Walking down the street a few months ago, Ji Lee, a creative director at Google Labs, noticed a funny thing. Many New York businesses still had logos with the silhouette of the World Trade Center in them. It was, he thought, both a wonderful, joyful—and sad—moment. So he took a picture. Of the New York magazine logo. Of the CitiStorage logo. Of the Burritoville logo. Of butcher shops and shoe repair places, all of which had those two iconic towers—ghostly silhouettes of a pre-9/11 world—still hovering in their identity.
The idea to preserve them took fire in his brain. "It was like an Easter egg hunt, or a scavenger hunt," he said.
Two weeks ago, instead of keeping the idea to himself, he uploaded all the images to a Flickr site called "WTC Logo Preservation Project," where he invited folks to upload their own images and to comment. Recently he merged with a similar site called "WTC iconography."
The two sites now have hundreds of images, which is cool in itself. But along the way, this little personal project, and a few others that have earned Ji Lee some notoriety (namely, the Bubble Project, in which he attached empty thought bubbles to wall advertisements implicitly inviting folks to fill in the blanks), have taught Lee a few things about himself.
His wisdom to the Behance crowd:
- Personal and professional projects complement each other.
- Creating platforms is powerful. "You instantly gain a sense of scale and reach. And you get to meet cool people."
- Time is a concept that can be stretched. "Time is just an idea," he said. "It's amazing what you can do in an hour."
- Sharing is rewarding. "Teachers taught me that when have a great idea, you must protect it," he said. "That creative philosophy has changed. People are creating projects for free, just for the joy of sharing. And something always comes back in bigger scale."