In 1995, I was honored to be among the “30 Under 30” profiled in Philadelphia Magazine. For a new feature on Generation X, they checked in to see how things have changed since then. Here’s what I shared with them:

PM Interviewer: Author, David Murrell

PM: Please describe of your current position, and projects you’ve worked on recently.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than 20 years since that “30 Under 30” feature was published! Shortly after that, I took some really big steps in my life that started me on a path that still challenges and inspires me today. I opened up my own creative business in 1996 – originally called Design for Social Impact, now Social Impact Studios. Like the work I was doing back then, my goal has always been to help tell the stories and promote the work of people trying to make the world a better place. Whether it’s through political issues, public service, inspiring art, community engagement, or sustainable business, I’ve been fortunate to work with hundreds of people & groups on thousands of projects that promote important social issues in our almost 22 years.

Some highlights of my work since our founding:

We are the creative architects of the Buy Fresh Buy Local movement – I created the messaging and strategy for this national campaign with staff & collaborative client.

And of  Meatless Monday too – I designed the logo and the strategy for getting the grassroots part of the initiative off the ground

In 2011, I co-created a mural with Eric Okdeh through a Mural Arts project – which is on 8th & Cherry Sts. It focuses on the subject of “work” and how it is embedded in Philadelphia past/present/future.

About 15 years ago, I started a project called Posters for the People to document and present the WPA posters made during the New Deal 1936-1943. In 2008, my book of the same title was published by Quirk Books, here in Philly and the project took off with a traveling exhibit & community events that continue still. Most recently, I was honored to receive a commission from the NEA to create a new commemorative National Park poster in the style of the WPA posters for the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area because there was never a poster made for that park. (You can read about that on the link provided above).

As a mission-driven social enterprise, I am always working on something exciting. Check out some of the features on our website that tell the story of national, state & local campaigns that combine art, culture & history to move people to action. Some of my most recent favorites are:

Statewide NJ “Arts Ed Now” campaign to increase arts education participation for all school youth.

A new action plan and complete Identity overhaul of Tribe 12– a local Philly organization that helps people in their 20s/30s connect to Jewish life in Philadelphia.

Two very exciting national creative initiatives are:

PM: Do you feel there is one quintessential Gen X characteristic?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Personally, I feel more ready than ever to take all that we represent in Gen X and run with it … to hopefully be part of making the best world possible. We were often portrayed as cynical slackers, but I think that was a misunderstood version of what I’d call “hopeless optimism.” Yes, I think Gen X is quintessentially optimistic and really BELIEVES that the world should fulfill the promises that our elders, culture and ourselves imagine. That’s a tough thing to achieve, so I think we spent a lot of time wringing our hands over disappointments and broken systems. We are demanding of values and critical of hypocrisy – even of our own. Luckily, I think we are also extremely resilient. We have a lot of varied “jack of all trades” skills to give us the know-how to just keep going.

PM: Is there anything you reject about GenX?

I’m not sure I’d say I “reject” it, but I am painfully aware of the downsides of our DIY perspective. I wouldn’t trade it for any other viewpoint because of what I said above, but I do think that we perpetuated challenge and isolation that weren’t really necessary or productive. We never seem to do anything easily or without some deep purpose and structure involved. A lot of that is because we had to figure things out on our own and we became good designers. But, one thing I love learning from people younger than me (millennial staff & collab clients, my own 13 year-old-daughter, etc) is that there is more fluidity to life than we think – and that we don’t have to have everything all figured out on our own to participate in the amazingly complex world of people and ideas.

PM: What do you feel the perception of Gen X is? Has it changed over time?

I think the perception is that we are just kind of tinkering along in the background. Older people probably think we still haven’t figured things out and aren’t taking on leadership because we do that so differently than they did. I’m fortunate to have younger people around me who are eager to learn from my experience and include me in the next adventure. For them, my ability to translate and clarify key ideas has been identified as important for their perspectives and next steps. I hope they continue to rely on us to help make things happen, which is something I think flies a little under the radar. As in-betweeners, we are able to have one foot firmly in tangible IRL mechanics and one in imagination and innovation. I’m excited to represent those two worlds as we all build whatever is coming next!

PM: Does it ever feel like the forgotten generation, stuck between the baby boomers and millennials? Or is Gen X resurgent these days?

Kinda, but only in the mass media/culture. Not in my day-to-day existence. It’s not new that we feel forgotten – it may have actually made us stronger in the end. I hope we are able to keep doing good work as Gen Xers and also find what’s new for us either way.

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