Sunday, December 30, 2012

My favorite Urbana project

Tonight Urbana participants "Joined In" and built 32,000 medical kits for caregivers of AIDS patients in Swaziland, Africa. I was humbled and grateful to have a part in this experience by designing the booklet that students used to write notes to the caregivers, think and process what they were learning, and to pray for them. 
This was by far my favorite and possibly most significant piece that I worked on for Urbana. It was so exciting to see them in students' hands and to be a part of this amazing evening! May the Lord be praised and may many people receive the love of Jesus through these kits.

Pray that this evening would be the start of steps of obedience as students think about what it means to join in God's mission around the globe and in their communities. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Urbana 12, Day 2

(1) My infographic was published in the Urbana-themed Inheritance magazine, available at the Asian American lounge (2) A shot of what my computer screen looks like as I sort through and process photos.
Day 2 is coming to a close. Today has been significantly busier and more stressful. Please pray that communication would be clear and that systems would function and be helpful in getting our work done! Pray that we would show grace and care to each other.

On another note, I am enjoying seeing all the beautiful photos our photographers have been providing! You can view a sampling at 2100's Facebook page.

It always makes me happy to see students using what I've designed!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Urbana 12, Day 1

clockwise from top left: 1) my own copies of the handbook and seminar notebook that I designed 2) the wall of inspiration for our photographers 3) me and my boyfriend, pat, who i reunited with for the first time since we began dating! 4) students poring over the handbook as they enter into the conference

Urbana 12 officially starts in just a few hours! But our team, and thousands of staff and volunteers, have already been hard at work! My photography team has just begun our workflow and so far things are going okay. Please pray for technical hiccups to be smoothed out - we have encountered several issues that were unexpected and have been somewhat stressful. I am hoping that everything will be figured out by tonight so we can get a steady workflow established!

Some more things you can pray for: 
  • Praise God that most of our photographers have arrived and have jumped in with enthusiasm. I am excited to be working with them.
  • Pray for the one remaining photographer, Sean, still en route. (The bus he was taking had a flat tire).
  • Pray for the remainder of students still arriving and the registration process to go smoothly, so that as many students as possible can enter into the conference well. Many will be tired, hungry, disoriented. Pray that God would give them a sense of peace and joy that they are here. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Pray for Urbana!

While most of you are celebrating the birth of Jesus today, I am on my way down to St. Louis with the rest of my team. We have a couple days of setup ahead of us, and 5 long work days during Urbana, which begins Thursday, December 27. Your prayers are crucial as we anticipate God to work significantly this week! Read below for a specific list of prayer requests.

My role at Urbana 

This year I am serving as the "Image Czar." What this means is that I will be processing and organizing all of the photos that are taken during the conference, and choosing the best ones to be used in our daily newspaper, Urbana Today, social media, and future reporting or promotional materials. Six photographers have volunteered their time and gifts to help us capture the event.

Please pray for the whole photography team: the photographers (Micah, Stuart, Erin, Barry, Kyle and Sean), my assistant Becky (a former design intern and current InterVarsity staff), Christy (coordinator), and myself.

Social Media & Live Streaming 

Here are some ways you can keep up with the event to see what's happening and how you can be praying:

Prayer Requests 

  • Pray for the whole 2100 team as we travel to Urbana 12 today, and for the physically strenuous days ahead. Pray for good health, safety, endurance, and that our work will effectively contribute to God's call to students to give their lives to his mission. 
  •  Pray specifically for God's wisdom and grace, and good communication for my immediate team, the photographers, Becky, Christy and me, as we collect images that will communicate what Urbana is like and what God is doing at Urbana. 
  • Pray for Urbana 12, Dec 27-31 in St. Louis. Pray for God to speak loudly as he calls this generation of students to join his global mission.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Great Invitation

As Urbana 12 quickly approaches, I am excited to see the work we’ve put in these past several months come to fruition as we extend God’s invitation to over 15,000 students to give their lives to
his global mission.

Here are a few projects I’ve worked on or am currently working on, and how you can pray for their effectiveness at Urbana 12.

The Invitation to Learn

In the afternoons, Urbana participants can explore specific missions topics by attending seminars. About 150 seminars will be offered, ranging from topics such as church planting, healthcare ministry among trafficked people, and the state of missions in the Middle East.

The 52-page seminar notebook I designed will help participants choose which seminars interest them. Pray that these opportunities to learn would further aid in equipping students to join God’s mission.

The Invitation to Give

The Urbana offering, collected using an envelope I designed, will be given to carefully chosen ministries who are carrying out God’s mission all over the world. In 2009, Urbana gave over $900,000.

Please pray that participants will give generously, sacrificially and prayerfully. Pray that this offering would be a pleasing gift to God as he uses it to advance his kingdom around the globe.

The Invitation to Decide

On the last evening, students will fill out a decision card, committing to follow Jesus for the first time, to study Luke with their non-Christian friends back on campus, and/or to short- or long-term missions. This card will serve to remind participants of how they heard God’s call and what they are going to do about it after the conference.

Pray that God would speak clearly, and that thousands would make thoughtful decisions to live for God.

The Invitation to See

I rarely work on videos, but for this Urbana I  am helping create a couple of videos which will present information about water (and the lack of access to it in some places of the world) and orphans (as a result of the AIDS epidemic).

Pray that these videos would help students become more aware of places in great need of healing and justice, and to develop a heart for God’s world.

I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in calling students to God’s mission. Thank you for your partnership in this season of busy, hard work. I am excited to see how God moves at Urbana 12!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

It's Compelling

Compelling 2012 is this weekend!

Please pray for the 755+ students who are registered as they engage in a weekend of Bible study, leadership development, thoughtful conversation, prayer, and other forms of training. This conference is typically a key time for new students--it is their first experience with InterVarsity as a movement beyond just the local chapter they have joined. And please especially pray for non-believers who are seeking.

Pray also for the staff and volunteers who are teaching and relating with students. It's an exciting but exhausting time for them. Pray that the Spirit would lead them as they minister to students.

Unfortunately I will not be going to Compelling this year, but I'm sending these banners along with my colleagues who are going to serve as tech support (light, sound, screens, etc). I'm excited to hear what God does through this conference, and thankful that I get to participate in making it happen.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Compelling 2012 - Dream On

Compelling, Michigan's annual fall conference, is one of my favorite projects that I get to do every year. Each new theme presents an opportunity to come up with a new design concept. This year, Compelling's theme is based around the story of Joseph, which I was excited about because he's one of my favorite Bible characters. The conference planning team wanted to feature something about Joseph's dreams in the title. So I suggested "Dream On,"  the title of a 1973 Aerosmith song.

Rock 'n Roll?
This title led me to find some of my inspiration from 1970s rock posters. I love the way these posters use dramatic shapes and have a sort of psychedelic look to them. In a way, they are kind of dreamlike--slightly distorted and ethereal. I also love the way that the typography takes the form of the larger shapes in the design.

Inspired by 1970s rock posters

...Like an Egyptian
The other part of my inspiration came from Egyptian art. Since much of Joseph's story takes place in the intriguing world of ancient Egypt, I wanted to give the conference some of that look as well. I researched photos of hieroglyphic art as well as the geometric patterns used in a lot of Egyptian design. The colors from these pieces had a more muted, earth tone palette, and ultimately I chose to use these colors, rather than the brighter colors from the 70s rock posters. I also incorporated the texture of the ancient papyrus, giving the design a rougher, older feel.
Inspired by Egyptian art
Inspired by Egyptian geometric designs

My color palette, based on Egyptian art
Final Product
So, after a lot of research, here is what I came up with! It was definitely a time-consuming process to create a completely hand-drawn design, but it was so much fun! Can you see how both the 70s rock posters and Egyptian art have been incorporated into my final work?
front of Compelling 2012 flycard - click to view larger
back of Compelling 2012 flycard - click to view larger

Sunday, October 28, 2012

It's the Great Missions Conference, Charlie Brown

I haven't done a lot of pumpkin carving, but this year I was given a pumpkin for my birthday. So I took the opportunity to carve the Urbana logo into it. It was the perfect Sunday afternoon activity!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Singleness Sucks, Sometimes

I apologize for the lack of posts here these days. As you know, I am swamped with work on Urbana 12. However, I wanted to share an excerpt from a post I recently wrote for InterVarsity's national blog. It's the story of my experience as a 30 year old single woman and what God is teaching me in this season of life. Since it was posted Monday, it has been viewed over 1,200 times! I thank God for the opportunity to encourage and challenge others through my personal journey.
"Drew Barrymore plays a twenty-five-year-old who’s never been kissed in one of my favorite movies from the 90s. Okay, actually, all of my favorite movies are from the 90s. I’m a product of my generation.

Well, here I am, days away from turning 30, and I can still relate to this movie. And it’s not just because I can still pass for a student. (Yay Asian genes!)

I’ve never had a boyfriend."

Friday, September 28, 2012

Deep In It

This is what my world looks like for the next month. I'm deep in Urbana mode, working on the handbook (which will be about 135 pages). My first task: maps! I'm creating maps of the America's Center, the Exhibit Hall, downtown hotels, downtown restaurants, MetroLink stops, walking paths for outer hotels, it just keeps going!

There's part of me that loves the challenge of organizing information but also feels the overwhelming pressure to get it right so that it makes sense to the 18,000 participants who will need to navigate St. Louis during their time at Urbana 12.

Pray for wisdom, steadfastness and endurance in the next four weeks!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


my friend, former student and now colleague, Grace

Yesterday one of my former students, Grace, now on staff with InterVarsity, posted this as her status update on Facebook:
"writing up a church presentation and remembering the impact InterVarsity made in my walk with Christ - thankful to Laura M. Li who met with me almost 6 years ago to explain the Gospel message which led to me rededicating my life to Jesus."
How awesome is that?

I can't tell you how encouraging it is to be credited for helping a student rededicate her life to Christ. This is my raison d'etre. :) This is why I continue to devote my life to serving Christ through InterVarsity's ministry. We're truly in the business of changing lives, and I am so honored to be a part of it!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Seriously, how fun is my job?

Urbana 12 shirt that I designed

Welcome in 20 languages shirt that I designed
Bethany, Jane, Gisella, Drew, and Justin modeling all of our shirts.
Fun thing #1: Designing shirts that students and staff can wear to help promote InterVarsity.

Fun thing #2: Doing a photo shoot with all the interns wearing these shirts.

Fun thing #3: Compositing all the images together to make it look like they were standing side by side when in reality I took individual shots.

My job kind of rocks.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

8 shoots in 11 Days

As I mentioned in my video update, this summer I've been learning photography. In the span of two weeks in June and July, I coordinated and shot eight separate shoots for various groups and events! It has been a huge learning curve but also very fun. I've enjoyed spending time away from my computer and having some more hands on work where I get to interact with people.

Here's a sample of some of those photo shoots and my thoughts on the experience. (Click on collage to view larger.)
Orientation for New Staff - group shot and portraits
The group shot involved me climbing up on a twelve-foot ladder and shouting out to the group as I was taking pictures. The ladder didn't scare me so much, but having 150 people staring at me did!

We also provided time for new staff to get a professional photo taken while they toured our office. These photos will be used in their communication to donors and potential donors. Together with Matt and Jane (an intern), we photographed over 120 portraits! It took a lot of energy to make this process go quickly and smoothly. While I wasn't taking photos, I was holding up a mirror for people waiting in line to check their hair and teeth. :)

Chapter Builders - group shot and portraits
This cohort of staff are being trained to build chapters (InterVarsity groups that already exist and have potential for growth in size, particularly through evangelism and missional activities). These photos will be used as they communicate to donors about this strategic ministry.

The guy in maroon might look familiar. It's Fred Bailey, my old boss from Great Lakes East!

Campus "Student" Photo Shoot
We recruited a group of young new staff to pose as students and get a variety of shots around campus. We will use these photos in national communication materials such as brochures, receipt inserts, and web articles.

The challenge was to create scenes in which these staff could look like they were doing student things, such as Bible study, conversation, looking thoughtful, or just having fun. However, this was a really great group of staff and they were very natural in front of the camera!

Chapter Planters - group shot and portraits
This group of staff are being trained to plant brand new chapters on campuses where there are no existing InterVarsity ministries. Each planter has a coach, so I had to take both portraits and double or triple portraits. The most challenging part of this shoot was that it was 105º and extremely humid that afternoon! In addition to the energy it took to corral a large group of staff, the extreme heat meant that I was pretty much dripping in sweat for the whole hour!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

More Illustrations

Here are a few more illustrations I did for InterVarsity's blog!

For a post titled, "My Kite Keeps Crashing"

 For a post yet to be published! You'll have to check back on the blog to see when it shows up. :)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I said YES! at Urbana

I couldn't tell you the names of most of the speakers or what they said specifically. I don't remember the lyrics to the awesome songs we sang. I don't remember the name of my small group leader or any of the seminars I went to.

But I distinctly remember the moment during Urbana 03 when I said, "Yes, Your Majesty."
scrapbook pages of my Urbana 03 experience
We were in the Assembly Hall, the worship team was playing some song, and 16,000+ voices were singing at the top of their lungs. All the moments that week led up to that one, when I raised my hands in surrender and said, "Yes Jesus, I will follow you wherever you call me. I want to live a kingdom-oriented life."

At the time, I had no idea what saying yes would mean. It was a little scary that there was so much still unknown. But at the same time, I felt peace. I knew that committing to be a part of his kingdom was the wisest decision I could make. It was simple: there was nothing else I wanted more for my life.

apparently even then I was designing for Urbana!
It's been almost nine years since that moment. Since then I've been to two other Urbanas and spent almost six years on staff with InterVarsity. Some of my experiences have been challenging, frustrating, discouraging. Others have been overwhelmingly joyful and fulfilling. But I don't have any regrets to saying yes.

At Urbana, God will take a hold of your heart and give you a glimpse into the amazing plan he has for redeeming the world. He will call you to join with him in this worthy mission. And if you say yes, it's like no other "conference high" - it's the real deal. Your life will forever be changed, and you will know no greater joy.

I can't say where else God will bring me in the next nine years, but I know I want to keep saying "Yes, Your Majesty."

Urbana 12 is just months away. Register now, it's worth it!

Go here to read the blog post I wrote just days after Urbana 03.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What does it look like to be a world changer?

Part of InterVarsity's vision is to "develop world changers."

As a designer and visual communicator, it's actually kind of challenging to show people what a world changer is or looks like. To invoke the idea of someone who is ready to impact the world using all the things they've learned through their InterVarsity experience, we often use images of graduates. I've been learning photography for a few months now and recently did a couple of photo shoots to gather images of graduates.

We recruited some local InterVarsity students who were graduating and got them to wear their caps and gowns. It was a fun shoot because they were all friends and it was really easy to capture moments where they were laughing and having fun.

These are some of my favorite shots. Maybe you'll see some of them on an InterVarsity brochure in the near future!

Later that week I also snuck into UW Madison's commencement ceremony (it was a public event so I didn't really have to sneak in) and took some photos of a larger scale of this idea of "world changers." It was challenging framing the images so that people's faces wouldn't be shown. But there are a few that I think will work.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Urbana Myths

I recently created an illustration for a post on our national InterVarsity blog. For some reason it's one of my favorites that I've done. I particularly enjoyed using so many bright colors. Check out the actual blog post here.
click to view larger

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Making information understandable, part 2

One of my projects this month is a redesign of the new "general" InterVarsity brochure. It's the one that we give to those who are considering giving financially to InterVarsity, or who want to learn more about our ministry.

The brochure includes a large amount of statistics about how many people and chapters are involved, how many people made decisions to follow Jesus through our ministry, the ethnic makeup of our students, etc.  My job is take this text and transform it into something that will engage readers and help them process what all the information means. The result is below:

(click to view larger)
The two images have the exact same information. The first is presented only with text. The second is my design that enhances that information and makes it visually interesting and much easier to understand. This graphic looks fairly simple, but it actually took several hours to transform the text into what you see!

Information design is one of the things I love about my job. It's my hope that this infographic will help potential donors know more about InterVarsity's ministry, and as a result, be compelled to support our mission.

Check out my first post on information design here and other infographic examples here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Reflections on Leadership

Coming off a trip to southern California to attend the Asian Pacific Islander Women's Leadership Conference, I've been reflecting a lot on what it means for me to be a leader. I share these honest, inconclusive thoughts with you in hopes that you will get a glimpse of what God is doing in my life.

Throughout my years with InterVarsity, I've always had a clearly defined leadership role. As a student I was on my chapter's leadership team for two years and during my senior year I led a Bible study. During my three years on campus staff, I discipled three women and led small group leaders' training every week. I taught and trained students at conferences and events that I also was involved in planning. I gave Bible expositions at large group meetings.
a banner I designed for APIWLC
But in my current role as a graphic designer, I'm actually just a minion. I have projects assigned to me and my work needs the approval of my supervisor and clients (who are actually my coworkers) to be completed. I need to ask permission to take on new work. Any ideas I have need to be approved to be implemented. Although our team is collaborative, there aren't many situations where I'm the leader of the team. In fact, in the one place where I do have some leadership (2100's weekly infographics), it is the most unofficial part of my job. Although I spend a large portion of my time on it, it's treated as the lowest priority. As such, I've always felt hesitant to embrace my role as a "leader" of this project.

Calling myself a leader in my current role feels like a bit of a stretch.

I've learned that my identity as an Asian American, as a woman, and an Asian American woman play a significant role in how I interact with and encounter my work context. I am currently the only Asian American woman on my team, and in our office of about 100, there are only 4 or 5 of us. My team (as well as the office) is dominated by white, married, older men. As far as I know, in its 35+ years of history, twentyonehundred has always been led by a white man.

Some people may think race or gender no longer matter, that we're in a "post-race" world. But it's something I am always aware of - especially now that I do not have a local Asian American community in my life. Whether or not it's felt by others, I am always conscious when I am the only Asian American in the room. I sense that I take up less space, physically, yes, because I am 5'2" and less than 100 lbs. But I also take up less space in the conversation, in the way culture is formed, in decisions that get made.

My ethnic and gender identity are all wrapped up with my perfectionist tendencies, my hesitancy to speak up early in a conversation, my desire to go with the flow and maintain harmony. This raises many challenges in how I represent my voice, my point of view, my experiences to the people I work with.

One of the things we talked about at the conference was how Asian American women often sell themselves short. We will rarely take credit for our accomplishments; we do not like to tell people that we're good at something or that we have something to contribute. It goes against everything we were told about how to be a "good Asian girl."  I've realized that this is very much how I operate. I'm self-deprecating and hesitant to feel proud of my achievements. When I do receive praise, I feel sheepish, even guilty. I tend to use humor to offset my discomfort in talking about my abilities and qualities.
In case you didn't know, I love Disney. and L is the Roman numeral for 50. I posted this image all over the office when I came back from the conference. It's been an ongoing joke for a few days now.
Several times throughout the conference, we were reminded that God created us in his image. I have worth, I have value. I am a daughter of God, dearly loved and called to do good things that he prepared just for me. I am enough.

Hearing that was so deeply healing and encouraging to me. I came into the conference feeling emotionally drained, with low self-confidence and not much excitement about being there. While those things were still on my mind, I did sense a deep reassurance that God was present with me at the conference, and that he wanted me to be there. He reminded me, "I am writing your story, Laura. Trust me."
during a brief journaling/art time, I drew out a few phrases I heard God telling me.

I know that the journey continues, now that I've returned to my context, in all its imperfections and challenges. I want to believe that like Esther, God has called me to where I am "for such a time as this." But I also am aware that there are obstacles: deep set cultural norms, working against the majority, my own inhibitions and bad habits, the desire to go the easy route.

I wish I could conclude these reflections with a certainty that now I feel totally empowered to change the world. But I'm not so naive to believe it'll be easy. I'm still learning, processing, and growing into the Asian American woman, and the leader, that the Lord has made me to be. Only He knows how the story will go.