The 12 Places Project: November 2015 – October 2016

The 12 Places Project was a quest, a research project and a creative business endeavor rolled into one. Beginning in October 2015, I packed up my apartment in Kansas City, stored most of my worldly possessions, and hit the road to spend a year living and working in 12 different cities around the U.S. and the world. I planned to spend about a month in each place, and share what I learn along the way.

A bit of background...

I'm a designer and brand strategist by trade, which basically means I help people tell better stories — and I’m pretty convinced it's one of the best jobs in the world. Long before this became my career, though, I was smitten with storytelling in other forms. I lugged my camera and well-worn pocket notebooks through five continents over the course of college, a year abroad in China, a dozen international missions trips, and my first communications jobs. All gave me opportunities to travel and develop skills in writing and documentary photography. 

Fast forward to 2015 — I'd been living in Kansas City for about four years, and while I loved the city and my community there, I was starting to get a bit restless. I'd been feeling the need for "something" for a while.

From there came the wild idea to spend a year in 12 different places, with the goal of seeking and telling remarkable stories. I wanted to help both businesses and individuals discover and share their stories, while exploring the connections between storytelling and community. As I shared this idea with friends and colleagues, it quickly mushroomed. Several made a pitch to be one of the places on the list (“you’ve gotta come to Nashville!”), and others suggested cities and people I ought to consider. 

A few words on kinship and community

I believe that the power of stories lies most deeply in the ways they allow us to recognize ourselves and one another. Stories are a kind of kinship: they connect us. With this in mind, I designed the geography of this project through lines of relationship. My process of selecting cities was not driven by whim or wanderlust, but by personal connections that shimmered with rich history or with lively possibility. A year of having 12 homes, is how I thought about it — 12 communities that I got to embed myself into, learn from, and serve for a small window of time.

While I didn't know exactly where this would lead in terms of storytelling, I had a camera and a pen...and the possibilities were pretty exciting.

That's still true.

More about me

I’m Erin Rufledt, the lady behind the 12 Places Project. I hail from the northwoods of Wisconsin, and spent a lot of years in Madison and one in Beijing. After five middle-of-the-map years in Kansas City, I returned to the Midwest and now call Minneapolis home.  I’m a people-loving introvert, runner, and occasional pastry chef with a thing for Earl Grey tea, avocado toast, and piles of books (preferably all three at once). My career path has, at one point or another, meandered into the territories of fine art, sociology, religious studies, Mandarin Chinese, transcription, cross-cultural communication, project management, photography, and graphic design. I now work as a designer and independent brand consultant...which, it turns out, is a pretty great mix of all these things. You can also find me at Luminary Lab, helping companies design better communications to move big ideas forward.