KU Design Week is an annual series of events aimed at promoting interdisciplinary design thinking at the University of Kansas, the Lawrence community and beyond. The 2015 theme was 10,000 Hours, celebrating the amount of time that designers and problem solvers spend refining their craft on their way to achieving mastery.
To create a visual identity and build excitement for the Design Week events in February 2016, the design team created and installed a series of poster walls in the Art + Design and architecture buildings at the end of the fall 2015 semester. Each poster features mini design challenges, inspirational quotes from influential design masters or lighthearted design jokes. Neon colors transform the blank, underutilized tack surfaces in the buildings to create environments that are vibrant and energizing. The posters were also designed to acknowledge (and combat) feelings of mental exhaustion that design students (and creative people in general) often experience.
In the time leading up to KU Design Week events, students were encouraged to take down the posters and put them in personal places to remind themselves to keep racking up hours of practice. Since their installation, over half of the posters have been removed, creating an interactive experience that causes the environment to transform over time. Each neon poster is printed with an event calendar on the back, giving participants a takeaway that's both informative and inspirational.
With a limited budget, the team looked for cheap materials and ways to activate the space with resources that were already available but underutilized. After a survey of the building, the team realized that many of the school’s walls were covered in the tackable wall surface found inside studio classrooms. Neon sheets of letter-sized paper provided a cheap way to fill the walls with invigorating color. Black and white prints kept costs low, simplified printing and created restrictions for the team to work within.
Installation time was a big challenge. Each poster sheet was stapled to the tack wall to allow them to be removed individually. Helping plan a week’s worth of studio tours, workshops, competitions and celebrations while designing the identity was also a new challenge.
Awareness created by the poster installations was a contributing factor to one of the most successful KU Design Weeks ever. A letterpress workshop by Lucas Nelson (starring Linda Sampson-Talleur) was the most popular event. Feedback from the KU school community was overwhelmingly positive, with many people commenting on how the added color made them more happy to be in the building.
By opening the Design Week events to the public and by visiting local high school art/design departments, the event planners extended the KU Design Week reach beyond campus and into the Lawrence community. In future years, they hope to create a collaboration between the city and the college, with KU Design Week staff working closely with Lawrence designers, artists and officials to host larger events that serve more people and leave a more lasting impact for the community.
Patrick Blanchard, Lucas Nelson, Triana Thompson (lead designers); Chloe Hubler, Grace Cantril, Mary Sniezek (poster design and installation assistants); Nick Manoogian, Kevin Bower, Evan Tarry, Zaira Torres (installation assistants)
KU Design Week Board: Patrick Blanchard (graphic design senior), Kevin Bower (industrial design junior), Meredith Gershon (environment design senior), Jacqueline Kerr (illustration senior), Lucas Nelson (graphic design senior), Triana Thompson (graphic design senior), Kitty Tootle (environment design senior), Spencer Reed (architecture junior)
Andrea Herstowski, Mahesh Daas, Elizabeth Baddeley, Tad Carpenter, Aaron Draplin, Amber Goodvin, KU Bookstore, Linda Sampson-Talleur, Treanor Architects, Cider Gallery (raffle sponsors)
"This project is beautifully laid out across a variety of scales. The layers are playful and create a constantly transformative space."
"The layering of information types and graphic styles, coupled with the bold colors and takeaway aspect of the installation, transform the corridors in a dynamic and effective way. This was such a clever use of a small budget to promote the Design Week events and get the event calendar into everyone's hands. The impact is impossible to miss. It makes me want to be a student again!"