Using Placemaking to Revitalize Communities

RuediBaur, CivicCity Project

The Studio of Calligraphy presented by Bakélite, global and solid design, as part of Civic City’s project in Nègrepelisse, September 15, 2013. © La cuisine, Center of Art and Design.

When a community seeks to transform itself in the face of a challenge, it can be difficult to organize a response that satisfies everyone involved and stills feels true to the place. Creative placemaking is an inclusive approach that uses art and design as a catalyst to help communities regenerate themselves. Partners from public, private, non-profit and community sectors collaborate to shape the physical or social character of their town, neighborhood or city. The resulting project may take the form of a cultural activity, the regeneration of buildings or streetscapes, or the development of a new landmark or destination. Often the process involves the creation of a story or narrative that expresses the unique quality of a place, and begins with a simple question: What would you like to change about your community?

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20 Lessons in Interaction Design

Spread Designing from "20 Lessons in Interaction Design"

Illustration by Brian Rea, 20 Lessons in Interaction Design

Interaction design is usually thought of as design of interfaces for screen-based applications like iPads, iPhones, websites and social media. While it includes all these things, it is at heart a broader discipline that designs experiences and relationships—between people and technology, people and objects, people and services, and people and people.

The ubiquity of interaction design—and its importance to designers of all kinds—is highlighted in 20 Lessons in Interaction Design: Stories from SVA’s MFA Interaction Design Alumni, a new book Li’l Robin designed for the School of Visual Arts in New York. We collaborated on the project with Liz Danzico, the founding chairperson of the SVA MFA Interaction Design program, and the illustrator Brian Rea. Instead of developing a traditional marketing brochure, Liz wanted to create a special publication that gave readers a look at the design thinking of the program’s graduates and what they’ve learned since they finished school.

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Designing to Make a Difference

Photo mural project featuring Red Hook residents

Photo mural project featuring Red Hook residents. Photo by David Al-Ibrahim

When natural disaster impacts a community, it’s not just the physical destruction that takes its toll—the damage to the area’s self-image, pride, sense of place and economic well-being can be long-lasting and particularly hard to rebuild. Design/Relief is a new initiative from AIGA/NY that pairs communication designers and other specialists with the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy to help re-establish a sense of identity through creative place-making. Three teams have been assembled to help the neighborhoods of Red Hook, Brooklyn; the Far Rockaways in Queens; and the South Street Seaport in Manhattan. Li’l Robin is one of the firms chosen to work with residents and small businesses in Red Hook. Our collaborators on the team include the design studio MGMT., the non-profit strategists Amplifier Project, and the communications specialist David Al-Ibrahim. The area is particularly close to our hearts: Li’l Robin founder Anke Stohlmann lives in the adjacent neighborhood of Carroll Gardens and has seen first-hand the effect Sandy has had on the community.

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The Graphic Designer-Entrepreneur

In addition to commissioned work, many graphic designers are now creating self-initiated projects that allow them to extend their practice in new ways. We recently launched our first product, Li’l Stories, a series of cards that provide storytelling ideas for parents. In this post we take a look at other designer-entrepreneurs who have taken on a new kind of client—themselves.

If designers have one thing in common, it’s the desire to make things. This is usually engaged for an external client, but many graphic designers have been scratching the creative itch by becoming entrepreneurs themselves, launching their own product lines and authoring their own projects. The online space has helped enable this, offering an easy platform for direct sales and distribution. For most designers, the impetus for these new ventures seems to be less about developing a new profit center for their businesses—though that is certainly a possibility for some of the most successful—and more about designing something solely guided by their own vision.

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Our Summer Reading List, 2013

Last year, in a bit of crowdsourcing for book discovery, we asked around for recommendations of what to read on our summer vacation and happily found several titles to add to our own list of favorites. This year we thought we’d continue the tradition and have once again surveyed our community of designers, friends and clients for suggestions of the best books they’ve recently read. Their responses include titles that have influenced their work and design thinking, as well as books they’ve simply enjoyed. We share the titles here, and you can also find them on a new bookshelf on our site. Which books will you be picking up this summer?

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