Student Spotlight: Artist raises money for charity through political graphic design

UI senior Noah Neal designs his own graphic T-shirts and sells them online and at a local Iowa City business and donates many of the proceeds to charity.



Tatiana Plowman, Arts Reporter

Inspired by peers and the variety of art mediums around him, University of Iowa art and creative writing major Noah Neal found himself enrolling in multiple art classes in high school, determined to get an “easy A” and have a few more credits under his belt.

Neal had no idea that these classes would allow him to discover a lifelong passion, and eventually lead him to start a local business in his own residence based on his major’s emphasis — graphic design.

During his senior year, Neal began working with Adobe’s graphic software and learned how to screen print. He then started working with other artists’ designs and recreated them online, which led him to design an array of posters, album covers, and T-shirts, and eventually starting up his own business.

The artist described his design style as “colorful, vivid, collaborative-driven, and inherently political.” His primary focus has been on his graphically designed T-shirts. The pieces he creates are also inspired by current events.

Neal said printing is a time-consuming and meticulous process. The designer and his friend Logan Speer (@loganisleaving) do it all themselves — screen printing each design by hand.

He described the process as “a game of telephone.” First, Neal digitizes the physical artwork, adding his own stylistic flair to the previously physical design. Then, the design is printed onto clear paper to create a film positive. This film positive is transparent and allows for the digital design to transfer to the T-shirt. The design is then printed onto the shirt using a screen-printing machine.

“Screen printing is so interesting … it is stretched, twisted and manipulated so much that [the] final product is so satisfying to me,” Neal said.

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The artist’s most recent work is an “anti-fed” collection in collaboration with Speer and artist Casey Gartlan (@caseygrtln). The shirts deliver powerful messages against police forces. The idea was sparked a year ago for the trio, but recent events involving significant racial inequities pushed them to release the collection in August.

Local Iowa City boutique White Rabbit Gallery sold many of Noah’s shirts from this collection, along with his previous graphic designs and prints.

“[White Rabbit] is super community-oriented and so supportive of local artists,” Neal said. “I am mainly to thank Casey for getting me connected with their business.”

Neal said that he hopes to continue partnering with White Rabbit and releasing future work.

The designer added that he donates his proceeds to causes he believes in. For his anti-fed collection, he donated 40 percent of the proceeds to the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition and another 40 percent to the Okra Project. Both charities help people of color who are in need and provide them with valuable resources.

With every collection he has released, Neal has found different charities and organizations to donate to, like the Minneapolis Freedom Fund after George Floyd’s murder.

“I think it’s extremely important to donate both globally and locally,” he said. “… I find organizations who want to better serve their communities, especially when it comes to oppressed groups of people.”