The E’ville Eye is proud to announce a collaboration with Oaklandish to bring our custom neighborhood graphic tees to Oaklanders just in time for the holidays. Oaklandish is a lifestyle brand that promotes civic pride through T-shirts, hoodies and accessories showcasing symbols of Oakland.
The E’ville Eye’s founder and local graphic designer Rob Arias had previously designed neighborhood map tees for his current town of Emeryville, for the Berkeleyside local online news publication and neighboring North Oakland. Now, these custom tees are available for all of Oakland.
Oakland is such a vast city with incredible history and attempting to accurately capture every neighborhood is no small task. One of the challenges is to balance the historic neighborhood names with the contemporary names that have been embraced by the community. Names like “Ghost Town” “Oaksterdam” and “The Twomps” in East Oakland.
There are a handful of existing maps out there that served as the basis of our research including the OMCA neighborhood map, a City of Oakland commissioned parcel map as well as an amazing custom Google Map tediously researched and plotted by Our Oakland Blog founder and local Oakland historian Gene Anderson.
The Design Process
There is no real accurate was of automating the design process. It begins by overlaying a street map and using the type adjustment tools within the software to rotate, scale, track and scale each letter of a neighborhood’s name to fit in the respective boundaries. It’s critical to use a condensed font with a variety of weights (we used a font called “knockout”). “It’s like putting a puzzle together in reverse where you are creating the pieces,” Arias notes.
In addition to neighborhoods, we tried to weave in important landmarks as well. We also made it a point to make the highways that carve through the city as obvious as possible to show how they define many neighborhood boundaries.
Oaklanders, working on some #Oakland neighborhood tees for Oaklandish & would appreciate yr scrutiny (I’m working my way East!). I know neighborhood identity can be contentious & a consensus is not possible but I’ll do my best to implement feedback before having these screened. pic.twitter.com/gLgZsiuIXH
— The E’ville Eye News (@TheEvilleEye) August 24, 2020
We conducted extensive community outreach on these designs through our own platform, the Oakland History facebook group and the passionate Oakland twitterverse.
Neighborhood nicknames have proven a contentious subject matter in recent years and we’re keenly aware of the friction they can cause. The E’ville Eye covered the “NOBE” controversy (North Oakland-Berkeley-Emeryville) where Realtors created a website to promote an area to potential home buyers. We purposely avoided those 4-letter acronym names (e.g. “KONO”) that many people associate with gentrification.
Some might scoff at the inclusion of Uptown and Brooklyn Basin but they both have some historical roots. They are also traditionally commercial areas that have seen a recent influx of homes and are evolving into more residential neighborhoods.
It was also necessary to break the city up into smaller regions to be legible on a tee. North, West, East and The Oakland Hills are the obvious areas but the interior naming is less established. After initially creating a “Central Oakland” tee, we opted for “Downtown & Lake Merritt” based on feedback. We also acknowledged a strong desire from the community to distinguish “Deep East” from East Oakland.
“I’m positive I got some things wrong or omitted a few important neighborhoods,” Arias lamented. “My hope is that in some small way, these tees help document these names for new and longtime residents alike. Without physical reminders acknowledging them, many are in danger of fading into history unless we make a concerted effort to preserve them.”
Now available online and in-store
These shirts will be available for sale at the Oaklandish Downtown and Dimond stores and online at oaklandish.com/neighborhoods.
Curbside pickup is available at their Jack London warehouse when you order online.
About the Artist
Rob is a third-generation East Bay native whose family roots are in a historically rich area of Fremont called Niles. Rob has been working in downtown Oakland as a graphic designer for most of the last 20 years. He moved to Emeryville in 2003 (just a block from the Oakland border) which helped nurture his curiosity about the area.
In 2011, Rob founded this news website dedicated to covering Emeryville called The E’ville Eye. It is through local news coverage that Rob developed a passion for local history including documenting neighborhood nicknames.
Rob is a active member of The Emeryville Historical Society and has spoken about its rich history on KPFA radio, and in-person at the Pixar campus and The Public Market with East Bay Yesterday creator Liam O’Donoghue.