Profile: You can go home again |

Profile: You can go home again

Aaron Kenedi grew up in a commune on the San Juan Ridge, went to New York to work with legendary designers, and now is working with The Union to create a new look.

Redesigning his hometown paper is part of Kenedi’s passion for helping businesses repackage themselves to make their products more appealing to readers.

Kenedi’s colorful upbringing helped inspire his interest in art and design at an early age.

His free-spirited parents ” Margo, of Oregon, and Ron, from New York ” met at the age of 20 in San Francisco. They were drawn to the artistic and cultural bubbling in the city, brewed by Beat poets such as Gary Snyder and Alan Ginsberg and environmentalists such as actor Peter Coyote.

“They had fostered a new idea of how you could live, kindling a counter-culture movement,” Kenedi said.

The couple met like-minded youth, and nine months after Aaron was born, they bought land on the San Juan Ridge and formed a commune in the Shady Creek area.

“They had geodesic dome buildings, a common kitchen,” Kenedi recalls. “We swam in the river. … I was an only child, but I grew up with lots of brethren.”

He remembers the area as “so lush and untouched and green. About the only thing in Glenbrook Basin was a Denny’s,” Kenedi said.

Kenedi, 37, loved books and reading from a young age; he grew up without television and devoured Spider-man comics. That pushed him to a journalism degree from California State University, Chico, where he delved into graphic design.

“I got interested in … the notion of telling a story and however you could do that,” Kenedi said.

He experimented at a newspaper and a magazine, eventually landing “a dream job” producing books for New World Library.

“It was everything I wanted to do. I could get my hands on literature, choose the type face, art ” direct the cover design,” Kenedi said. “It was cool for me to direct that whole process.”

During those years, he met designer John Miller, and the two of them branched into book packaging, newspaper and magazine design, and media consulting.

Their work brought them in contact with top-flight designers, including Roger Black, noting for being Rolling Stone’s first art director, and Mario Garcia, architect of The Wall Street Journal’s recent redesign. Together, the team including Kenedi ended up redesigning a wide range of publications: the San Francisco Chronicle, the Miami Herald and TV Guide.


“Our goal was to improve the readership experience” for their clients, Kenedi said. “It was all about story-telling. … We loved the challenge of recreating all these different kinds of media to stay current and stay in business.”

The work took Kenedi to Florida and eventually to New York, where he launched Shift, a magazine that rode the wave of renewed environmentalism based on “this strange melding” of business savvy, consumer pragmatism and love of the land.

The magazine folded after two years, but by then, Kenedi had met Al Gore, Ted Kennedy and Vantage Point Venture Capital, the people who invested in MySpace.

Last year, Kenedi met with The Union Publisher Jeff Ackerman and Editor Jeff Pelline after attending his 20th reunion after graduating from Nevada Union High School. His mother still lives on Banner Mountain.

“I love it here,” Kenedi said. “I wanted to help redesign my hometown newspaper.”

Helping to redesign The Union alongside the newspaper’s staff brings him back to his roots at many levels: Combining design with editorial content, and adjusting a print format to keep it current and competitive against other media.

“I’m a passionate believer in the power of design, not just words and pictures, but how businesses are designed, how they treat the earth, the quality of the product,” Kenedi said. “The whole structure affects how it does as a business.”

Kenedi’s latest venture, Central, is a collective of like-minded designers and strategists in San Francisco and New York to help businesses grow through design.

Kenedi expects to stay in New York ” he’s now living in Brooklyn ” “a few more years and see how things go. I can’t imagine staying there forever.”

To contact City Editor Trina Kleist, e-mail or call 477-4230.

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