Villages in the City

Hui Xie
Visiting Scholar in St. John’s University
Associate Professor
Graphic Design

School of Art and Design
Shenzhen Polytechnic
XiLi Lake, Nanshan District
Shenzhen, Guangdong, China

“Men and women do not want to move back, but the mark of youth has been branded in their heart. This is not their hometown, but with a deep nostalgia as well.”

As a unique specimen of Chinese urbanization, the villages “DaChong” and “GangXia” in Shenzhen, China represent a bridge between rural and urban. With the huge gap between disadvantageous groups and mainstream society, the existence of villages in the city created a buffer zone between low-income workers and the high cost of living. Unfortunately, in recent years because of ongoing urban renewal development, the villages have been razed and are now flat ground. Victims of high speed economic development, the villages of Shenzhen are disappearing, and because of their absence the names “DaChong” and “GangXia” are becoming as meaningless and vague. The multimedia installation “Villages in the City” incorporates vernacular typography used for signage with phrases like “ I LOVE YOU” and “I MISS YOU” to explore what should we learn and remember from these places.

The names “DaChong” and “GangXia”and shapes used to create their Chinese characters are data carriers as are the handwritten advertisements found on the walls of buildings. They provide with a wealth of living information about daily life in the most densely inhabited district in Shenzhen. Documentary photography, neon and stainless steel characters are used to create compositions, which reveal traces of the environment where immigrant working class citizens used to live. Text and imagery of messages from people for looking for or advertising jobs, information about selling Chinese herbal medicines, and telephone numbers of movers are combined with house numbers, street names, and the price tags from street foods to produce site-specific installations which serve as constructive links to former residents while recreating memories of village nights. “Villages in the City” is a memorial for the loss of history and an exploration aspect of village life that should be remembered.

Zone1/ZoneA: Reflection/ Resilience

David Frisco, Adjunct Professor, CCE
Graduate Communications Design
School of Design
Pratt Institute

ZoneA/Zone1 took place during the Fall 2013 semester of a graduate-level design studio, at a design school in New York City.
Using the NYC Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) Report as a departure point, our teams engaged with the five most affected communities in NYC through qualitative research in the form of cultural probes and interventions, addressing each area’s unique relationship to the city’s waterfront and impacting climate change, ultimately creating a set of proposals and in some cases, implementing solutions and toolkits serving to improve grass-root resiliency efforts in each community.

Our objective was to design a responsive communication strategy as well as individual or community-led activities that advanced resiliency efforts and foster behavior change, putting preparedness at the fore. The goal was to inspire and engage a community to take action.

We concentrated on the following 5 communities identified in the NYC Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) Report: A Stronger, More Resilient New York

  • Brooklyn-Queens Waterfront
  • East and South Shores of Staten Island
  • South Queens
  • Southern Brooklyn
  • Southern Manhattan

Our initiative focused on qualitative research strategies to utilize design as a means for transformation. With an emphasis on a human-centered, holistic, and empathic approach, our teams applied Design Thinking methodologies to localized problems and issues in an attempt to transform the behaviors of individuals in desirable and sustainable ways, while creating meaningful experiences and interactions.

Emphasizing that people are participants rather than simply users, we studied human factors — cognitive, physical, emotional, linguistic, social and cultural behaviors. We explored numerous conceptual and procedural frameworks which guide the design process, in order to address the needs of people and organizations, and convert them into progressive, sustainable solutions.

Lay Me Down to Sleep: The Design of Coffins, Caskets, and Alternative Containers

Susan Merritt
Faculty Emeritus, Graphic Design
School of Art & Design
San Diego State University

Throughout our country’s history coffins, caskets, and more recently alternative containers have been invented or perfected by anonymous contributors working in the factories that manufacture them. These wood and metal boxes that have become the standard for American burial are being called into question due to changing attitudes towards death and the shift from indifference to action on the part of some contemporary designers.
This research tracks the journey of a corpse from site of death to burial, through the containers it may inhabit. First, I examine containers that are designed to contain, enclose, and preserve as much as possible the corpse, including historical examples gleaned from nineteenth century advertisements. Starting with body bags as a means of transporting cadavers from the place of death to the burial container in which the body will be either buried or cremated, next I consider the evolution from eight-sided English coffin to four-sided American casket; the desire to preserve the body and methods to achieve preservation; the introduction of gasket mechanisms for sealing bodies in metal caskets to protect them from the elements; standardization of design, materials, and casket dimensions, including oversized caskets for bodies that don’t fit the established standards.
The second part of my research considers an alternative route for the corpse, in which it is not preserved but rather encouraged to decay and decompose. This section encompasses Green 2 burial, the rise of Green cemeteries and memorial preserves, sustainable materials and biodegradable burial containers, shrouds, and unassembled casket kits. It also introduces the work of several young designers who are stretching the boundaries of death by reimagining burial practices and reconfiguring burial containers through the use of biodegradable materials and sustainable technologies.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 2.0: The City College of New York, CUNY on Wednesday, June 3, 2015.

Spark Collaborations: Design as Catalyst for Social Impact

Natacha Poggio
Assistant Professor, Visual Communication Design
Hartford Art School, University of Hartford

Designing for wellness has extended further beyond the creation of care products to the design of processes and experiences involving patients as learners and users. Visually compelling and meaningful systems of artifacts are part of the “wicked solutions” at the intersection between design and health.

The past decade has seen a radical revolution in the amount and variety of design products and systems addressing life-improving humanitarian issues and showcasing the transformational implementation of design as a change agent. Visual communication design education still struggles to transcend the conversation about effectively implementing and facilitating design curricula that could help trigger and sustain positive social and cultural change while balancing the need for portfolio-driven outcomes.

Approximately 3–11 million amputees worldwide are in need of a prosthesis, most are located in the poorest countries, where physical therapists are seldom available to teach patients how to use their artificial limbs. “Prosthetic Training Across Borders” (PTAB) is an ongoing transdisciplinary research initiative between Design and Physical Therapy departments at [University] and nonprofit humanitarian organization LIMBS International. Faculty leading teams of undergraduate and graduate students collaboratively co-created prosthetics training materials for above-knee amputee patients in developing countries.

Through the use of simple illustrations to overcome literacy limitations, these educational materials facilitate the communication process for local clinicians so they can effectively educate their patients about rehabilitation protocols and regain mobility. By following simple, concise instructions in posters, brochures, and manuals, amputees are able to perform various training activities and avoid inefficient gait patterns. After testing of prototypes in Peru, Ghana and Kenya, the materials are being translated for cultural adaptation to the 32 clinics in Latin America, India and Africa. PTAB initiative not only has transformed the lives of patients, but also shows a practical way in which the intersection between design and health matters.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 2.0: The City College of New York, CUNY on Wednesday, June 3, 2015.