By Raan and Shea Parton
Photos by Ken Tisuthiwongse
On January 15th, we caught up with Yosi Sergant, the creative force behind the Obama HOPE campaign at downtown Los Angeles' Grand Central market, G&B Coffee and Horse Thief BBQ. We crossed paths with Yosi six months ago thanks to the team at Invisible Children and recently we have made the most of both living in Los Angeles and seeing so much potential for the city of Angels. Sergant has an inspiring view on community engagement and social action among the youth in America. We're thankful Yosi humored a quick interview that we first previewed with our new column over at Style.com. We asked Yosi the following questions to help all of us better understand what it means to be a cultural engineer:
What is your advice for a young cultural engineer today?
The cultural landscape is complex and vibrant. There is no shortage of hunger for meaningful work, but if you don’t care about what you are doing, people can tell from a mile away. Be the change! Invest yourself into your work and believe in it with your whole being.
What’s the future of creating authentic marketing?
People feel influences in their lives in places they have never seen before. There is now a choice of aesthetic, story, people, and manufacturing beyond just the basic style or function of an item of clothing or technology. Apolis, as an example, is leading a sophisticated consumer that is begging the question into fashion, arts, and culture. The scale of where a brand has to engage consumers started with social media and is now moving into community engagement.
What are you currently reading that inspires you?
I am very focused on education and the neglect that has spread through our schools for furthering learning. We have lost an appetite for community change at the basic levels, so I want to keep learning how to reimagine education going forward.
How does Apolis resonate with you personally?
The humble, sophisticated, and simple design is aesthetically attractive, and the socially conscious commitment is important to me. When I visited Israel as a young adult [in 1995], I saw great peace in that country and then great turmoil. I saw that a peace process as led by political leaders is a land mine. Successful peace processes led by the people that have their roots in empathy, connection of cultures, and thoughtful companies bringing about change. Apolis is a rare example of this type of change and should be supported.
In early 2006, Yosi got a call that Barack Obama, someone he had heard speak powerfully years before at the Democratic National Convention, was going to be running for president. He talked to a few friends and realized that this president was going to be different, but almost no one knew of him at the time. In Yosi’s creative mind, he realized this was a classic branding problem and he wanted desperately to be part of the solution. One of his first phone calls was to his friend Shepard Fairey (founder of Obey), to design the poster for the movement. Quickly the iconic Hope campaign and imagery were created, and for the next two years, Yosi embarked on an unmarked road with the self-funded, grassroots, youth-fueled presidential campaign for Obama. He became a staffer in the Office of Public Engagement, under the division of the Executive Office of the President.
Today Yosi runs Task Force, a creative agency that engages thought leaders and builds momentum for social change. His colorful childhood and involvement in politics has led to an exciting journey and lots of good advice for cultural engineers today. His family roots are in Israel, but he grew up in Los Angeles and was parented by a kibbutz-leader father and a schoolteacher mother—both hardworking, humble, honest people who taught him at a young age to stand up for what he believes and fight for the rights of all. During his youth, he was in and out of schools, and through those rebellious experiences he learned to be a part of the subculture /counterculture and had a front-row seat for change he would later invoke. Studying at UCLA, he was one of the first to major in World Arts and Culture and earned his undergrad degree in 1997. He was mentored by influential Hollywood directors (including Larry Clark of Kids), and he learned the business development side of non-profit films as well as PR and client strategies for large corporations.
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