How can designers be good international citizens?
Every year, Wanted Design holds a gallery of the hottest new designs at a Chelsea venue called the Tunnel. And every year, the MFA students of SVA's Products of Design program crash the opening party with a performance of their own.
Under the guidance of adjunct professor Sinclair Smith, my cohort spent fifteen weeks as a group ideating & executing a five-act design performance for the 2016 opening of Wanted Design. Due to the highly international nature of that year's Wanted showing, we worked around the theme of internationalism in design. At the time, the refugee crisis was just beginning to make waves in the collective national conscience, and our privilege as designers with a public voice was not lost on us. We ultimately named our performance Access Ltd., invoking the corporate nature of access to international society.
Duration: 15 weeks
Outcome: a five-act design performance at Wanted Design 2016.
Team: 16-student body of Products of Design's Class of 2017
Costume Design: Julia Lindpaintner, Karen Vellensky, Doug Fertig, Alexa Forney
EMBODY: Cody Pfleging, Will Lentz, Alexa Forney
The acts of the performance were as follows:
PASSPORT - Every participant received a passport upon entry to the experience. Upon successfully completing an interaction, they received a stamp to "prove" their ability to master an element of living in the international sphere.
REVEAL - Participants created their "passport photo" at this AR photo booth.
CONNECT - To better prepare participants for their life as international citizens, CONNECT aimed to teach them a new language in under a minute.
MOVE - This roving Kinect jukebox tested participants' cultural flexibility by making them dance to a rapidly changing multi-cultural soundtrack.
EMBODY - At this selfie booth for your stuff; participants unloaded their purses and pockets into the roving lightbox, and labelled the objects as if they were objects in a security X-ray.
ADOPT - Participants chose which country they wanted to belong to from a menu of nations represented at Wanted. In order to have their new identity stamped on their passport, they had to prove they could say a phrase in their new home country's language.
MARRIAGE - Of course, if gaining access proved too challenging, there was recourse to an age-old option. Participants just had to find a partner - any one would do - and swear fealty to their nation and identity of origin, never to stray beyond it.
As a project, Access Ltd. had two main phases: creative generation as a cohort, and execution as small task groups.
One of the most miraculous transformations of the project was turning EMBODY from a garbage bag monster (below) into a product selfie booth. It took four weeks of iterations and several back-and-forths with the branding team to come to the airport security metaphor that made it what it was at the show. In the end, everything came together quite rapidly, with all hands on deck to bring Access Ltd. to Wanted on schedule and in top condition.