In 2013, our friend and collaborator, Gage Hamilton, began to develop a project that would bring more public art to Portland’s streets and neighborhoods. Frustrated with the lack of street art in the city as a result of a shady Clear Channel lawsuit in the late 90’s, Gage decided to do something about it.

In 1998, Clear Channel filed a lawsuit against the City for violating their “freedom of speech.” Their claim was that if the company could not place advertising on walls that were not zoned for signs, then artists should also be banned from placing art in the form of murals in said locations, ignoring the differences between art and ads.

By working with the city and neighborhood councils, Gage gained clearance to paint murals on a number of walls around Portland, and then invited artists from all over the world to fly to Rip City to paint them. With that, Forest For The Trees was born, and Gage reached out to us for branding, marketing and web help.


The old adage “can’t see the forest for the trees” has a simple meaning: it means that you are too caught up details to see the big picture. Before FFTTNW 2013, Portland couldn’t see see the walls in our city as canvases. Hindered by the Clear Channel lawsuit, the city had painted over artwork and repressed artists for the sake of corporate pandering, unable to differentiate between marketing and artistic expression.



For the event branding, we strived to put a great deal of emphasis on the meticulous craft that so speaks to the artists who left their mark on the city. To perfect our work, we traveled to the woods to carve the FFTT Script into a northwest tree. You can see more about this process at our blog, here.


The final brand package for FFTT is earnest and whimsical. With the letterforms derived from a tree carving and the primary icon a simple, recognizable and friendly tree, it communicated our goals in everything from leather coasters to two separate website builds:


You can also check out our entire portfolio entry from the 2013 event, here!


To help the event garner public support, the Hellion Gallery hosted a pop-up shop to fundraise with contributions from Danner, Bridge & Burn, Tanner Goods, Maak Lab and more. To see our collaboration with Ebbets Field Flannels and then-some, check out this post here.


The initial 2013 event was a smashing success, thanks in part to taking a few cues and pointers from POW! WOW! Hawaii, a similar art event in Honolulu. Contributors and artists from the incredible Hawaiian events played a big role in helping Portland get our feet on the ground to launch the first annual Forest for the Trees.

Here are some of our favorite murals from the event:



As the festival progressed, we also had the chance to paint some walls. One wall was a collaboration between Zach, LA-based Madsteez and Gage (above); the second with local artist Blaine Fontana and Tokyo’s Jun Inoue (below).

Check out some of the painting progress from “The Future Will Be Hairy” here.


After the festival came to a close, the talented folks at Empire Green Creative shot and produced a small documentary about the mural creation process, which you can see here:



The next summer, Gage was at it again. The 2014 event brought new challenges, a new, blacked-out aesthetic, more artists, more walls, and more fun. Here’s a few of our favorites from 2014:


We also had the ability to contribute more paint to a few Portland walls, including Zach’s brilliant SE Division piece that we swear isn’t inspired by Miss Lauryn Hill.

Check out the process for the “Everything Is Everything” mural here.


Each year, the artists’ process was beautifully catalogued by the public with the hashtag #ffttnw, check it out here.


And Empire Green lent their video skills again as well in another beautiful recap video:



Forest For The Trees is a brilliant project for the city of Portland. It promotes public visual expression, collaboration, and community engagement with contemporary art and the creative process.
FFTT aims to bring opportunity for local and visiting artists, and to share their gifts on a large public scale in Portland—a city already known as a creative hub and home to many talented artists.


We’re already excited to be a part of the team each and every year Forest For The Trees returns.

Stay updated about that and more at