past weekend, I participated in my first Codeathon. My coworker, Ariel, asked if anyone was interested in joining her and a friend, and all girls on our tech team joined in (including our intern!). The topic being Women's Health was intriguing. What can we make in three days that would help women? 

We batted around some ideas the day before prior to getting the full brief and a lot of us were interested in the idea of making WIC more efficient. WIC is a federal assistance program for healthcare and nutrition of low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of five. While it's a highly effective program, there are definite draw backs. Governmental programs for low-income people are highly disruptive to their lives. It takes time to go to the office to signup and check in regularly. And on supplemental assistance programs like WIC, it's unclear as to what can be bought once your in the store. What catalyzed our idea was this blog post about a family's first experience using their WIC benefits. About a third of what they were thinking of purchasing wasn't available on WIC and they weren't entirely clear as to why since the feedback on the register just says something like "not approved/not a WIC item." 

On Friday, when we got to the Ace Hotel and learned that we would specifically be addressing women's nutrition, our WIC idea seemed to be a really valid topic and technology could make the experience smoother. We decided to take what we learned about WIC and create a database of WIC-approved items that users could scan the UPC and find out if that item would be accepted. We were worried that if we made a smart phone app that we would miss a large portion of the population that is on or would qualify for WIC. We also learned that while 90% of Americans had cell phones, only about 58% had a smart phone. (source) So instead of creating a really swishy app, we created a text based app, Plum, that a woman could take a photo of the UPC and send it to the system and the system would respond if it was WIC approved. To support it, there would be a URL included in the message so if she did have access to internet, nutritional facts would be available. We also created Plum to allow the user to ask for something more generic, like "juice" or "milk" and the system would respond with a few available items that are available with WIC along with a URL of a full listing.

Text-based app and supplemental website for additional information

In three days, we made Plum functional (duct-taped and glued) and along the way realized that it was very scalable. It could incorporate SNAP (Food Stamps) information as well as allow for user preferences such as gluten-free or allergies or even food to reduce blood pressure. If people were to use it, it would hopefully reduce stigma associated with government aid and increase participation for those who do need it.

I thought our idea was super solid with great tech, but having never been to a Codeathon before, I was ready to be impressed by the other teams. Some presentations were funny, some didn't do their research, some were flashy. 

During the demo time after the presentations were over, the judges and other members of the audience were super positive about our product. Specifically, Sarah Holoubek, CEO of Luminary Labs and Lexie Komisar, Strategic Advisor, Clinton Health Matters Initiative. They both encouraged us to contact them even if we didn't win the Codeathon to discuss possibilities of our product. 

The ladies showing off Plum to an audience member.

I'm really excited about the possibilities of Plum but the winners won't be announced until the November issue of Self Magazine, so we shall see! The event was sponsored by the Ace Hotel, Jawbone, Self Magazine, and the Clinton Foundation



So after finishing the bathroom mirror, it was time for paint! I considered wallpapering, but my walls are all kinds of wonky since it's an old house. I love the black paint though! It calms the green down and adds some sophistication. 

Refinished bathroom cabinet

Ever since I moved in, I couldn't bring myself to put anything in the bathroom cabinet since it was so ridiculously rusty and had some peeling paint. As part of cleaning my apartment and unpacking to make the place livable, I decided to refinish the bathroom it as it's a small project that would get my feet wet for the larger ones. 

All the project required was sand paper, a can of Rust-oleum spray paint and wrapping my bathroom in plastic like a murder cleanup. 

  1. Wrap plastic around cabinet to protect tiles, walls and fixtures from any spray off. I cut open some trash bags and used those, but you can also purchase plastic sheeting in large rolls. You'll also need to tape around any chrome on your mirror.
  2. Sand. And then sand again. The idea is to get all the visible rust sanded out. When sanding, it's best to start at a coarser grit sandpaper and slowly move down to finer grit sandpaper. By stepping down, you'll ensure that you won't get any visible scratches in the final result. 
  3. Clean out all sand and particles from your cabinet. Make sure everything is clean before you spray. Double check that everything is securely taped up.
  4. Use the Rust-oleum spray paint to paint inside and outside of cabinet. It's helpful to do two coats to get a consistent covering. If your bathroom isn't well-ventilated, set up a fan and wear a face mask to protect yourself from the fumes in the confined area.