Our Portland Story: Capturing the Feel of the City

Feb 16 2011

We’d like to welcome guest blogger Melissa Delzio! Melissa is an Art Direction Associate at Mambo Media and creator of the new book Our Portland Story. Listen to her podcast on OPB Q&A with Geoff Norcross here.

It all started with a question, “What ONE thing do you love about Portland?”

It was a question I often asked casually around town to recent transplants and native Portlanders alike. As a transplant to this city myself, I knew that what drew me here was a certain magic that I felt in the city. A magic that in my eyes seemed hard to describe – it’s more like a feeling. I was curious if others felt the same way.

Thus, the founding of a community story project known as Our Portland Story.


I launched the project with an open call for submissions of stories about Portland by Portlanders. The topics could range from the description of a person, a place, an event, product or experience. I was asking for short stories, just a couple of paragraphs or so in length and an image to match if possible. After a three-month long submission effort – that was successful largely due to an article that ran in The Oregonian – I had 77 stories worthy of inclusion in a book.

The idea was to collect the stories and pair each with a different graphic designer so that the stories would not just be told through text, but through rich visual images. Images included art, illustration, photos and typography unique to the subject matter of the page. And of course, each story needed to be reviewed and finessed by an editor who had a real eye for punctuation and Portland nomenclature.

My job, as the founder of this project, was to curate the stories, work with the editor to get the most out of each one, match each story with a designer/illustrator whosestyle would fit the tone of the text, and work with authors for final approval of the visual representation of their story.


This was a process that took two years to complete. The final outcome represents the work of 77 authors, 68 designers, 1 editor, 1 web developer, and me. The result is a 100 page book, a robust website, and the birth of a project that will continue to evolve into Our Portland Story Volume 2 and beyond.

The fantastic thing about this project is that it is truly a collaborative piece of work. It is not a book that claims to be the end-all be-all guide to Portland. It doesn’t offer comprehensive or authoritative anything. Rather, it is an attempt to put out a piece of work that captures the feel of the city right now.

As a graphic designer myself – often working with Mambo – I hope this project helps advance the designer’s role in storytelling. What separates this book from other Portland anthologies is the strong visual element that Portlanders and visitors can immediately identify with and be drawn to.

If you would like to know more about this project, please visit The hardcover book can be bought locally at Powell’s, New Seasons, and many other retailers. We are beginning Volume 2 and are always seeking submissions for the next edition – maybe your story?

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