Meet George McCalman

WRITTEN BY: Elan Lieber

We recently sat down with George McCalman, the maker behind our B'Cause Blend Bundle. We’ve been fans of George McCalman for years. He is an incredibly talented artist who’s raw, authentic story-telling is the perfect partnership to launch our B’Cause Artist Series. George stands up for what he believes in and his passion and energy set the perfect tone for the project right from the start.


He has a unique ability to both embrace and challenge traditional modes of design, while simultaneously bringing a beautifully clean and articulate style to this campaign. George’s concept, to capture the feeling of giving, communicates the essence and joy of what it feels like to give.

EQ: What do you do for work?


GM: How many hours do you have? I run a design studio that specializes in branding: from strategy to production. But I am also a visual columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle (meaning that I write and illustrate culture stories in the Bay Area). I also have a fine art practice, as well as being a commercial illustrator and a professor of graphic design. Each of my days is wildly different from the next. 


EQ: Tell us about the mission of McCalman.Co?

 

GM: Even with all of the things I just listed, my mission statement for my studio is pretty simple: I want to tell stories about identity. The identity of people, things, and locations. So the projects that pass through my studio take different forms. But I have the same perspective. I ask the same questions. What is the purpose? What are we trying to say? What am *I* trying to say? The visual work is produced from those answers. 


EQ: What’s your design process? Can you walk us through a day in the life of George McCalman?


GM: It’s pretty different from day to day. But it’s a sprightly mix of calls with my client collaborators, time in my studio painting, or drawing, sketching ideas in my notebook, and then more calls. So. Many. Calls. 


EQ: How did the “Giving Feels Good” concept take shape and what does it mean to you?


GM: Well, it started with the idea of charity. What is charity? An intent to give. A mode of human generosity. I was struck by how limited the language for ‘giving’ is in English. It’s something we talk about doing, but there are not many words that convey the feeling or application. I wrote out some combinations of words and loved how obvious and simple ‘Giving Feels Good’ was. I wondered if it was too obvious. But then settled on how perfect the simplicity was. Then I began to sketch out the typography. I wanted simple and bold geometric shapes to be the letterforms. I’m really happy with how the campaign took shape. It was lovely collaborating with the Equator Coffees team.


EQ: What drew you to benefit the Young Women’s Freedom Center as part of this campaign?

GM: The truth is, I needed some help. I had some other organizations in mind initially but wanted the campaign to be a seamless fit with the campaign. I spoke to my dear friend Vinny Eng about the campaign I had designed and asked for his suggestions. I trusted his background as an organizer and activist. I didn’t want it to be just me feeling my way in the dark; I wanted my choice to be grounded in an expertise that Vinny had better than I did. When he told me about the work that YWFC was doing I knew it was perfect. 


EQ: We’ve been following your monthly Observed column (with a cup of EQ in hand) in the SF Chronicle for some time now, how do you shape this monthly work of art & culture?

GM: I have been doing this culture column for the last four years, and it has become an organic collection of my instincts and the cultural landscape of the city. The Bay Area is this ever evolving small town that is also a global city. It is continually contrarian. I accept the city as it is with all of its imperfections; and that has provided me with my perspective. I just observe and record what I see.


EQ: Tell us about “Illustrated Black History: Honoring the Iconic and the Unseen”? What do you hope the community gets out of this book and where can people find it?


GM: I have a few different reasons for working on this book. I’ve been working on it for the last three years as a book. But it’s been five years since I did the original project. I am seeing this book as a pilot light for people to have more conversations about our history and culture. I am writing, illustrating, and designing this book. It is the most challenging thing I have ever done. I’m close to being finished with it. At that point I will say it is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, but I’m still at the center of it right now. It’s hard to have perspective. I’m so excited to have this book released into the world on October 26, 2021. I’m putting my entire soul into it. It will be available everywhere. Pre-order here.


EQ: Where do you go for inspiration? 

GM: I’m fortunate to live in California. There is such varied and spiritual land here. A couple hours north, south and east and you have completely different worlds to explore. Color and texture and terrain and rivers. San Francisco itself marries land, sea, and fog. That is a magical and inspiring combination. I’m biased, but I think it’s one of the most beautiful parts of the world. My inspiration is right here. 


EQ: How do you relax? 

GM: What’s ‘relax’? What does that even mean? 


EQ: How would you like to be remembered?

GM: As someone who told stories honestly.