Changing the Story, Changes the World.

SmartMeme Studios is a full-service agency providing strategic communications, graphic design, and integrated digital marketing services with a story-based approach, and an eye for building transmedia movements for your brand or campaign. As change agents and visual storytellers, our work has transformed public opinion through a variety of means from winning votes for socially conscious legislation and candidates to promoting innovative new ideas, policy, and businesses. SmartMeme was founded in 2002. Our roots and philosophy are deep within environmental and social movements. We work with clients irrespective of size or location. Our clients include nonprofits, businesses, organizations, foundations, policy professionals and lawmakers. We work nationwide and internationally, while also taking pride in helping our community here in the Pacific Northwest.

Our Team

James John Bell

James John Bell


James co-founded SmartMeme in 2002—now the Center for Story-Based Strategy — and associate company SmartMeme Studios in 2008. He provides copywriting, art direction, and project management for SmartMeme’s client campaigns. In 2009, he helped found the nonprofit Union Tourism Association where he served as President and Past-President of the business association.

An avid gamer, activist and author, James writes regularly on issues of narrative theory, technological convergence, social change, and cultural analysis. After working for ABC News in the 1990s, James was an investigative journalist, award-winning documentary filmmaker, and writer/director for public-interest communication firms in Chicago.

His writing on social change and pop culture—from science fiction to virtual world building – is published by BenBella Books, including an afterword to the eco-sci-fi classic The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner. In 2016 he helped found Elevate Mason County, and in 2021 the Lorax Coalition. He lives in Union, Washington.

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J Cookson

J Cookson

Creative Director

J brings a lifetime of creative expertise tempered with community activism experience to every project. Trained as a visual artist and filmmaker at the Rhode Island School of Design, he has dedicated his skills to grassroots social and environmental campaigns since 1999. He has been working with various forms of storytelling media and production for over 17 years including: online culture and streaming video, independent film, documentary film and video, independent news and journalism, music video, video game, radio, television and music production, and print, broadcast and commercial advertising production.

J co-founded SmartMeme in 2002—now the Center for Story-Based Strategy—and associate company SmartMeme Studios in 2008. His images have been central to creating vision in SmartMeme’s advocacy work. Today, SmartMeme Studio’s clients include national and international nonprofits, businesses, and political candidates and organizations.

J informs his design praxis via active immersion in nature connection, life hacking skills, and local volunteer efforts. Over the past decade, he has dedicated his time to promoting local community efforts to stop biomass incineration and mycological remediation of contaminated habitats, reconnecting people to ancestral earth skills, assisting in backcountry trail restoration, and hosting monthly marine education events on Washington’s Hood Canal. He is occasionally sighted in Union, Washington.

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Kristin Fisser

Kristin Fisser

Office Manager

Kristin joined SmartMeme in 2006 as our office manager and bookkeeper. She assists clients with questions about ad traffic, proposals, contracts and invoicing. Kristin was the staff bookkeeper at Southard Beckham Atwater & Berry, CPA, PS in Port Orchard between 2007 and 2017. When she’s not working, she enjoys traveling and spending time with her family.

360-898-0041 office

James Calle

James Calle

Lead Copywriter/Editor

James Calle has been a writer, copy editor, and researcher at SmartMeme Studios since 2012. In that time he’s worked extensively on tourism and political campaigns, as well as being a facilitator for SmartMeme narrative workshops. Notable mentions include work on the Union Tourism Association, Elevate Mason County, and the Squaxin Island Tribe Museum. His other freelance work includes social media marketing and script writing.

James was initially drawn to SmartMeme Studios by the idea of story-based strategy and the power of story to encourage social and cultural change.

When James isn’t sitting alone in a chair staring ominously into the depths of a blank page, you’ll find him at random coffee shops with a book, or at the local movie theater.

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Shawn Bird

Shawn Bird

Web Developer

Shawn joined SmartMeme Studios in 2017. He brings an extensive knowledge of web technologies. He’s experienced in foundational languages of the internet including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript; popular web frameworks such as WordPress, SquareSpace, and Druple; and backend languages including Go, Python, and PHP.

Shawn has been doing freelance programming and design work in the Pacific Northwest since 2009. He’s worked on everything from single-page brochure sites to bespoke e-commerce solutions. Shawn is also experienced with SQL, EDI, and automated XML transactions.

In his free time, Shawn plays Dungeons & Dragons.


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Renata Rollins

Renata Rollins


Renata teamed up with SmartMeme Studios in 2012 out of a desire to lend her copywriting, proofreading, fact-checking, and research skills toward a more kind and conscious culture.

She earned a liberal arts degree with emphasis in communications and organizational leadership from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, where she served as managing editor and editor-in-chief of the student-run newspaper, Cooper Point Journal.

After graduation, Renata wrote for several newspapers in the Pacific Northwest and the Bay Area, before transitioning into media monitoring at Cision, a global public relations firm. At Cision, Renata managed a team who produced daily media reports for over 400 US-based clients, tracking broadcast coverage of corporate brands, non-profit organizations and government agencies.

Additionally, Renata has organized field operations for statewide electoral campaigns in Washington and California, and participated in social movements including Occupy Wall Street and Idle No More, thereby receiving an eye-opening education in how strategic campaign storytelling affects on-the-ground reality.

She combines her writing, media and campaign skills with her compassion for people and the planet. Renata was elected to Olympia City Council in 2017. When not working, she can usually be found on her yoga mat.

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Jonathan Grey

Jonathan Grey


Jonathan Grey has been a cinematographer and photographer working with SmartMeme Studios since 2016. He has over a decade of experience working in television and award-winning films. He is experienced in production and post-production with Adobe Creative Suite, Final Cut Pro, and DaVinci Resolve.

Jonathan’s company Greyscale Media Group also does videography for businesses all over the U.S. and has worked on projects of all sizes. If he ever had free time, he would spend it watching classic films (but not in a pretentious way).


Our partners and clients range from international nonprofits to homegrown grassroots organizations, and our collaborations reflect our belief in a holistic vision of grassroots social change that links struggles for ecology, democracy and justice. Some of the organizations we’ve worked with include:

  • Adirondack Council
  • Alliance for Biking & Walking
  • Alliance for Global Justice
  • Be Wild NY
  • Business and Human Rights Documentation Project
  • Bioneers
  • Bold ReThink
  • Breast Cancer Fund
  • Bridges Not Walls
  • Buena Vida Counseling
  • California Trout
  • Californians for GE Free Agriculture
  • Center for Coalfield Justice
  • Center for Health, Environment and Justice
  • Citizens to Elect Laura Lewis
  • Citizens to Elect Roslynne Reed
  • Commonweal
  • Community Alliance for Global Justice
  • Defend Clean Water
  • Detox Nalgene
  • Elevate Mason County
  • ELCA
  • Energy Action
  • Environmental Advocates of New York
  • Environmental Health Strategy Center
  • Environmental Research Foundation
  • ESCR-Net
  • Exxpose Exxon
  • Friends of the Earth U.S. & Australia
  • Friends of the River
  • Friends of Eel River
  • GeneWise
  • Grassroots International
  • Greenpeace
  • Green Party USA
  • Health Care Without Harm
  • Hydropower Redorm Coalition
  • Incinerator Free Mason County
  • ISOutsource
  • Karuk & Yurok Tribal Nations
  • Keys Beats Bars
  • Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
  • Lorax Coalition
  • Mason County Parks & Recreation
  • National Forest Protection Alliance
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • The 99 Collective
  • Protect Our Waters
  • Pushback Network
  • Rainer Community Cares Coalition
  • Rainforest Action Network
  • RE-AMP
  • Reclaim Remain Rebuild
  • Responsible Endowments Coalition
  • Rivers Forests & Fish Forever
  • Rural Vermont
  • RX Safe Del Norte
  • Safe Cosmetics Coalition
  • Save California Salmon
  • Science and Environment Health Network
  • Sierra Club
  • Skokomish Riverkeepers
  • Somerville Community Corporation
  • SPIN Project
  • Squaxin Island Museum & Library Research Center
  • Squaxin Island Nation
  • Squaxin Island Tourism
  • State Environmental Leadership Project
  • STIR Magazine
  • Student/Farmworker Alliance
  • Sustainable Northwest
  • TerraTects
  • Transparency International
  • Union Pumpkin Fest
  • Union Tourism Association
  • Union Traveler Days
  • US Food Sovereignty Alliance
  • WHY Hunger
  • Wisconsin Biodiversity Project
  • World Bank Bonds Boycott (Center for Economic Justice)
  • Yes Rainier #HowWeSayYes

SmartMeme worked with us to develop the campaign messaging curriculum we are using to train our top activists around the country. SmartMeme’s unique strategy tools and messaging insights will help us not only get our message out but challenge some of the underlying assumptions that are fueling environmental destruction. — Phil Radford, Executive Director, Greenpeace USA (2009-2014)

Read our case studies to learn more about how we work with our clients.

Changing the story changes the world