A participatory design initiative to help three New York City neighborhoods—Red Hook, the Rockaways and Lower Manhattan—imagine a more vibrant future for themselves as they overcome the lingering effects of Superstorm Sandy.


About Design/Relief


DESIGN/RELIEF is a participatory design initiative to help three New York City neighborhoods—Red Hook, the Rockaways and Lower Manhattan—imagine a more vibrant future for themselves as they overcome the lingering effects of Superstorm Sandy. DESIGN/RELIEF aims to demonstrate design’s role in creative placemaking, to help these neighborhoods be more livable, walkable, vibrant and enjoyable.


With DESIGN/RELIEF our goal is to:
1. Engage the communities
2. Inspire and accelerate positive change
3. Act as a catalyst for imagination of better places

We believe DESIGN/RELIEF can help because:
1. Design is a process that can be used to tackle local challenges in need of local solutions
2. Design is a communication-driven, federating force
3. Designers are skilled at piloting projects, taking risks, challenging the ways in which things are done

To serve a diverse audience of:
1. Three designated waterfront communities of Red Hook, the Rockaways and South Street Seaport (including residents, neighbors, workers, small business owners and visitors) invested in rejuvenating their neighborhoods.
2. The general public
3. The New York design community.

Our DESIGN/RELIEF service is to:
1. Offer our willingness to investigate existing and future assets and help a neighborhood reinvent itself through design
2. Use the most appropriate design (whatever the medium) to tackle a particular need of a designated neighborhood devastated by Superstorm Sandy
3. Demonstrate the value of design by doing

DESIGN/RELIEF can benefit:
1. People who seek a sense of place, confidence after trauma, pride, happiness, security. Design/Relief can offer a way forward, vitality, higher media exposure and increased potential for future funding and partnerships
2. Designers who want to be inspired and work on local, meaningful issues, who want to be more impactful, more connected to their cities and find the appropriate framework to expand the definition of their practices

Unlike other endeavors, such as:
1. Architecture, urban planning, policy making initiatives who tend to work within the parameters and realities of a given system
2. Singular endeavors (e.g. artists, architects), or market-driven forces (such as real estate developers)
3. Top-down, longer-term, government-led decisions that are typically not taking into account the diversity of interests in a community

DESIGN/RELIEF provides unparalleled value in:
1. Providing fun, timely, “lighter, quicker, cheaper”, tangible deliverables, that are easily deployable
2. Leveraging designers’ ability to connect the dots, build relationships, make things visible
3. Creating authentic markers, physical or time-based, temporary or permanent, that will declare a change in the perception people experience of each of these three neighborhoods.


Artplace logo

Additional funding for the South Street Seaport team project:
Catch — & — Release was prepared for the New York State Department of State Office of Coastal, Local Government and Community Sustainability with funds provided under Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund.

Special Thanks to NYC&Co.


AIGA/NY Executive Committee: Willy Wong, Glen Cummings and Manuel Miranda
AIGA/NY Design/Relief Program Director: Laetitia Wolff
AIGA/NY Project Board: Rachel Abrams, Su Barber, Agnieszka Gasparska, Josh Smith and Matt Spangler

People Involved

Willy Wong

Willy Wong

Willy Wong is Chief Creative Officer of NYC & Company, the City of New York’s official marketing and tourism organization. He leads the creative vision for branding, advertising, design, and strategic partnerships across major civic initiatives and global campaigns. Willy is an adjunct at NYU and a graduate thesis advisor at SVA in both the MFA Interaction Design and MFA Designer as Entrepreneur programs.

Glen Cummings

Glen Cummings

Glen Cummings is a graphic designer and the principal of MTWTF. MTWTF works with clients, partners, consultants and vendors to collaboratively create publication systems, identity systems, signage systems and environmental graphics. Glen is a lecturer in Graphic Design at Yale University School of Art and a founding partner of Safari 7, A Self-Guided Tour of Urban Wildlife along New York City’s 7 line.

Manuel Miranda

Manuel Miranda is a designer and owner at MMP, a studio that provides graphic design and creative direction to civic, cultural, and commercial clients. He is a critic in graphic design at the Yale School of Art.

Laetitia Wolff

Program Director

Laetitia Wolff is a design curator and strategist, self-proclaimed cultural engineer, whose work focuses on design + the city. From 2011-2013, she led desigNYC, a volunteer organization connecting nonprofits to local designers, as its first executive director. Through her creative practice she provides a multi-faceted understanding of the cultural value and strategic dimensions of design, through innovative, content-rich programming, integrated communications strategies, and urban experimental platforms.

Anke Stohlmann and MGMT

Designers, Team Red Hook

Anke Stohlmann’s creative focus lies at the intersection of branding and publication design for print and digital media. For over 15 years Anke has worked as a designer, art director and creative director for many of New York’s leading agencies in graphic design and publishing, creating brand experiences across multiple platforms, from books and magazines to websites and digital publications.

Anke is the principal and creative director of Li’l Robin, the multi-disciplinary studio she founded in 2005. At Li’l Robin Anke has created brand identity systems, publications and websites for clients including LIFE Books, Sterling Publishing, The New York Times, Pratt Institute, Maxwax, IFP and Global Writes. Before establishing Li’l Robin, Anke was senior designer at Pentagram; creative director at Time Inc. Custom Publishing; founding art director at eDesign Magazine; and branding and new media designer at Red Sky.

in collaboration with MGMT.

MGMT. is a collaborative design studio based in Brooklyn founded by Alicia Cheng and Sarah Gephart. We approach all projects with substantive research and a conceptual rigor that is an integral part of our process. What we like most is taking complex information and translating it into visually effective and intelligent design solutions. Along the way, our studio has learned about topics as diverse as rotational grazing, global special-ops, and the optimal temperature to grow collard greens. And despite our affection for the internet, we still believe books are for reading and love creating objects that are tactile and real.

James Andrews

Community Outreach Strategist, Team Red Hook

Working in cities around the country, Amplifier is a nonprofit organization, founded by Jerome Chou, Stephen Zacks and James Andrews, that partners residents and a wide range of other stakeholders with artists and designers to transform communities. James Andrews is an artist, educator, organizer, curator, and arts producer whose work involves exploring new forms of social organization and experimental groups. Trained as a community organizer, urban planner, and landscape architect, Jerome Chou has facilitated community-driven projects in Baltimore, Flint, and throughout New York City. Stephen Zacks is an internationally recognized architecture and urbanism reporter, theorist, and cultural producer.

David Al-Ibrahim

Storyteller, Team Red Hook

Baltimore – born and raised – David was privy to a campy and diverse upbringing in a family built on the fusion of Midwestern and Middle Eastern backgrounds. Personally, professionally and artistically, David appreciates communication as both a means of solving problems and asking questions about why people do what they do, believe what they believe, and see what they see. As a communication designer, David has managed projects and campaigns in a range of industries, from economics to life sciences, urban farming to education.  He helps clients define their messages, craft their stories and engage their audiences. David received a B.A. in rhetoric from Bates College, which championed an interdisciplinary approach to exploring how discourse functions in society.  After six months studying European communication media in Copenhagen, David published his senior thesis on the use of narrative to communicate contentious environmental messages in BBC’s Planet Earth series.

Placement Publication

Designer, Team Rockaways

Danielle Aubert, Lana Cavar and Natasha Chandani are graphic designers who met in the MFA program at Yale University, and are based in Princeton, Zagreb and Brooklyn, respectively. Their collaborative group, Placement (formed in 2009) examines the interaction of people with places, which they define as both specific sites (Lafayette Park, Detroit) and more broadly as types of locations (the beach, downtown, bus stops). Their first project, Thanks for the View, Mr. Mies, a book about Lafayette Park, Detroit, (Metropolis Books, 2012) was selected by the AIGA as one of the 50 best book designs of 2012. It was described by architecture historian Phyllis Lambert as “a superb field guide” to the neighborhood. Their current project is a location in Croatia.

in collaboration with

PARTNER & PARTNERS (Greg and Zach Mihalko), a design practice focusing on interactive, print, exhibition, and identity work with clients and collaborators in art, architecture, public spaces and activism. They have worked with The Center for Urban Pedagogy, AIGA, Eyebeam, Storefront for Art and Architecture, The Jacob Burns Film Center, UnionDocs, Local Projects, Empire Drive-In and Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture.

Daniel Latorre, The Wise City

Community Outreach Strategist, Team Rockaways

Daniel is a tech for engagement product and communications consultant. He is currently focusing on building communities of practice around place based campaigns, arts, advocacy, and open source urbanism. He is the Senior Fellow for Digital Placemaking, a program for bottom-up, human-centered civic engagement media he started at Project for Public Spaces, a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people build stronger communities. With 18 years of professional experience at Razorfish, Rockstar Games, Funny Garbage and other companies. His current focus is on civil society, previously for open educational technology at Scholastic, and sustainable urbanism at Streetsblog/OpenPlans. Daniel offers talks, presentations, and trainings, recently at Columbia University GSAPP, School of Visual Arts, Center for Architecture, and MAPP International. In 2012 he founded The Wise City, a civic engagement service design and product strategy practice. He is also a desigNYC advisor, a steering committee member for the NYC Participatory Budgeting project, and active in community organizing around his Brooklyn neighborhood.

Carolyn Louth

Storyteller, Team Rockaways

Carolyn Louth excels at developing ideas. An art director and muse, she revels in the collaborative process and loves a good brainstorming, almost as much as a southern thunderstorm. Born in Louisiana, Carolyn discovered her passion for the arts and architecture in New Orleans where, from a young age, she was a regular at gallery openings in the Warehouse District and at music venues all over. She has since pursued her own creative talents and seasoned her sense of place, first in college at LSU and a stint in Paris, then in Atlanta, and now in NYC. A determination to do good work led her to complete the IMPACT! Design for Social Change program at SVA where she learned to apply her professional experience and fascination with cities towards revitalization efforts.

Yeju Choi, Nowhere Office

Designer, Team South Street Seaport

Yeju Choi is a graphic designer living and working in New York City. She makes printed matter, environmental graphics, identities, websites, and motion graphics. She is interested in exploring relationships between graphic design and viewers in this three-, or four-dimensional world, shifting the focus from what we see to how we see things.

She holds BFA in graphic design from Seoul National University and MFA in graphic design from Yale University, where she received Norman Joondeph Prize and Phelps Berdan Award. Her work was also recognized and introduced by New York Type Directors Club, Communication Arts, :output award, CMYK Magazine, Page Magazine, étapes Magazine, Yale Daily News, etc. She was selected as one of the Next Generation Design Leaders by the Korean Institute of Design Promotion & the Ministry of Knowledge and Economy in 2009.

Previously she worked as Art Director at Barneys New York, and Graphic Design Director / Senior Designer at WXY Architecture + Urban Design, and Graphic User Interface Designer for LG. Currently, she runs her design studio NowHere Office in New York, focusing on projects in cultural / public realm, and teaches at Yale University School of Art and Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University. She has been a visiting critic at Parsons the New School for Design in both graphic design and urban design department, and Center for Urban Pedagogy. She is a Designer-In-Residence for Performa 13.

Francesca Birks and Josh Treuhaft, ARUP

Community Outreach Strategist, Team South Street Seaport

Francesca Birks leads Foresight + Innovation for Arup Americas. She plans and facilitates strategic and visioning workshops for several of Arup’s businesses and clients but with a current emphasis on hospitality, education, healthcare and retail. She is the editor of Arup’s first online magazine, Arup Connect, for the Americas. Francesca is particularly interested in human-centered foresight, design thinking and in engaging public stakeholders in collaborative design processes to improve the outcomes.

She comes from a strategic planning background in media and advertising and has a strong interest in social sustainability, social media and social innovation. Her MBA is from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and her BA is in Modern Culture and Media/ Semiotics at Brown University. Some of the relevant key projects at Arup have been the authoring and production of the topical Drivers of Change : Demographics card set, designing and developing the Campus of the Future workshop program, and designing and developing the Hotel of the Future workshop program.

with Josh Treuhaft is a crossbreed – a designer, a strategist and a sustainability advocate – interested in tackling complex social and environmental challenges. He’s a creative problem solver, a storyteller, and a collaborator, and believes very strongly that all of those skills are critical to creating change. He studied Industrial Design at the Umeå Institute of Design in Sweden. And in a past life, he was a strategic consultant at The Futures Company, where he helped Fortune 500 companies discover and act on consumer insights and global trends. Most recently, Josh has been working at the intersection of design and sustainability: He helped re-brand a revolutionary sustainable materials company (with DSI); served as the Design Director for a startup composting company (NYCOMPOST); designed low-cost, ergonomic farm tools for small farmers in India (with Design Impact), and helped design interactive exhibits to promote conservation at a new Great Ape Center (with Thinc Design). When there’s time to spare, you can also find him running, swimming and taking photos, generally in Brooklyn.

Cristian Fleming and Stephanie Lukito, The Public Society

Storytellers, Team South Street Seaport

Phase 1:  The Public Society is a design and branding firm. We believe that because design has the power to mold action, it is our responsibility as designers to do our part, through design and visual communication, to improve not only the bottom line for our clients, but for everyone they touch, and the planet as a whole.

Phase 2: B. Tyler Silvestro is managing director at W architecture. Prior to that, Tyler came to WXY architecture + urban design with 5 years of experience in civil engineering, landscape architectural design, and journalism. There his work focused on urban design competitions and development in Hurricane Sandy-affected areas in New York and New Jersey. He led a team composed of design, financial, engineering, and scientific professionals through completion of the international design competition, Rebuild by Design.

He received a master’s degree in landscape architecture from City College. His time pursuing a graduate degree was supplemented with freelance writing assignments from The Architect’s Newspaper, a notable New York based publication focused on architectural developments.


Film Crew

MESHAKAI WOLF is an artist, photographer and documentary filmmaker. His most recent film, Flames of God: The Gypsy Poetry of Muzafer Bislim, screened at film festivals internationally, closing the Margaret Mead Film Festival in New York City and winning best documentary at the Rolling Film Festival in Kosovo. He is currently working on a feature length documentary about the legendary Long Island music club, My Father’s Place. He lives and works in New York City.

ZAC NICHOLSON  is documentary and narrative filmmaker from New York City. His work as a director, cinematographer and editor has been seen nationally and internationally in world-renowned film festivals, commercially in theaters and on television. Most recently he was a cinematographer on No Place On Earth (2012), the story of five families of Jews who survived the holocaust by hiding in a cave for over five hundred days. The film had a strong theatrical run and will be on The History Channel in 2014. He is currently in production on two new films with the director of No Place On Earth and is also the cinematographer on a feature project directed by Meshakai Wolf about an iconic former music venue on Long Island during the 1970s and early 80s. Zac also works commercially and with non-profits including Robin Hood, Riverkeeper, New York Road Runners, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and Randall’s Island Park Alliance to name a few.

Design Volunteers

Carren Edward Petrosyan is a conceptually-driven graphic designer with several years of wide-ranging experience in branding, print and interactive design. After getting his honorary BFA degree in Graphic Design from the School of Art and Design, LSU, he moved to NYC where he worked for various branding and design studios (Pro-Am, PS New York, The Fold, Zago Design, among others) and took studies at SVA in Advanced Conceptual Graphic Design and Typography. Currently he is in the midst of setting up his own design studio. www.creativefever.com

Special Thanks to Sean and Alex for their help creating our new Creative Placemaking Tumblr

Sean Oakes
, SOS Brooklyn, Founding Creative Director
Sean founded SOS in 2000, a specialized creative studio based in Brooklyn, NY, devoted to pioneering new ways to communicate through technology and focused on how digital tools can affect business goals, learning and social change. Prior to SOS, Sean held Design and Art Director positions at New York start-ups and agencies throughout the 90’s. He is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design.  www.sosbrooklyn.com

Alex  Lezberg, VSA Partners, Senior Designer
Alex Lezberg is a Graphic Designer by trade, living in Brooklyn and working in Branding & Communication at VSA Partners in New York. In her free time, she’s probably tackling a new recipe or wandering the woods upstate with a backpack and some good snacks. See what else she’s been up to at www.alexlezberg.com.