Designer Jaime Chismar buzzes with an electric, infectious energy. The woman behind a simple graphic that literally planted a stake in the ground, she’s seen her idea go viral, translated into over two dozen languages, and take on a life of its own. What started in 2016 as a simple passion project, All Are Welcome Here has pushed Chismar in unexpected directions as she works to turn it into positive community activism worldwide.
All Are Welcome Here began as a reaction to the uncertainty that followed the 2016 U.S. presidential election when talk of bans and border walls became more than campaign rhetoric. “A lot of people were looking for ways to get involved, to be more active in our community,” recalled Chismar. “The thing about All Are Welcome Here,” she continued, “It’s always been in our community.” Chismar took the necessary step of putting it on a sign.
Chismar initially posted an All Are Welcome Here graphic on social media and, based on reactions from her friends and family, began evolving the graphic. It became square so people could use it as their social media icon. It gained a fixed border. She selected the typeface Brandon Grotesque in part for its friendliness and in part because it was readily available through Adobe Typekit for easier collaboration with other designers.
“It was really being designed and edited in real-time,” she said. Looking back at her social media feed, “From November tenth through November fourteenth, you see the evolution of the sign from what it was to what it is, based on feedback from supporters online,” she said.
The first order of 100 signs sold quickly and other orders followed. “We had pre-orders and my phone was just going off the hook,” said Chismar. “I feel like that experience of touching, holding, sharing, literally putting a stake in the ground, is very satisfying.”
Building a Brand
Today, there’s a brand around All Are Welcome Here that Chismar both protects and shares freely. “All Are Welcome Here is a business,” she said. “We’re a business in the business of making money to give away to causes that make a more welcoming world.”
The initiative has taught Chismar more empathy for the clients of her freelance business, Super Deluxe. “The experiences I have being someone who produces products and taking the product to market and marketing the product makes me a better designer,” she said. “I have a way better understanding of what some of my small business clients go through.”
While Chismar maintains consistency to the typography, square shape, and 45-degree stripe arrangement, she gladly changes the color palette for different collaborations. “Every community has a different rainbow,” she said. “Let’s celebrate that rainbow and just get more of them out there.”
It’s a plan that works. To date, All Are Welcome Here has donated nearly $50,000 to the ACLU and between $10,000 and $20,000 to community welcomeness efforts, all from the sale of posters, window clings, magnets, yard signs, and other merchandise. The growth has been fast and left Chismar trying to figure out how to find a balance between, “My real, full-time freelance design gig that pays the bills and this passion project,” she said, which, “Once we make our donations, breaks even.”
Translations have opened up new lines for All Are Welcome Here, promoting the idea in diverse communities worldwide. But translating the concept has proven challenging because of the nuances of language. After establishing an initial translation from an academic or cultural authority, Chismar crowdsources it back to her All Are Welcome Here community to confirm the accuracy of the translation’s intent.
“In some translations, there wasn’t a direct word for ‘welcome,’” she said. “We had to be very careful to make the sign say the right thing, not ‘Please enter our house when you feel like it.’” To date, 28 translations of All Are Welcome Here exist, all available in a downloadable PDF that’s become popular with teachers.
For a friend heading to a hockey tournament in Luxembourg, Chismar had the phrase translated into Luxembourgish, an old, mostly oral dialect. “He had us make prints and clings, which we got from Smartpress, and print a whole bunch of buttons that he’s handing out,” Chismar said.
“So Smartpress does our prints, our window clings, and our magnets,” she continued. “I can’t say enough nice things about working with them and how talented their team is.” The most popular item? “Our window clings, and we can’t keep those in stock.”
Chismar is vigilant but judicious about the plagiarism that comes with an idea that’s gone viral. She prefers the term “borrows” and recognizes that their objectives are usually aligned. Still, she has called on some groups to stop profiting from the idea, and she laments that others could have had greater impact had they approached her for collaboration. “I always feel it’s better to make a friend than an enemy,” she said. “For some people, All Are Welcome Here was their very first toe-dip into activism.”
Looking ahead, Chismar is working to broaden All Are Welcome Here to include a new initiative she calls Welcoming 2020. While she generalizes the scope to be, “A resolution to make a more welcoming 2020,” she is forming partnerships and alliances with other Twin Cities woman-run businesses to define specific actions. “How do we amplify all of our intentions to help create a more welcoming community for everyone” she ponders.
“We think we have all this time to make an impact or to make a difference,” she said. “So this is how I volunteer and how I give back.” Chismar points out that humans are designed to collaborate as a method of survival, something that gives her optimism for the future and a reason to hope that, “Someday the table will be big enough for everyone.”