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Designers Without Clients

Ask not what Boston can do for design; ask what design can do for Boston. How small acts of design can benefit the host city of the 2005 AIGA Design Conference.

Conference cities are selected primarily for their tourist appeal. The conference itself, however, is typically confined to a hotel or facility that neutralizes whatever uniqueness the city possesses.

As attendees, whether designers or dentists, we take in presentations that could be given anywhere and connect with the city only through grazing at restaurants, shops, or museums. We take in the culture without contributing to it.

This initiative is about problem-finding. Through self-generated projects, participants will engage with the realities of Boston, illustrating that designers have unique skills to affect change. Designers Without Clients serves the AIGA mission of increasing the level of respect and understanding of design by defining the profession as outward-looking and pro-active.

Designers, students and faculty were invited to submit proposals that concerned specific issues in Boston. AIGA awarded three $1,000 grants to proposals that demonstrated the ability to elucidate a compelling issue, endeavor to challenge/change perception and elicit a useful response. With no client setting, the work in motion, participants proposed their own briefs, addressing some aspect of Boston civic life. The project participants will present their process and results at the AIGA Design Conference in September 2005.

The following three people evaluated the proposals for Designers Without Clients.

  • Sabrina Aviles
    documentary and educational filmmaker and former director of the Boston Center for Latino Arts
  • Michael Dukakis
    distinguished professor of political science at Northeastern University and former governor of Massachusetts
  • Christopher Pullman
    VP of design at WGBH and senior lecturer at Yale School of Art

The following are the winning proposals for Designers Without Clients.

Changing Blocks
Designers: Ann McDonald and Jay Laird
Housing is not just affordable space; it is also the foundation of community. Our project goal is to dispel the sense that Boston's housing problems are beyond approach, and to encourage individual action and involvement in the future shape of communities. We propose to increase understanding and raise awareness of housing trends and issues in a neighborhood in flux through on-line interactive visualizations showing how livability is dependent upon a balance of diverse factors. Residents will be encouraged to view information through multiple perspectives over time, attaching their own facts, stories, and concerns. We will also create two physical installations based on same data which will be installed on either end of the neighborhood.

Positively Boston: A social experiment utilizing graphic design
Designers: Lorelei Grazier and Penny Korff
Ah, Boston... Busy and bustling. We love this town and its people. But sometimes we get a little down, seeing the stressed, stoic faces of Bostonians, especially commuters, going about their daily business. Commuting is stressful, but does it have to be? Could traveling by T be something to look forward to? Wouldn't it be great to inject a little fun, a little whimsy, maybe a little chit-chat and get-to-know-ya into the commuting routine of the people of Boston? We think so, and our experiment, which will be in T stations across the city this September, will do just that.

PSA for Non-Violent Celebrations
Designer: Kara Christie Murphy
The city of Boston will benefit from a public service announcement (PSA) promoting non-violent celebrations in connection with concerts and sporting events. Interestingly, while violent crowd behavior may start with only a few “sensation seekers,” crowds have a magnetic ability to pull in ordinarily non-violent people around them. That said, not all crowds are bad and it’s ok to celebrate; just be smart. The objective of this campaign is to empower 17-25 year old males with knowledge about the nature of crowds and give them permission to walk away at signs of dangerous behavior.

Honorable mentions
The following have achieved honarable mentions for Designers Without Clients.

Reduce, Reread, Recycle
Designers: Robb Ogle and Josh Silverman
This Designers Without Clients proposal aims to outfit MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) stations with recycling bins and awareness campaign signage prompting Bostonian commuters reading 620,000 copies of free daily Metro International newspapers to reuse, reread, and recycle. Currently, Metros are distributed via boxes and staff at stations, and left littering buses and trains, or discarded at the ride terminus. Time and tax dollars are used for clean-up, and reusable paper is wasted by the truckload. Boston is Metro’s second largest market and has the nations oldest subway. Once launched, our initiative is repurposeable for additional Metro cities.

Voices from the Neighborhood
Conducted by Arts in Progress with support from MarkRichard Studios
Voices from the Neighborhood will capture the stories of Boston’s teens, creating an oral tableau from the Roxbury neighborhood. The project will be conducted by Arts In Progress, and design support for the promotion of the project will be provided by Mark Bevington and MarkRichard Studios. Youth participants in the Media Arts Summer Program will capture the stories of other youths and talk to them about their lives in 2005 and their hopes for the future. The final stories, complete with photographs of the subjects, will be available on the Arts In Progress website and CDs, promoted through the designs of MarkRichard Studios.

This program was developed by Class Action. Please contact Tom Starr at for further information.