Real Rural, Meet the City - Design Bureau

Sebastian, Thorpe's personal favorite. All images courtesy of Lisa Hamilton and


Real Rural, Meet the City

Monday, February 27th, 2012

by Delia Cai

If you're in California anytime soon, keep a sharp lookout for bull-riders and 4-H boys. They’re the new faces of Real Rural, a multimedia portrait of rural California by artist Lisa M. Hamilton. Its most prominent face is an ad campaign designed by Scott Thorpe, of the design firm MacFadden & Thorpe, that brings the Californian pastoral to the urban streets. While the program plans to expand, for now it exists as a system of billboards and public transit ads along San Francisco's roadways and Bay Area Rapid Transit busses and trains. Here, Thorpe talks about his work on the project and its potential impact on the Golden State.

You grew up in Massachusetts but have been working in San Francisco for 6 ½ years. Do you remember your first impressions of California?

I was an undergrad, probably around 19 or so, and I was touring around the country with a friend of mine. We drove down from the Sierras through the central valley. When we got to San Francisco, that was the first time I saw the Pacific. I knew I wanted to live there some day.

Now that you live in California, how has Real Rural altered your initial impressions?

It’s opened my eyes to a side of California that I was not that aware of. I have a long history of doing my own road trips to various corners [of the state]. But I still had never really been exposed to the unique stories of people that are living in [its] rural areas.

How did you try to grab the attention of San Francisco's commuters?

We wanted the imagery to be the thing that captivated people. We wanted to do a composition of a wide spectrum of people and places. The idea of putting a landscape of rural California in the middle of a BART train creates a beautiful kind of contrast.

Which BART poster is your favorite?

That’s a hard question. I would say my favorite is probably Sebastian, the 11 year old boy from Thermal who is in a boxing club down there. It’s this beautiful picture of this little kid in boxing gloves, ready to take on the world. It’s a pretty nice metaphor for where we are as a state right now.


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