Tell us why you're the best applicant in under 50 words
I bring efficacy, intention, and an unmatched work-ethic to the craft. Those traits, in combination with the WGI network, would empower me as a designer to make the meaningful connections and contributions all of us (myself, Butchershop, and each Partner) are looking to get out of the program.
Give us your bio in under 500 words
I ain’t nuthin’ but a wild southern boy who doubled-down on breaking rules, Type-A personality traits, and loving the way things look next to each other. I grew up customizing cars in the Need for Speed games on Playstation, toured in a metal band for three years, went to college, shaved my head, and ended up with degrees in finance and design. Before graduating, I subcontracted with Big Tech and caught the attention of Deloitte Digital in D.C. for my first full-time job. There I helped modernize brand touchpoints for a handful of federal agencies. A year ago I transferred to the NYC commercial studio and have been aggressively producing since.
I realize, however, that I’ve approached a fork in the road. One path leads back to tech. I’d sell my soul and don’t think I’d be happy about it. The other path leads to a career doing what I’ve learned I love: pushing boundaries; creating high-quality work; and designing beautiful identity systems. I don’t have the connections to make this step at the scale I’m interested in. So I’m turning to WGI as an alternative to knocking down doors — devil knows, Georgia’s too hot for that.
1. What's the most courageous thing you've ever done?
I remember how dusty clouds of baking flour swirled as Polish, and English, and Portuguese words were spoken into them. When I was young, my whole family baked together and made recipes that were brought over from our homelands. My grandmother quickly swatted the back of my head when I over-zealously mixed the dry ingredients up and into the air or made little animals out of the pierogi.
I remember energetically directing my brothers and friends as we constructed forts in woods behind the neighborhood. I was the one confirming the perfect spot when we found it and helping the others imagine what the finished structure would look like. When the sun began setting we’d get whistled in for dinner and race out of the treeline back home.
Idyllic childhood scenes like these abruptly ended when my family divorced in 2008.
The mortgage collapse ruined my family’s finances and triggered our unraveling. After the departure of my father and my older brother, I took on their roles as a financial partner and the eldest sibling. The heroes that I once thought were flawless – my mother, my father, my extended family – all turned glaringly mortal as they went separate ways.
We were once a nuclear household of seven consisting of my two parents, my three other brothers, my mother’s sister, and three or four pets. We were often the gathering grounds for parties and holidays. I was 12 when these things stopped happening and when the house started falling apart.
We could no longer afford the mortgage, A/C, or utilities. The fridge was empty and so was the tank in our car. Our credit score plummeted. We quickly became the eye-sore house in the neighborhood. The yard was overgrown, the pool was green, and the HOA regularly fined us for not keeping up appearances. On the outside everything changed for the worse, and so did I on the inside.
My priorities shifted away from the things that brought me joy — art, music, fashion, my band, my creativity — and my presence got meek and small. Unlike my peers, I didn’t have the time, money, or emotional capacity to cope with socializing in public school. My reality deviated, I was isolated, and I began to accept the terms of a new norm.
To support my mother and brothers, I worked my ass off every day after school. As soon as I turned 18, I was made manager of a franchised business and began to see how I could make a future that provided my family with little more than the bare minimum. Every night when I closed the store, I turned the music way up on the sound system and balanced the books in the back office. After work responsibilities were done, I did my homework there late into the night. I had plans to keep that job after graduation. It wasn’t much, but I felt like I had achieved something with my life.
One night, late, my mother pulled me aside and made me make a promise. She said:
“You remember how mad grandma used to get at you for ‘getting creative’ when we baked with them? Or that time I freaked out ‘cause I thought I lost you guys, but you had spent the whole day building a fort in the woods? You are capable of so much more than what you’re doing now...Promise you won’t be like me. Don’t settle. Don’t defeat yourself. Get a degree and learn to believe in yourself.”
I was most courageous when I decided to face my demons, depression, and my abysmal self-esteem. I chose to believe that I was worth more than minimum wage and that I had more to offer the world than just a painstakingly crafted in-store Pandora playlist.
Over a period of years, I’ve gotten closer to the unrelenting, devilish, curious, and endearing spirit with which I was born. Every day I do better at authentically presenting myself and doing so with a child-like enthusiasm. It's scary and difficult. I harken back to that promise between my mom and I because it represents the most courageous and most rewarding first leap of faith. I make that same step every day, but it's become easier and easier to do.
2. How are creativity and innovation related?
Creativity and innovation are related in opposite ways. On one hand they’ve devolved to be meaningless, questionable, and the most unimportant part of what someone says. While on the other hand they overflow with the sincerity, complexity and magic which makes the human experience so special.
On the end of meaninglessness, the word ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’ suffer from semantic drift and gross overuse. When they are used, one of two responses usually follows. The first is an immediate onslaught of other words used to prop up, unpack, or explore the original word. The second response is a resounding silence with faces that could (maybe) be interpreted as deep pensive thought; a furrowed brow; or, my personal favorite, an agreeable series of head nods, pretending to ‘get it’, and then going about their day unchanged because what was described was neither creative nor innovative.
Businesses cling to these ideas as if they were real, tactile pillars of their offering or as keystones of what makes them worth buying. They are treated as commodities that were done intentionally and are available equitably. They are neither of those things.
Creativity and innovation are verbs informed by their surroundings; they are responses to externalities. They require the presence of some context in order to exist meaningfully. That can come in many forms. They can be social, environmental, or systemic processes which drive action. They can be creative processes informed by drugs, an unhinged lifestyle, or an obsessively-made studio space. Absorbing any of these happenings around them, creativity and innovation respond via some medium. The outcome questions reality as it exists and challenges the expectations one has for the life which they lead. Because of this dependence on context, true creativity or innovation is hard to come by and impossible to plan for.
Therefore, and on the other hand, we find that the two words are related by the resounding fullness of their meaning. They describe experiences which are so attuned to the happenings of mankind that we are brought to tears, gaze in awe, or are instinctually obliged to own whatever the thing is. They describe the fascination with objects imbued with such authenticity that they feel to become a part of you. They are objects which facilitate more-human relationships or make you feel understood, seen, or validated by others.
Stories about this caliber of creativity and innovation are the same ones we all know to some degree: Jackson Pollock’s reclusive and alcoholic process informing his impact on art; Walt Disney reimagining machinery for storytelling, world-building and delight; Steve Jobs’ intense personality driving change to HCI and technology. These figures have legacy now because they were brave enough to offer their creations to the world. In turn, they are celebrated for their impact on people’s lives.
In the cases of business, legacy’s are continued over many lifetimes and naturally evolve as their contexts evolve. Disney is not the same company it was 100 years ago. Nearly everything about that entity’s context has changed and yet it continues to be creative and innovate. The life and values of Walt still informs the company’s actions today. There’s that idea that says, “It’s 10% the way you behave and 90% why you behave that way.” So if the ‘Why’ is centered on authenticity, and we know that context is ever-changing, then all a company needs to do is act when the time is right.
A recent example of this is AirBnB’s response to the Covid Pandemic. Their product-wide shift to stay-cations and in-home events is a market innovation derived from a changed narrative. That, coupled with authentic tone and manner, made it one of the most heartening news updates I got in the middle of 2020. Of course, it was AirBnB’s core motivators which drove that change and ultimately will inform its successes as times continue to change. The differentiator here, however, is not only that they observed the change and pivoted, but that they were poised to do so as soon as context required it.
Creativity and innovation are related in that they are both meaningless and powerful beyond definition. Their meaning relies on their context and our willingness to respond with sincerity. That means that the only thing standing in between an individual and creative/innovative greatness is a willingness to be vulnerable– to go out on a limb and to dare to do things differently. We as creative people must be more willing to leave behind the B.S. buzzwords, our obsession with what others are doing, and our fear of being bad in order to articulate our own response to the world. Otherwise, we’ll be left with a burnt-out planet, mediocre work, and a vocabulary of words that don’t mean a thing.
3. Why do companies need clarity and creativity?
Tyler Durdon called it when he looked to camera in Fight Club and said, “You’re not your fuckin’ khakis.” Gone are the days of the monolith and blind consumerism. In order to make it now, brands need clarity to navigate new complexity in the world as well as creativity to be the change customers want to see in it.
Clarity has always been an important part of a brand’s success, it’s just evolved with time. In the 50’s Volvo marketed safety– and that’s it. The only thing you had to do to sell those cars was write some copy about safety, put the logo in the bottom corner, and then families with young kids would buy that brand of car over others. The important part is that Volvo knew safety was their schtick.
In the 80’s and 90’s new technologies became viable for business, we saw an increased importance of data to support marketing claims, the whole dot com mess happened, and then trailblazers like Amazon, Wegmans, and Southwest started customizing brand experiences for more and more specific segments of consumers. With that specificity came a need for greater detail in the brand’s identity. That means more articulate advertisements and a more flexible identity system.
We’re at a point now where the market runs rampant with digital natives. Companies like Warby Parker, Casper, and Blue Apron prove it's possible to replace in-person brand touchpoints with entirely digital ones. This opportunity requires next-gen clarity in order to navigate the evolving digital landscape.
Clarity empowers brands to express themselves instinctually. It, much like our own personalities, informs how and why we respond to the world. A brand with a high level of clarity does not get bogged down in discerning how to present itself across platforms, it just does. The brand is able to tailor touchpoints to drive core values and tell compelling stories. This leads to why companies need creativity.
Creativity is needed to break through the noise. In the market today that means competing on social values and social media. Companies that are confident in their core pillars, tone of voice, and visual identity are able to multiply their impact through their customer-base. By entrusting communities with a company’s brand, the two parties are able to drive the change they want to see in the world and win on loyalty. Companies that compete on these social values garner success and greater relevance against competitors.
The Ben and Jerry’s business manifesto is founded on social values. When George Floyd was murdered the company responded and offered its platform to the Black Lives Matter movement. To combat criticism, the company cited archives of their practiced approach of supporting the company’s core beliefs. Based on that exchange and prevailing customer-centrism in business today, it’s evident that companies will be expected to no longer just be bystanders. It is expected that they be active partners in social change.
Key to community-driven social change is the elasticity of a company’s brand. Elasticity demands clarity as a prerequisite and relies on creativity to act on happenstance. For better or worse, no one really wants to hear a blank recitation of core beliefs and tweets saying, “I told you so.” The value for both companies and society is derived from the creativity with which a statement is made. Campaigns, for lack of a better word, like Ben and Jerry’s presents a more heartening, more dimensional perception of the company.
I think of Ben and Jerry’s, Bezos, Gates, and Musk as leaders in this change. They all are public figures who serve as figureheads for the company. It feels natural for them to lead the way in this evolution of brand. I’m interested to see how brands change in this way without literally personifying their company to the market. Then again, maybe there is some sort of Philip K. Dick science-fiction future with brand androids living, collaborating, and socializing with humans....
Clarity is needed to navigate the evolving business landscape of the world today. Creativity is needed to break through the noise and sell the message. For the time being, these two words humanize our understanding of what it means to be a company in the world today.
4. You have 30 minutes of free time. What do you do with it?
I keep a revolving list of hobbies that keep me sane (especially now in quarantine). The through-line for these activities is the multi-disciplinary study of design. My downtime still consists of learning about design, making things through the lens of design, or creating in as many forms as possible—whether that be in food, mixology, music, or video games.
Dehydrate something: I found a super nice NuWave two-tier dehydrator at my mom’s place (one of my brothers is a chef) and have been testing a ton of combinations in it. I’ve done fruit slices like mangoes, plums, peaches, apples, and even made a raspberry puree to dehydrate and turn into fruit bars. I did some beef for jerky and have been on spices, herbs, and garnishes for cocktails lately. Generally, I keep recipes simple and uncomplicated and love to focus on the basics of food.
Play a couple rounds of Super Smash: I’m very into the mental game that’s been built in the Super Smash Brothers Ultimate game mechanics. I’m particularly interested in the chess-like game that gets unlocked at higher levels of play. The super fast option evaluating, player conditioning, and competition are a more than welcome juxtaposition to my daily, less heroically soundtracked work. I play as Sonic and float around the top 10% of online players. If you’re interested in a highlight reel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEDD_QvuSzw
Bike ride and Spotify: At month two-ish of quarantine I got sick of forcing myself to jog in a knee brace around the neighborhood and decided to expand my horizons. I picked up a notably nicer bike than I’ve ever owned, although it is still very modest as far as the world of biking goes. It is a super-smooth hybrid road bike that has been an awesome escape from the house. In between calls I get out on the bike and get lost in some music or slip into that state of mundane activity that helps the brain solve problems.
Mix new music: Although I don’t perform with a group much anymore, I do still make time to write and record on my own. I love the process and ‘designing’ poetry to sound and wrapping everything in an evolving personal brand. Since I’m doing everything on my own it usually takes a number of months to finish a single. But when it’s done, I’ve built a world around story, and sound, and visuals that I think is an interesting expression of who I am as an individual and designer. If you’re interested in my last track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xrzNP4pTfQ&t=3s
Make a Cocktail: I saved this one for the end of the list to imply that this activity is happening at the end of the day. I’ve always loved the world of cocktails and made a hobby out of it in quarantine. Love the aspects of history, imagination, and presentation in making cocktails. The first time I made a Whiskey Sour at the house I was shocked at how vividly I was transported back to the speakeasy in D.C. where I had my first one.
5. What is one risky and bold goal in life you have? Or, if you could dedicate your life to solving one problem, what would it be?
In one of Mark Manson’s weird animal anecdotes in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** he essentially says that no life can exist without problems. Therefore, the only choice one has is the type of problems one wants to solve. My risky and bold goal in life, therefore, is to spend my time solving my problems, not someone else’s.
At work that means investing my time with teams, communities, clients, and projects which support each other and lead with authenticity and help. I’ve accepted that my interests are multiple and that it’s going to be hard to find a gig that allows me to do everything I’m interested in all at once. So in my independent work, I’d like to build a collection of high-return projects based on meaningful relationships. Those relationships could be with bands, non-profit event activations, interior design projects, conference speaking engagements, or adjunct professorship for design. High-return, in this case, could mean a number of things in addition to money. It could mean experiential and access based returns. It could mean philanthropic and social values based causes. Or it could mean the humility and gratitude of ‘paying it forward’ to the next generation of designers.
In my personal life, my goals are the goals of my family. I’m very happy to help my brothers on their ventures. I look forward to the day I get to design an identity for Matthew’s restaurant. And I’m loving the conversations Daniel and I are having as he’s studying web development in university. My mother cherishes time together as a family. So I happily take the duty of putting together a vacation planner on Google spreadsheets for us.
Maybe these as individual goals don’t sound like that much. But when taken together, they represent the most bold, and risky, and rewarding goal you can have: loving every aspect of the life you lead.
6. Explain your creative process
I take pride in clean files, done-smart workflows, and watertight concepts. More often than not, my work is scoped to not only establish brand guidelines and collateral for social, events, or ads, but to go a step further and translate those guidelines to digital experiences or UI libraries.
First, a few caveats on the process I’ve outlined below. Rarely have any of my projects cleanly gone through this creative process. Phase one and two frequently get adjusted depending on where the client is at and how much information I can gather before going into kickoff. And then I do want to call out that I’m at a point of frustration with my process. I’ve found that I end up exploring multiple concepts through the majority of the engagement, doing double time living between worlds. Because of this, I am not able to go as deep into one as I’m interested in doing or as is creatively worthy.
Second, I want to punctuate in this prompt response that a big part of my interest in the WGI program is in learning from others and breaking out of my creative process. I am certainly willing and interested in shedding skin and growing into something new through the program. And for me that specifically means evolving my creative process, eliminating duplicate work, and shaping engagements with greater tact and intentionality. I’m really excited to be in the thick of it at Factry, Butchershop, Gretel, Prophet, and Rice and to live each process. I’m a very humble learner and am craving the guidance and new mentorship.
That said, I structure my creative process with the phases outlined below. Within each of these phases I tenaciously explore new techniques and softwares for design. I often create opportunities to use new scripts, plug-ins, or processing tools in early phases. I love to see the evolution of work and iteration of forms throughout the process.
Phase 1- Kickoff: To begin I gather around a problem/solution statement and gather materials to pressure test the client’s ask. My first brand mentor brought me up to use a psychological personality test in order to gauge aspirations. The structure is designed to cross reference verbal/visual queues in order to test the ask’s accuracy and to be able to rationalize design decisions later in the engagement.
Phase 2- Synthesis & Moodboarding: At this stage, I work on synthesizing and presenting results from the kickoff session. I’ll also put in work on creating moodboards that visualize kickoff results and responds to the brief. This can include simple in-situ graphics, collecting references, and citations of how visuals can begin to translate strategic requirements from the contract.
Phase 3- Worldbuilding: At this point the client and I have had a number of conversations, we’ve gotten feedback, and we’re beginning to get into a groove for our process together. The worldbuilding phase is the first time I’m pitching work that is original to their ask. This hedges against overinvesting in work early in the engagement and protects me from burning out on creative. The worlds I make in this phase include a series of expressions that help the client to imagine what their ask could end up looking like. These worlds generally have a write up which explains the natural strengths of each and maps specific elements back to previous stages. The goal at this point is to pick a world which “feels” the most right, knowing that each objectively fulfills the brief.
Phase 4- Deep dive: At this stage, work is done to formalize concepts, refine applications, and set up guidelines for usage. Special consideration is made here to tailor the ask to the immediate needs of the client (I.e. ad specs, social campaigns, etc.)
Phase 5- Application: Last is the application phase. Here work is done to deliver final application files to the client. Sometimes this is a guidelines web document. Other times its a specific set of collateral. Most detailed and most frequently, however, is a digital application of the brand system. This can come in the form of a website, work portal, or mobile app.
This phase can either be viewed as the beginning or the end of the creative process. There’s a ton of work to be done from here and all of it gets down to the pixel level. And that level is, admittedly, less fun for me than the preceding work.
7. What is the best advice that you have been given?
I was 18, in college, and grinding the hardest I had in my entire life. That meant acing all my classes, rushing a Business Fraternity, networking my way into internships, playing intramural soccer, and living in a Leadership community all while working part-time to pay tuition. As I mentioned in the courage essay, I left home because I committed to making a better life for my family and addressing my self-esteem. So during these first two years of university, all of my energy was focused on making the most of that decision to leave.
With each achievement, I felt comfortable setting my sights higher for the next time around. During the summer of 2014 I worked as a poolboy for 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. I used my spare time on the job to write the essays for the Gilman Scholarship to study in France. I submitted my materials at the end of the summer and went back to school in the fall.
A couple weeks before the end of the semester, I was in the quiet, echoey computer lab of the Art and Design building. I was working around several of my typography classmates when an email notification rolled through on my phone. It was the Department of State congratulating me. They offered the full $5,000 award and an ambassador position in the program. I shared the news with my mom over the phone right away. I remember breaking down into tears when she responded to the news. She quoted Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure...Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you...As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
This advice shook my world view. It, in conjunction with the award, doing well in school, and getting ready to embark on a new adventure, unlocked new levels of confidence, assuredness, and self-respect. These words were evidence that proved I was good enough and that others saw good in me too. All this, by the way, was an embarrassingly visceral conversation to be sobbing through with your classmates pretending not to listen. After the call, one of them did say, “Wow, that sounded like a pretty good phone call.”
8. What is your definition of creativity?
I believe that creativity is not reserved for who we typically call the ‘creative’. Creativity is not related to skill. It is not related to passion or only the aesthetic value of a thing.
My definition of creativity has largely been formed by the work of Brené Brown, a social psychologist and researcher. In 2013, Brown offered the following statement: Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation, and change. And derived from that is my working definition of creativity: Creativity is the combination of vulnerability, a medium, and action.
Creativity describes the transformation of an idea to an outcome. The process assumes the vulnerability of the maker and bravery in offering something via some medium to the world. That offering, be it performance, physical art, a thesis, a political platform, or business strategy etc., will take some form and be critiqued by its audience. If not by others, then certainly by the maker themself. The point being, that where there was once nothing, a person took it upon themself to make something—creation.
9. What 10 songs are on your favorite playlist right now?
1. Hand Crushed by a Mallet, 100 Gecs Featuring Pete Wentz, Patrick Stump, Craig Owens: Something cathartic about the featured post-hardcore/punk idols from the 2000’s affirming and empowering the next generation of artists— less “back in my day”, more excitement for the evolution of technology, sound, and genre. This is the first track on the playlist because it sort of spawned the wormhole that lead to adding the rest of the tracks.
2. Demons with Ryu, Emmure: I remember this track opening my mind to the concept of sampling sounds as a way of borrowing the context and world-building work others have done. Skip to the call out at 2:45.
3. Sunthrower Flower, Good Tiger: This is a recent single from the band. Elliot Coleman is the singer and I’ve been following his projects since ’05 when he was in Sky Eats Airplane. Their chord structure and his melodies are fascinating and have evolved in a unique vein over the years. It’s really common now to hear jazz progressions in heavy music, but back in ‘05 they really married the two in pretty exciting ways.
4. Autumn in Analog, Zelliack: Again, this is Elliot Coleman. The melodies are awesome but are surrounded by a totally different arrangement. I love the way the single motif phrase separates chorus and verse. Skip to 4:15 for one of my favorite guitar solos.
5. Blood of the Fang, Clipping: Admittedly, Deathgrips are on this playlist as well, but didn’t make this top ten for less cool and more snobby reasons. That said, their sound did lead me to discover this track from Clipping.. This artist lives on the hip-hop side of JPEGMafia, Deathgrips, and other melodic noise rap artists. For what it’s worth, he’s the actor who played Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the Hamilton musical.
6. Anthems, Charli XCX: I’ve been circling back to this track as a reminder that we’re gonna make it through this pandemic. The sounds and energy here are infectious and they spark memories of awesome times with friends, out, late, doing whatever.
7. Doomed, Moses Sumney: Moses’ vocal performance on this track is chilling. It also has a fascinating relationship with Radiohead’s Codex when you play the two on top of each other. Their loose, drudging melodies coarsely weave in and between each other. Radiohead’s terse chord structure totally recontextualizes Sumney’s vocals.
8. ASL, I Set My Friends on Fire: Put a D’n’B breakbeat at the front of a track and I’ll listen. These sort of floating, energetic passages suck me in. That same mix even got me fired up over a Taylor Swift track called Dancing With Our Hands Tied (but that one’s definitely not making the playlist).
9. Crooked, Dealer: This song is tough.
10. Silhouette, Blame the Season: These are the homies and I’m definitely trying to send some streams their way. Of the five of us that formed the band in ‘06, two of them stuck with it and really pursued the craft. I’m super proud of their hustle.
10. How do you want people to remember you?
Don’t get me wrong, I want to leave a good impression on others. But to say something cheeky like “I want them to say that he was so full of love for others”, “joyousness”, “positivity,” or “kindness,” frankly, would not be true— and I know I wouldn’t be able to live up to the promise.
I played the hardcore scene, I spent time with seminarians discerning priesthood, I’ve been in courts, and therapists offices, rubbed elbows with too many suits on Wall Street and been with too many strangers at shitty bars, I’ve traveled the world alone and with others, and now I’ve spent what seems like eons quarantined in my room teaming with strangers in who knows what part of the world. These are my own experiences and they’re complicated. They, in great ways and really difficult ways, inform the way I perceive the world and others when we first meet. The opposite, therefore, must be true for when others meet me.
Whether our meeting comes in the form of a stranger at a bar or a stakeholder in the boardroom, I want to be associated with intentionality. In personal relationships that looks something like making space for others to feel safe, do their best, and feel comfortable as themselves. In work settings that means leading by example, fearlessly presenting ideas, and, in turn, creating space for others to do their best. Moments like these, however, aren’t always perceived as intended.
As a leader in my communities, the way I am perceived by others is very important. This is especially true in design, a world which requires critique. I believe in seeking to understand, vulnerability as table stakes, critically consuming, and challenging what’s been afforded to us by the world. Conversations that revolve around these beliefs, can easily be misconstrued as ill-intended. While that’s rarely the case with me, it is necessary to accept uncertainty in dealing with others' perceptions. It is my hope that I will always be perceived as intended. As I mature as a friend and teammate, I’m finding more and more ways to help guide those perceptions.
I can’t always be “joyous.” I can’t always be “positive.” But I do think that I can always be intentional with others. I want to be remembered, in the end, as someone who came with a pure heart, gave thorough and meaningful feedback, and set others up to do their best.
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