Quality of Life Show

My thesis partner, Nick, and I have been asked to participated in a show at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, entitled Qualities of Life(more info). It is a show dedicated to means of addressing issues related to the title. We are very excited about this opportunity because it directly connects to our thesis work about cycling in Philadelphia. Not only is the content relevant but the action itself. As designers we strive to not only envision a future but share that vision with others to help create a better future. Thus, a long term gallery installation connected one of the largest Design events in the world where our local Mayor, a key decision maker in, will be present is an ideal venue. Thus we decided to present a concise story about the need for better infrastructure.

Our thesis work is very broad, but with a guiding theme of improving cycling in Philadelphia. We wanted to make our story in a strong and provocative way, but given the format we had to make it concise. We left out the exhaustive list of the benefits of cycling, both to the individual and the city. Our intent wasn’t to simply preach cycling’s values, but rather show a meaningful path to improvement for the city with those benefits implied.

In terms of production, we wanted to make it graphical and make use of a lot of the wonderful imagery we had from our thesis book. In the end we made all new graphics, except for the fantastic maps made with Dillon’s help. For simplicity and ease-of-install sake we chose to go with vinyl cut decals and paint. This would let us get a balance of the precision and raw-ness that we want. Letting us show the balance between the cold facts and the personal connections.

We initially designed our installation for a corner space. One side would be the short graphic story while the other would be of the maps. However, this was changed at installation. This wasn’t too major of an issue because since everything we designed was 2D, and didn’t require anything spanning the corner we simply flattened it to use one wall. The real challenge was in accommodating the ventilation system at the top of the wall. Since we had designed this with a large title at the top and it wasn’t possible to put this over the vents we had to squish this down by about two feet. While what resulted is a slightly more cramped graphic, no information was lost and the story is still intact, so I am pleased.

Since Philadelphia, and specifically Center City, is our focus we wanted the map to be huge and draw attention to this portion of the city. Since this part of the city was beneath normal eye level we added the crossing main corridors of Broad St. and Market St. to give viewers a frame of reference and a point to look at.

The gridded map was a key part of our installation and as such we wanted to do it well. We debated a lot over how best to do it, considering projection, butcher paper, snap-lines and more. Ultimately we were in favor of using projection with pencils and big straight edges for the simplicity and control the two afforded.

Overall I am very pleased with the result. It isn’t exactly as envisioned, but very similar; and a great opportunity to learn.

Lessons learned include:

  • See the physical space, not just a blueprint, before designing for a particular space
  • Double check all work before having decal’s cut
  • Always have some spare matching wall paint at the ready

If anyone is in Philly next Thursday on the 20th, please stop by the Art Alliance and check it out! It is ok if you can’t make it then though, the show will be up through November 25th and will be included in the Design Philadelphia festivities. Even if you can’t make it at all feel free to let Mayor Nutter know that you support dedicated cycling infrastructure because of the positive effects it will have.