Fulton Street, one of the main commercial corridors in the East New York area

AIGA/NY wins an SBS Neighborhood Challenge grant 
for a new civic initiative: Identity Design Action: East New York project

New York, April 22, 2015 – AIGA/NY is thrilled to be selected among the seven recipients of the City’s Neighborhood Challenge 2015, a competitive grant initiative coordinated by NYC Small Business Services (SBS) and New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) designed to encourage innovation, support economic development and revitalization projects via Business Improvements Districts (BIDs). For more information about the other Neighborhood Challenge’s recipients, the jury and to access SBS’s official press release go here.

IDeA: East New York graphic identity, by board member David Frisco

AIGA/NY is proud to launch Identity Design Action: East New York, a model for connecting community and business development through design, with the recent recruitment of a design research firm and an invitational call to three Brooklyn-based design studios. The project builds on AIGA/NY’s recent Design/Relief initiative, also aimed to help revitalize New York’s most underserved communities. Conceived in partnership with the Local Development Corporation of East New York (LDCENY) the project will form collaborations with small business owners and other local community development organizations, arts advocacy, youth and workforce empowerment groups to ensure it is appropriately anchored in the neighborhood.

IDeA: East New York aims to create a more coherent neighborhood-wide visual system that can improve this central Brooklyn community’s sense of place. We want to amplify connectivity and support the community in social change and civic empowerment while offering a new platform of engagement for designers.

“We are excited to announce this new initiative to our members. With it we want to further our organization’s civic work under our new “Making the City” umbrella, and continue to offer a platform for designers to make a difference in their city,” says board member David Frisco.

Through participatory workshops and language-based design gestures we hope to catalyze a positive effect to enable East New Yorkers to voice their needs and wishes for the place they want to build in the near future.

Maxwell’s owner, a staple cheesecake bakery in the neighborhood. Photo credit: 3×3

The context of a more equitable New York City

Our research-action work takes place in the context of the East New York Sustainable Community Plan, a comprehensive initiative part of Housing New York, Mayor DiBlasio’s 10-year plan to foster a more equitable city. The neighborhood faces altering rezoning measures and rapid changing demographics, two factors that are going to dramatically alter the character of this historically underserved neighborhood. The plan itself demonstrates a desire to serve the current East New Yorkers (37% of whom live with $0-25,000/year), and work across city agencies toward a more sustainable community.

 Community engagement and creative placemaking

The political context of this city-led reinvestment plan presents a unique opportunity for AIGA/NY to accompany public engagement and support community development, leveraging designers’ capacity to devise engaging cultural, graphic and communication strategies. It is a one-of-a-kind chance to align the New York chapter with city agencies to advance the field of creative placemaking and build up our mission: to advocate for design within the city’s civil and cultural life.

Creative placemaking is defined as the intentional use of arts and culture to shape the physical, social, and economic future of communities. Through Design/Relief, we demonstrated that there is a distinctive ripple effect to participatory design. Unlike the anonymous scale of urban design/planning, and long-term procedures of public policy, graphic designers can produce cost-effective, deployable means that gain quick, visible impact and engage the communities on a truly empathic level.

“Graphic design can offer a “softer” response to resilience, fostering social cohesion through communication,” says Laetitia Wolff, AIGA/NY Program Director, Civic Initiatives.

Project first steps

For this short-term project AIGA/NY recruited 3×3.co, a research-focused social innovation consultancy to uncover deep insights that will lead to the social change we aim to effect, and craft an ethnographic profile of the East NY neighborhood, describing main communications, identity and information-sharing conditions, challenges and opportunities for graphic designers.

“We look forward to seeing how design research can humanize the project’s outcomes and complement the meaningful work that community groups have been doing for decades in East New York,” say Megan Marini and Vanessa Smith, co-founders of 3×3.

IdeA:ENY design contestants; from left to right: Dungjai Pungauthaikan + Nikki Chung; Jonathan + Sarah Jackson; Mary Voorhees Meehan and Andrew Shurtz

The research report, which will be made public next week, was presented through a workshop, held at LDCENY earlier this week, to three Brooklyn-based design groups. Sarah Nelson and Jonathan Jackson of WSDIA, Nikki Chung and Dungjai Pungauthaikan and Mary Voorhees Meehan and Andrew Shurtz were selected on their ability to nurture connections between typography, language, cultural identity, community messaging and engagement. Design proposals will be submitted and reviewed next week by a panel composed of AIGA/NY board members David Frisco, Alicia Cheng and Manuel Miranda, LDCENY program manager Gail Davis, and AIGA/NY program director Laetitia Wolff. The winning studio will start working in May, hoping to wrap up the project by end of summer. There will be many opportunities, still to be determined, for the involvement of member volunteers as well as upcoming related public programs.

Stay tuned for more news on this exciting project, and sign up for our newsletter here.

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