Recently, a new project that is focused on the betterment of community centers caught my attention. The “See Potential” project, which has started in Chicago’s South Side promotes residents to take command of their environment and assist in the redesign of run down urban spaces.
Initially, spreading through forms of guerrilla advertising the “See Potential” project aims at bringing awareness to promote funding and potential investors to contribute to a cause that will ultimately allow for the revitalization of one of the poorest areas of the city. Through the use of large scale photography, created by the city’s own residents, and powerful typography, Brooklyn based photographer Emily Schiffer and her partner Orrin Williams have been responsible for this endeavor. Dedicated to promoting the “green economy” Orrin Williams heads the Center for Urban Transformation which is dedicated to not only support urban agriculture but also provide job security, housing, medical care, artistic and personal expression, and happiness.
This project truly brings art to life and embodies art with purpose. Schiffer’s photography along with the “See Potential” typographic treatments juxtaposes old with new and offers design solutions to not only this community but also those with similar need for public awareness and assistance.
Keeping the already existing structures is one of the main ideas behind this project. By utilizing the graphic display banners that can be changed over time the solution to bringing life back into the city through design can ultimately be very cost effective. The bold typography stands to emphasize the “potential” of the city. By utilizing strong sans-serif type and a simple color treatment the message retains its clarity. This typographic treatment is especially effective because of its clear readability. Incorporating the powerful marketing trend of using bold sans-serif type it pulls the viewers eye to the message quickly. (Friesen) Also, in keeping the message short it is read similarly to a billboard message. The below examples showcase a healthy cooking store that would also offer classes, and a site for the enhancement of a community garden.
In order to transform communities, you need to get rid of the vacancy. Only then can you change people’s ways of seeing and imagining their neighborhoods. –Orrin Williams, Founder & Director, Center for Urban Transformation
This idea is a truly compelling way to promote not only the community’s involvement but also develop a collaborative effort between artists, community leaders, and anyone interested in supporting the cause. As the title suggests the “See Potential” project empowers people to see that their own potential exists, and this will allow them to visualize what that change can really look like. The members of the community are engaged to contribute at many levels. They have been able to sign petitions to promote the development of specific areas as well as communicate via a dynamic text messaging campaign that will relay via the web the areas they believe could benefit most from improvement efforts.
Many sites are involved in furthering this project. Good.is is a great resource for not only design (with quite of bit of great information graphics- be sure to check out Good magazine), but also matters relating to social awareness. Through the popularity of online fund raising through sites such as KickStarter the project has already exceeded it’s initial $10,000 goal. In mobilizing the global community it proves that the voices of the collective are more powerful that just the voice of one individual.
Peer Typographic Solution Anaylsis and Conclusions:
So powerful! I love the See Potential phrase and concept. The fact that it’s placed on abandoned buildings is really interesting, it makes you recognize and read the poster and initiate the thought of change. It’s also an interesting way to cover what may be an eye sore. The fact that they use people in town in their campaign is really smart. It pulls familiarity and it’s not just stock… it’s the town!
Typographically I think the condensed, bold, sans serif type is spot on. It’s clean, powerful and not overly worked.
I concur that the use of the typography is attuned to the project not only because it is clean and straightforward but because the typography is stacked word on top of word echoing the building process that the project is extolling. The type, along with the grey building blocks, subtly implies the structure of a city—both as building structures and as city blocks mapped out—and the rebuilding of community. The block-like partitions of type and shape are also subtly colored with the yellow of the typography on the black: construction colors. The pale yellow is the only color in all of the achromatic compositions, making it stand out from the black and white.
This is a lovely example of sensitively crafted type, Jenna, that I am glad that you exposed me to. Not only because it is beautifully done, but because urban rehabilitation is a subject close to my heart and something of which I am a part. The beautiful signage in the otherwise boarded windows is a great solution to urban blight while the space is being rehabbed.
Wow the idea is just so big and powerful, the typography really just needs to communicate clearly and simply, and then stay out of the way.
What an great way to transform what would be a symbol decay and defeat and transform it into a symbol of power and hope.
Beautiful topic and an equally impressive evaluation of typography working harmoniously with the emotional impact of the concept. I’m beginning to wonder if we’re seeing more and more ideas such as the See Potential project in Chicago’s South Side. Emily Pilloton’s “Teaching Design For Change” at the 2010 TED Conference, highlights a similar project for the rural North Carolina school system. In short, Pilloton introduces a design thinking studio process to high school students in order to rebuild abandoned buildings for community-based solutions (such as the restoration of a building to serve as a Farmer’s Market).
I’m very fresh with researching design thinking concepts and I realize that typography is not at the core with Pilloton’s work. However, the emotional response toward the revitalization of a broken community is really what is at the heart of graphic design. Both examples strive to better the quality of life, big and small.
Thank you very much for sharing your insights!
The overall consensus is that this typographic treatment for the “See Potential” Project is extremely fitting for the goals set forth in this venture. Aiming at achieving revitalization and uplifting the spirit of hope among a community, the typography holds strong and true to that purpose. The bold sans-serif face proclaims a message of rebirth on an area that was otherwise deemed as desperate and forgotten. The reality is this is still a place of life and of people, and it is the people that are rising up to bring forth this proclamation that in these surroundings is the potential for a brighter tomorrow.
Through personal self-depictions in exquisite photographic displays, the life and love that exists here is greater than any building’s structural form. All great ideas have a beginning, and here in lies the start of one. Through shared responsibility the community has spoken and is taking part in a creating a beautiful transformation.
Just as the typography is representative of this rebuilding effort, the community has become fully engaged in helping to visualize this change. Being one with the words “See Potential” is what gives this piece its tremendous magnitude, and being one with the idea behind this change reminds me of the power in Mahatma Gandhi’s quote to “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Kickstarter, “See Potential.” Accessed January 7, 2012. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/196569648/see-potential
Good, “See Potential project.” Last modified January 5, 2012. Accessed January 7, 2012. http://beta.good.is/8962-the-see-potential-project-encourages-chicago-residents-to
Benevolent Media, Erica Schlaikjer“Photography Lets Viewers ‘See Potential’ of Healthy Communities in Chicago” Last modified December 20, 2011. Accessed January 7, 2012. http://www.benevolentmedia.org/2011/12/20/photography-lets-viewers-see-potential-of-healthy-communities-in-chicago/
Target Marketing, Pat Friesen “Message and Media: The Power of Typography” Last Modified May, 2010. Accessed January 7, 2012. http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/article/how-increase-direct-marketing-message-readibility-proper-typeface-selection/1