Remembering Lauren Adolfsen, Designer of Next City’s Logo

Remembering Lauren Adolfsen, a designer for Next City, whose illustrations and logo design brightened the website.

Lauren Adolfsen

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At the end of 2012, Next American City needed a new logo. We were switching our name by dropping the “American” at a time when we were also between creative directors. We had scheduled an announcement about the name change long before we had designed a new identity for our brand, and as proposals from two designers kept coming up short, I started to panic.

One night during this tense week, I was on the phone with my friend, Lauren Adolfsen. We had known each other for nearly two decades, first while growing up in New York City, later traveling around Europe as teenagers, then remaining friends in our 20s and 30s as we kept up friendship built on long conversations about work, relationships and our life’s ambitions. At the end of 2012, Lauren was new to Los Angeles and had recently graduated from Yale’s MFA program in graphic design. Despite being incredibly talented, she hadn’t found a steady job. She had plenty of her own projects to work on, but she was eager to take on projects that would show off her skills to a broader audience.

“This is crazy,” I said. “But do you think you could design a new logo for Next City in, ideally, the next two days?” Many design firms we had talked to wanted a month to settle on a final design. Lauren said she’d be excited to try.

Literally overnight, Lauren was able to solve the design problem that had perplexed everyone else. She swapped out our old typeface, Whitney, for a new one, called Interstate. While Whitney was perfect for the name “Next American City,” it looked awkward when used on just the word “Next City.” The first word is very angular, the second much rounder, and they were hard to group together in a compelling logo. She took the carat symbol from our old logo and turned it into something new, made our signature orange an accent, not overpowering.

Next City’s logo, designed by Lauren Adolfsen.

Everyone loved the new logo, and we made our deadline.

In the next few months, Lauren helped us redesign various aspects of our website as well as illustrate a number of Forefront stories, collected below. Despite the varied subject matter and styles used for these pieces, Lauren’s aesthetic always shone through. Whether making fun of the antics of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford or bringing to life the Los Angeles River, the work was always playful and fresh. Lauren didn’t want you to just look at her work, she wanted you to smile at it.

Gallery: Lauren’s Illustrations

By the spring of 2013, Lauren became our part-time creative director. Just weeks later, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. The diagnosis was hard to believe — she was so young and healthy. But her ability to get the work done while undergoing chemotherapy was even harder to comprehend. In circumstances that would have depressed anyone, she remained upbeat and engaged, rarely complaining about her situation, just focusing on getting better. I would have told her to quit, but she said the illustrations and design work were a helpful distraction that provided some quick gratification. She was focused on recovering and didn’t want cancer to get in the way of her bigger plans.

Some of the final projects Lauren completed were the logo and printed materials for Next City’s 10th anniversary. Though she’d planned to attend, she felt ill at the last minute. I wish she had been there for so many reasons, not least so that Next City’s staff could thank her for all her hard work in 2013. In December her condition worsened; to the shock of many, she passed away on January 20, 2014.

That last year of her life was full of amazing contradictions. She had recently fallen in love. She had focused more intently on developing her passion for fresh food into a business. Though in the toughest of circumstances, she reconnected with many old friends while in New York. Had it not been for her illness, so many other things were going in the right direction for her. Out of the worst possible circumstances, she actually thrived.

I encourage readers to look at Lauren’s blog, which details her struggle with cancer, and a first-person essay she wrote about living with cancer. Next City hopes to honor Lauren’s amazing spirit with a summer fellowship for a talented graphic designer and will post details about this opportunity in the coming weeks.

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Diana Lind is the former executive director and editor in chief of Next City.

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