Monday, August 02, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: Brian Dolen

Ever wonder who designed L.A. Works Day 2010's volunteer t-shirt, poster, and summer artwork?  Meet Brian Dolen, a graphic designer and photographer who generously donates his time and creativity to the organization’s aesthetics. He also runs and contributes to, a blog covering the outdoors, fitness and food. We caught up with Brian to learn a little more about his commitment to volunteerism, and his passion for camping and snowboarding. Notably, he has photographed for Kia Motors, Burton Snowboards, Epic Records, and Vapors Magazine.

Brian Dolen Interview by L.A. Works' intern Hestia Ragan Rojas

Is there a specific cause that you are passionate about and advocate for?
Other than L.A. Works, I contribute to two very important organizations. The Sierra Club, whose stickers you may have seen on peoples cars, and Trout Unlimited. Personally, I like that the Sierra Club has a holistic approach to advocacy. They organize small grassroots programs and huge undertakings at the same time. I think a strategy like that is what it will take to move the needle towards a more responsible global situation. Trout Unlimited is a non-profit dedicated to the conservation of freshwater habitats for fish. I support TU because I love to fish, but also because their tactics involve both saving the streams and changing the environmental legislature. I also like TU because it isn’t a bunch of green flag waving hippies trying to save some fish. It is a group of well respected people from all political parties who understand how important our fresh water aquafers are to the entire ecosystem.

Why do you think it’s important for professionals, like yourself, to volunteer in their free time?
I think it is important for everyone to volunteer in his or her free time. Especially if they are lucky enough to have time that is free! Once upon a time things like this were not even considered volunteering or advocacy. Doing the right thing and helping others was just the right thing to do all the time. A community grows together, works together and lives together to better the lives of everyone in it. That is why I like working with L.A. works, when I drive home from work I can see first hand the good they have done in my neighborhood.

How did you get started in photography and graphic design? Do you have any advice for those who wish to pursue a similar career path?
I was very lucky to have parents that supported artistic endeavors from a very early age. I do not know if I showed some kind of toddler talent or if they just threw me in art classes, but I can not remember a time when I thought I would grow up to do anything else. My advice would be just to do it, work it, live it all the time. The beauty of this day and age is that you do not need to depend on anyone else to create and promote your work. This also means you have no one else to blame when things are not going great. Make a blog, submit to other sites, do tons of work for charity and people will find you.

Your professional creative skills benefit L.A. Works immensely. Any other thoughts on how creative people can be of service?
It is pretty easy to donate time, especially in the creative services. I may not be able to work with kids on a mural for half a day on a Saturday, but I sure can squeeze in a few hours here or there for some poster or t-shirt layouts. I say just do it once. The feeling you will get when you see photos of how you helped is pretty darn good!

What’s fun about designing a t-shirt, poster or billboard for a volunteer action center?
Well, that is tricky. It is fun when you have the freedom to do anything with the design, and with volunteer work you usually do. Sometimes you have to squeeze a few too many logos in or make the logo bigger, but you just have to remember that these small sacrifices in the design help the organization raise more money and that is the overall goal.

According to your website, you really enjoy camping. What is your most memorable camping experience?
I have so many! I think each one has a special place, but there is one from my youth that we still talk about. It was a group trip, lots of Dads and lots of kids. To preface my Pops has a wicked sweet tooth. I have seen that guy house a whole bag of Chips Ahoy Cookies in a sitting. The kids were off goofing around and the Dads were around the fire shooting the “*#@!.” We had a bag of cookies on the picnic table when we left, but when we came back for them, they were gone. My brother and I immediately blamed our Dad, to which he proclaimed a raccoon came out of nowhere and ate all the cookies. To this day he is sticking to his story and we continue to blame him. We are all headed out for a family trip to Idaho soon, perhaps I will bait him with a bag and see what happens now!
Thanks for the interview and keep up the amazing work at L.A. Works!
To learn more about how you can contribute your professional skill or passion to L.A. Works, please contact

Brian showcases his photography at

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