Andy Schwanbeck

Environmental Graphic Design: Changing the Perceptions of Divided Communities through Cultural and Social Connectivity

Andy Schwanbeck

ABSTACT
This project explores the value that environmental graphic design elements can create to help promote and improve the perceptions of a neighborhood within a segregated urban landscape. Urban segregation occurs when a city’s diversities create perceived barriers around concentrated clusters of social groups. When these divisions are extreme enough, communities become shut off from the rest of the city and often fall into a perpetual cycle of struggle and degradation. Research has shown that the success of a neighborhood rests in its ability to connect with other neighborhoods and economies throughout a city. It also demonstrates that cross- participation enhances the overall capacity of a community to operate both socially and economically. In a segregated city, there is an opportunity to use environmental graphic design elements to help improve the perceptions of a divided neighborhood and reconnect it to the greater city population.

During this research, a case-study project was developed with the neighborhood East Liberty, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Historically a thriving neighborhood, East Liberty has been plagued by over two decades of neglect and failed renewal efforts. Despite recent development efforts, many locals still avoid this area. This case study uses a combination of research tactics and design prototypes to produce elements that attempt to improve the experience of East Liberty and create more positive perceptions surrounding this area. The results from this project measured a significant improvement to the negative perceptions of East Liberty and demonstrated the potential to entice more people to visit and participate within this neighborhood.

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