Next up in our Meet ZBC Partners series is Barbara “Bibi” Gelfand Summer of Barbara Gelfand Summer Design. Bibi been ZBC’s main designer since 2015. Working with our style guide and color palette, she has designed a wide variety of materials for us, including all of our 13 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer collateral, donor appreciation brochures, and much more. Bibi has helped us to ensure our materials are simple but not simplistic and feel genuinely high quality and inclusive. We love that she has learned about breast cancer risk reduction from ZBC while she has taught us some of the secrets of how good design powers effective communication.
Q: What is your professional background?
A: I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Twenty years later, I attended Pratt University’s Graduate Communications Design program in New York.
I began my design career at the Mill Valley Record, doing production and design for the weekly local paper that at the time was family-owned. We had to run the stat camera, know how to use the typography machines, make half-tones and wax galleys to the boards above the light tables. Two years later, I was on my very first Mac using Quark 1.0. All of that time was a blast, the production department was tight and we often worked into the night because of deadlines, laughed a lot, but took our duties very seriously.
I went to numerous music magazines after that, each computer (and position) getting more sophisticated, working with nationally renowned illustrators and photographers and learning from other more experienced designers. I earned my way into various titles, achieving Art Director status multiple times. Again, more long days (and, of course, nights when the deadline dictated), being around lots of creatively like-minded co-workers and freelancers, and having tons of fun along the way. Life has been interesting and I’ve been very fortunate.
I have received awards from the American Graphic Design Association, the Western Publishing Association, and the Tube Council of North America.
I was recently invited to be a judge for a national packaging competition.
Q: What do you consider your top 3 professional skills?
A: Definitely the first one is problem solving. So much so that when my mother’s house had to be remodeled for the second time because of two hurricanes in four years, I was able to guide her decisions in Florida, while I was in California. Not to mention that every successful design job depends on how to effectively communicate what the client wants expressed in visual terms.
Another of my top professional skills is infinite flexibility while keeping a strong vision intact.
Thirdly I would say the ability to prioritize what’s important both personally and professionally. Keeping the proper order of things subtly in the background—that keeps me calm. I find a serene beauty in order and, consequently, I am not an anxious person.
Q: What attracted you to working with ZBC when you first heard about the organization?
A: That you (Rose Barlow, Executive Director) worked there and that I would be working for a non-profit cause. I’m in the fortunate position of being able to be picky about the jobs I take. I only want to work with people I respect and those whom I can learn from. And, also, that someone asked me if I wanted to do design work for their non-profit.
Q: What did you learn about breast cancer while working with ZBC that you did not already know?
A: It’s almost embarrassing what I learned. You’d think I knew so much. I honestly did not know that physical activity would reduce your [breast cancer] risk. I just didn’t know that. Another thing I did not realize was that you should not drink water out of, or use any plastics, even non-BPA plastics. Working on the “13 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer” brochures and posters made an impact on me! The other thing I did was got rid of all my plastics that I use for microwaving. I had no idea. I think I heard people tell me, but I was just like “nah.” Very specifically, I replaced all my plastic storage with new glass containers. I got rid of anything in the water bottle shelf of our kitchen that was non-BPA. If there was any question about its safety, I didn’t save it. I recycled it. We also stopped using pots and pans that were non-stick coated and converted to stainless steel and cast iron cookware - I had known about that but hadn’t done anything about changing that previously. Now we only use glass to store leftovers and when we’re microwaving, which we try not to do much anyway, we do so in glass. I knew to use sunscreen; I knew to eat healthy. I knew not to drink, to smoke, or second-hand smoke. I knew about the HRT. I knew about breastfeeding. But I learned so much more.
Q: Which of the projects that you worked on did you enjoy the most?
A: I’m very proud of the ZBC Retrospective video/slide presentation I was responsible for designing and producing. The multimedia program was shown at ZBC’s 2016 Honor Our Healers Award Dinner. I was permitted to use an original piece performed by the Turtle Island Quartet composed by the second violinist—his mother had died of breast cancer a few years prior. My husband was the cellist on that recording. When the applause came at the end I felt like I had won an Oscar. There was such an emotional connection with the music.
Q: What has been rewarding and what has been challenging about working with ZBC?
A: I think what’s been rewarding is that you’ve been so pleased with the work we’ve done together, and you’ve gotten positive feedback from donors, that some of these campaigns have been very effective and informing the right audience. We have worked on a wide range of applications from conference banners, posters, brochures and mailers to the annual reports and tabletop signage. And, by the way, I won’t lie, I love seeing the multi-color daisy nail files--they make me smile. The things that are challenging are also the things that are in the end rewarding. You say “I want a video!” And I go, “In this program? I don’t know how to do it.” So it’s been challenging working in new formats, but on the flip side it's been challenging to work in new formats, yet I haven’t met a software application I couldn't wrangle.
Q: What do you see as your biggest contribution to ZBC?
A: The ability to make your (ZBC’s) vision a reality and to help bring the message to the public, thereby reinforcing the mission of Zero Breast Cancer.
Editor’s Note: Bibi forgot to mention the number of times she has helped out in a pinch and kept the Executive Director grounded and sane
Q: What passion or hobby do you spend time on that is separate from your work?
A: I love being physically and mentally active — it’s in my genetic makeup. I see my siblings are the same way. When I was younger, I was a bicycle tour guide in Europe and in the U.S., and I have been the media assistant or public relations director for USTA and Masters tennis tournaments. I don’t bike anymore, except in spinning class, but I do play tennis as much as possible for the exercise and the social aspect.
I do local programing for Handwriting the Constitution, a non-profit based in NYC, and have taught Book Arts and Bookbinding in Marin County. I take classes and workshops in Abstract painting, Landscape painting and Printmaking.
I have served as a City Commissioner for the Architectural Heritage and Landmarks Commission in Vallejo when I lived there, was the Board of Director for a Solano County preschool, and was the Co-President of a Marin County PTA (all non-paid positions). I have also done design work for the Mill Valley Historical Society, and was a special projects designer for the Novato-based Marin School of the Arts.
The final word from Rose Barlow
Bibi has been an extraordinary trusted thought partner supporting ZBC’s mission and donor communication and fundraising in a collaborative and creative way!
Interview was conducted and written up by Rose Barlow, Executive Director.