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The yellow newspaper boxes that dot the streets of Chicago are essential to the Reader brand. “They are a very iconic symbol for the Reader,” said local artist Merlot. “They’re also prime real estate for graffiti artists.” In fact, those beat-up metal boxes were her main inspiration when designing the new street-art-style graphics for the newest Reader merchandise.

Merlot grew up in Seattle, and for the past five years, Chicago has been her home and artistic playground. She came to the city to focus on art and to take a design job, and moving here has done a lot to help her develop her craft and style. Merlot has been painting since 2008 and designing since 2009, but she credits her growth and success mainly to the communities in Chicago that so wholly embrace artwork and allow artists to experiment.

Apart from the boxes, another iconic symbol of the Reader brand is the backwards “R,” which made this a perfect project for Merlot, since much of her work plays with typography.

“I have been trying to find my voice through art, honing in on my style and what speaks to me. Letters have always been a love of mine, and that’s what I’ve gravitated towards and want to continue to excel and push boundaries with.”

For this project, Merlot and the Reader partnered with Rowboat Creative, a Chicago-based screen printer and custom branded merchandise manufacturer, and all three entities are excited for these product launches.

“I wanted to bring a little of my world into the Reader’s by creating my version of the box with my name written on it, as well as a 3D letter ‘R’ that embraces some of the current pieces I’ve been working on,” Merlot said. “It was a great experience, as [Rowboat Creative and the Reader team] were very open to creativity and let me have free rein with my design.”

To check out Merlot’s work, find her on Instagram @merlotism or go to merlotism.com. Her Reader shirts and hoodies will be available at chicagoreader.creativeswhocare.org throughout July.

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