Spearheaded by the Graphic Design Department, in collaboration with the Designmatters initiative in its vital advocacy role for promoting ArtCenter as an educational laboratory for best practices and social engagement, the YouOrleans branding initiative represents a significant commitment from our creative community to contribute to the moral and physical reconstruction of New Orleans. Conceived by Graphic Design chair Nik Hafermaas as one of the 2006 AIGA Aspen Design Summit challenges chosen for implementation, the YouOrleans design brief calls for the development of a comprehensive visual identity and branding strategy to support the Katrina Furniture Project.
Hurricane Katrina ranks as one of the most powerful disasters to strike the U.S. Widely considered as the “storm that changed America,” Katrina threatened not only the immediate future of one of this country’s most iconic cities, devastating homes and lives in its wake, but also exposed profound racial and economic divisions, undermined the credibility of government authorities and the national emergency response system, and challenged the country’s vision of itself.
Spearheaded by the Graphic Design Department, in collaboration with the Designmatters initiative in its vital advocacy role for promoting Art Center as an educational laboratory for best practices and social engagement, the YouOrleans branding initiative represents a significant commitment from our creative community to contribute to the moral and physical reconstruction of New Orleans.
Conceived by Graphic Design chair Nik Hafermaas as one of the 2006 AIGA Aspen Design Summit challenges chosen for implementation, the YouOrleans design brief calls for the development of a comprehensive visual identity and branding strategy to support the Katrina Furniture Project.
Piloted in fall 2006 by the Graphic Design Department in collaboration with the Designmatters initiative, the YouOrleans studio is equally composed of Art Center alumni and senior graphic design students led by Instructor Paul Hauge. After conducting an exploratory research trip to Katrina Furniture Projects’ New Orleans headquarters in August 2006, the studio developed the identity system and branding concepts for the initiative, as well as strategies for its communication and implementation.
YouOrleans strategic branding efforts are anticipated to maximize the crucially needed outreach and key dissemination of the Katrina Furniture Project. Moreover, this multi-layered project collaboration demonstrates the design community’s commitment to encourage outcomes that represent positive, long-lasting societal change.
The Katrina aftermath not only made obvious the need for sustainable, affordable housing in New Orleans, but also for job creation and training. Many of the communities and neighborhoods most impacted by the storm had suffered chronic problems associated with the city’s long history of poverty: the second highest illiteracy rates in the country; significant unemployment rates; large numbers of unskilled workers; and minimal educational opportunities. Hurricane Katrina only aggravated such acute social inequities throughout the region.
Conceived by architect Sergio Palleroni through Basic Initiative and a consortium of partners, including Design Corps and Mercy Corps , the Katrina Furniture Project focuses on developing culturally sensitive, sustainable building prototypes of furniture designed with easily replicable principles using reclaimed cypress wood from historic structures in the area. Through the establishment of a network of community workshops, the overall objective of the Katrina Furniture Project is to support the reconstruction and redevelopment goals of the city, but also contribute to re-activating the economic and social capacity of those neighborhoods in New Orleans that experienced severe pre-Katrina challenges
In summer 2006, the first furniture prototypes for the Katrina Furniture Project were developed in New Orleans under the direction of Sergio Palleroni. The design team included graduate students from the University of Texas School of Architecture and a number of design professionals, among them, Art Center Environmental Design alumnus Sandor Pratt.
The furniture prototypes include:
• Church pews
• Community center tables
• Multi-purpose stepstools to be disseminated by Design Within Reach
In the long term, the Katrina Furniture Project seeks to train local community members in the craft of making furniture and in the fundamentals of operating these workshops safely and according to effective business models. The workshops are intended to be multi-purpose in nature and function as neighborhood-based places of work, sites of learning, and community centers.
For more information on this key phase of the project, please see Basic Initiative’s Katrina Furniture Project site .
YouOrleans and the Katrina Furniture Project join many others in aiding the reconstruction effort of New Orleans through the service of design:
• The Green Project
• The Mercy Corps
• The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture
• Tulane University School of Architecture
• Penn State Hamer Center
• University of Washington College of Architecture & Urban Planning
• The Smithsonian Institute
• Oprah Winfrey
• Design Within Reach
• Public Architecture
• University of Washington
• Design Corps
• Enterprise Community Partners
The furniture and outcomes of the YouOrleans branding effort is currently being featured in the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt catalog and exhibition “Design for the Other 90%” on view from May 4-September 23, 2007.