Can graphic design create a community?

Brian Wiley
May 2, 2011


In many small towns across the United States of America, it is common practice after moving to a new locale to knock on the doors of houses in the neighborhood with the intention of introducing oneself. Other times, the established residents of a neighborhood will reach out to the new inhabitant to introduce themselves. No matter the approach, neighbors familiarize with one another.

However, this does not seem to happen in the modern urban environment. There would seem to be a variety of reasons for this lack of tradition of engagement within an urban neighborhood. Primarily, population density stands in the way. As per a report by ESRI, 2008 population density by block group for the Whittier & Stevens Square area stood at between 25,447-33,905 people. At this density, it is impractical to meet the majority of one’s neighbors.

Another factor that impedes the process of engaging with a community is language. According to 2010 census data, 32.42% of the population living in the Minneapolis zip code of 55404 spoke a language other than English in the home. 24.10% of the residents at the same zip code were foreign born according to the same study, with a similar percentage, 23.50% reportedly speaking English less than ‘very well’.

Institutions are similar to small towns with the added problem that the academy does not engage with the community that it is part of. In 2010 I engaged local communities by hanging posters around the Whittier neighborhood introducing myself in a variety of languages to see if graphic design can create a methodology that encourages people to participate in community.

The objective of this poster is to detail my process and attempt at reconfiguring the tradition of an individual introducing themselves to their neighbors for the urban environment, taking into account the obstacles of population density and language barriers; Study results are analyzed and assessed to possible avenues for future community engagement, and then processed into photographic documentation, ideographic charts, and system diagrams.

Ultimately, through examination of the methodology of community engagement, this study aims to provide a more valid model for design education based on real-world action and less on theoretical classroom exercise.

Download PDF version: English (1 MB)

[Image: Wiley Poster AgIdeas]

click to enlarge

About the Author

[Image: Wiley Portrait]

Brian Wiley is a graphic designer originally from the Pacific Northwest region of the USA. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Oregon in Multimedia Design in 2005, after which he worked as a freelance designer focusing primarily on the support of non-profit organizations. He is currently enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA where he studies design education and social design.

Contact Information

Minneapolis College of Art and Design

agIdeas International Design Week 2011

This poster was created for the agIdeas 2011 International Design Research Lab, which took place on 2 May 2011 as part of the agIdeas 2011 International Design Week, in Melbourne, Australia. The DesignLab is a one-day forum that provides design educators, researchers and practitioners the opportunity to present design research to their peers. The inaugural forum aimed to create awareness of new knowledge in the areas of multidisciplinary design practice and its benefits, and the relationship between design practice and education. Design researchers were invited to submit abstracts that address the brief, "Where is design practice at today?" Submissions for the DesignLab were peer-reviewed by a team of Iridescent reviewers who selected a number of posters for online publication and display at the DesignLab.

Papers and Posters were selelcted by a multidisciplinary panel. Members of the panel included: Jeremy Yuille, Veronique Vienne, Sherry Blankenship, Selby Coxon, Ashis Jalote-Parmar, Audrey Bennett, Evert Ypma, Hernan Casakin and Rebekah Davis. Find out more about Iridescent's Peer Review Panel.

< PreviousBackNext >
Comments are currently closed for this post.