Oliver Uberti

Case Study: Little Stones

Selections from my work for the film, Little Stones



Little Stones

After art directing photo shoots at National Geographic, it wasn’t a stretch to begin designing for film once I moved to Los Angeles. The challenge is the same: distill a narrative into a memorable image. In this case, the story was a documentary about four women using art for social change around the globe.



[Oliver] magically synthesizes your brainstorming sessions to produce a beautiful concept which, in hindsight, seems inevitable.
— Sophia Kruz, producer and director



To brand Little Stones, I had to find a way to combine four into one: four women, four art forms, four countries, four social issues. As so often happens, the solution came to me in the shower.

I was living in Peru at the time. One morning, I noticed this lovely, interlaced circular pattern on the tiles beneath my feet (above). Then I remembered the striking, interlaced artwork of Rose Jaffe. That was it. I knew she could combine portraits of the women into a four-sided mandala. And she did, beautifully.

Later, the film’s director, Sophia Kruz, asked if I had ideas for the opening title sequence. We were at a restaurant, so I took a napkin and started sketching. I said, “Your film takes its name from a quote about a mosaic, right? Each activist puts in ‘one little stone.’ What if we made Rose’s drawing into a mosaic? Then in the titles, we could zoom in and play archival footage in the colored stones.”

With the help of mosaicist Dawn Mendelson and animator David Hartwell, that’s what we did.




Great key art makes everything else easier.

As Little Stones tours the world for screenings at universities, film festivals, the U.S. Congress, and the United Nations, the mandala and mosaic unite all the merch and messaging into more than the sum of their parts. They make Little Stones a movement.




A big part of that movement is the accompanying curriculum that Sophia Kruz developed with the University of Michigan School of Education.

To attract educators and engage students, I knew the lessons had to have attitude. Here are a few excerpts from the 156-page toolkit I designed, complete with nine lessons, two workshops, community screening resources, and an indexed TAKE ACTION! resource guide.