The Writing on the Wall

This traveling installation is composed of essays, poems, letters, stories, diagrams, and notes written by individuals in prison around the world.


Manuel Miranda Practice

Practice Area


Hank Willis Thomas, Dr. Baz Dreisinger, and Incarceration Nations Network


The Challenge

As a presentation of the crisis of global criminal justice systems, these letters visually convey the narratives, thoughts, and emotions of the people who are incarcerated. Located on the Highline in New York City, the exhibition needed a design to visually attract visitors that conveyed the seriousness of the subject matter and honored the writers who contributed their pieces without being overly didactic.

Project Vision

Emulating a prison cell, The Writing on the Wall recreates these largely unseen spaces in a public sphere. The installation’s design references the palimpsest-like writing on the walls of prison cells and layers these onto acrylic panels arranged in modules.

Blown-up letters by individuals in prison

Cameron Blaylock

Exhibition titling

Cameron Blaylock

Letters by individuals in prison

Cameron Blaylock

Exhibition titling

Cameron Blaylock

Design + Execution

The team developed bold graphic titling for the exhibition that formed a literal wall, broken by a stoke of writing pulled from the letters in the Exhibition. Additionally, they used large-scale writings by individuals in prison, thereby making a personal, hidden, and private experience public. The graphic approach was used in further iterations of the project that involved large projections of letters and writings onto courthouses and other civic buildings in different cities.

Exhibition graphics

Cameron Blaylock

Exhibition text

Cameron Blaylock

Project Details
The simplicity of this project is what makes it so powerful. The handwritten letters reveal the humanity of incarcerated individuals and force us to imagine the interior stories and lives of those behind bars.
Juror 1
A significant proportion of this country is incarcerated, and a disproportionate number of the incarcerated are Black Americans and people who are economically disadvantaged. That makes this project necessary and powerful. My hope for future similar projects is to see more of an emphasis on the content of the letters, as well as more storytelling through image and typography.
Juror 2
I thought this was a very clever design that will be able to create the same strong unique spatial experience in different locations. Material and shape was a good choice for a travelling exhibition and juxtaposed the human touch of the handwritten letters well.
Juror 3
Design Team

Manuel Miranda (lead designer)
Fred Pirlot (designer)


Chemistry Creative (fabricator)
Mass Design Group (architecture and graphics)
Openbox (collaborator)

Photo Credits

Cameron Blaylock (photography)

Open Date

October 2020