There is Nothing to See - Ann McDonald

There is Nothing to See - Ann McDonald


There is Nothing to See: 
A Hyperlocal Study of Emphemeral Signs 
Reveals Hidden Tensions and Celebrates Resilience
Ann McDonald, Associate Professor of Design, Northeastern University

Abstract from 2021 SEGD Communication + Place
There is nothing to see in this one-block area of Arlington MA, a town just outside Boston.  A bike path detouring, a glass storefront cafe with tables and chairs situated in its parking  lot, sidewalk construction, a bank, a dry cleaner, cars pouring through a multi-lane inter section with large signal light poles. A relatively prosperous, nondescript, suburban town  center on the east coast of the US.

During the recent COVID-19 pandemic and social upheaval, a close examination of the visual signs posted over time in this one block area–including stickers, graffiti, and chalk ing–result in a revealing time capsule of our society’s upheaval in 2020/21. How can closely examining posted ephemeral visual communications give us insight into our lived experiences and the fabric of a community?

Read more in the 2021 SEGD Communication + Place journal and other papers at

Communication + Place is the official research journal of the Experiential Graphic Design community. Published online, the journal features articles from both academics and professionals advancing the XGD profession through creative research, curriculum development, project reviews, and user-centric testing.