Academic journal article Visible Language

Rebuilding Perceptions: Using Experiential Graphic Design to Reconnect Neighborhoods to the Greater City Population

Academic journal article Visible Language

Rebuilding Perceptions: Using Experiential Graphic Design to Reconnect Neighborhoods to the Greater City Population

Article excerpt

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 struggle and degradation. Research has shown that the success of a neighborhood relies 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 back 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.

INTRODUCTION: DEFINING THE PROBLEM & OPPORTUNITY

When we set out to explore a new place, we encounter a range of emotions from excitement and curiosity to anxiety and apprehensiveness. The ability to experience these emotions and form our own judgments based on them allows us to create preference over one place to the next. Certainly some spaces will relate to us better than others, and this study does not Intend on convincing the reader that he or she must be willing to appreciate and participate In every public space that exists. Instead, this research begins the conversation about how preconceived perceptions, especially negative ones, can give us a faulty bias when we consider how we feel toward a new place.

In almost every city In the world, there Is a certain level of geographic seg- regation between the different cultural groups who occupy It. It's a natural phenomenon that's rooted In the history of how our cities were first formed. Normally, such diversity enhances the overall quality of life for those living In a city. Different social groups discover how to operate together rather than Independently, leading to a more celebrated and diverse urban Iden- tity. However In other cases, such diversity can lead to a negative separa- tion between neighborhoods. Invisible barriers are built by the perceived cultural and economic differences between different social groups. When these barriers become extreme enough, these groups lose the ability to function as part of the urban community; their economics start to plunge, and their neighborhoods begin to decay. Research has shown that the more cross-participation a city has between Its communities, the better It will be able to operate both socially and economically (Stern and Seifert, 2008, p.2). This suggests that In order for cities to collectively progress Into the future, their segregated neighborhoods must find ways to become reengaged with the rest of the city.

There are many factors to consider as potential solutions for this problem. Infrastructure Improvements are likely top on the list. However, changing the way a place looks does not cure the problem entirely, nor Is It a good thing to displace the existing group of residents In order to bring In a differ- ent group with different commercialization that Is deemed more acceptable to the greater city population. Somewhere In the process, the perceptions of a place must be addressed. This study examines the beneficial effects that experiential graphic design can provide to such a place. …

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