To honor donors and Board of Trustees members for their investment in the college, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago commissioned Media Objectives at Valerio Dewalt Train to create an engaging donor wall in the main lobby of the new LeRoy Neiman Center. Inspired by the school’s core values—rigor, experimentation, playfulness and invention—the team designed a donor recognition element that is itself a work of art.
The installation features a slotted panel design, creating a system that can be easily adjusted as names are added or removed. Each slot contains a series of edge-painted acrylic blades that have been die-cut with a given name. Colors were selected to complement an adjacent LeRoy Neiman painting and also reference contribution levels. An integrated lighting system interplays with each blade to a cast a shadow of individual names onto the wall surface below, bringing the installation to come to life. The repetition of this technique creates a unique and visually captivating installation that not only honors contributors, but also captures the spirit of SAIC.
While a digital solution was initially considered, budget and time constraints ultimately drove the decision to move ahead with a static design solution. Once this direction was set, the team faced the challenge of estimating the area required for the donors, as they worked from an estimated quantity of names vs. actual names for most of the design process. The team created prototypes to understand the updatable and material aspects of the wall.
Once the design direction was decided, the Media Objectives team worked for several weeks exploring lighting solutions that were highly controllable to provide the optimum shadow across all donor names. In collaboration with the school, the team conducted tests on site with various copy scales, light location/intensity and spacing of the plates to determine the optimal design for legibility.
In the end, Media Objectives created a dynamic, updatable installation that relies on light and shadow rather than digital technology. Shadows became the deliverer of each donor name—poetically implying that while institutional contributions by donors and alumni are at times outside students’ perception, they are critical to their education.
"The clever use of form both increases the size of the donor name and creates a level of interest for the donor wall. The result is an elegant design solution that complements the environment and respects the generous patrons."
"Typeset in slotted panels revealed in light and shadow, donor names are both there and not there. This is the nature of giving."
Joe Lawton (project manager), Stephen Killion (project designer),
David Rasche (principal)
Serigraphics (fabrication and installation)