GOOD Maker Finalist: Maryland Art Students Put Social Design on Wheels

A mobile picnic table travels across East Baltimore for pop-up community events.

The problems facing East Baltimore on HBO’s The Wire aren't limited to television scripts. Urban blight, crime, and extreme poverty persist, while large-scale revitalization efforts lag. But such hardships have not stopped some locals from imagining a more vibrant future for their neighborhood. One group of students from the Maryland Institute College of Art is using design to spark social change, and they’ve chosen an unlikely catalyst to lead the experiment: a picnic table on wheels.

The five-member design team, whose project At the Table was a finalist for the Connect Challenge on GOOD Maker, wanted to create a mobile public space that would facilitate dialogue and connection. The idea was born in a brainstorming session with John Bielenberg of Project M, a visiting artist last fall in the school’s master's program in social design. The group was asked to dream up a project that represented a positive future for East Baltimore and could be completed in 48 hours. Says student Briony Hynson, “John encouraged us to ‘think wrong,’ and push ideas to the furthest possible iteration. He really freed us to set aside our heuristic biases as designers.” Take a peek at the finished project here:


The mobile picnic table travels across East Baltimore for pop-up community events ranging from free coffee service (“Coffee At The Table”) to BBQs. A recent collaboration with the Baltimore City Health Department and The Noun Project, an open-source catalog of symbols, resulted in a one-day “Iconothon” inviting locals to create graphics representing community health concepts. Future offerings will include resume-writing workshops, arm-wrestling competitions, and even a nail salon for neighbors. This spring, the team will also host “Playscape Design At The Table” for youth interested in transforming an empty lot in the area into a community green space.

If you live in Baltimore and want to learn more about the students behind the project, check out MICA’s Social Design Thesis Exhibition at the Pinkard Gallery from April 20 through 27.

Interested in applying or voting for grant opportunities on GOOD Maker? Drop us a line at maker[at]goodinc[dot]com, sign up for our email list, or check out the current challenges on GOOD Maker.


McDonalds sells a lot of coffee. Over a billion cups a year, to be exact. All that coffee leads to a lot of productive mornings, but it also leads to a lot of waste. Each year, millions of pounds of coffee chaff (the skin of the coffee beans that comes off during roasting) ends up getting turned into mulch. Some coffee chaff just gets burned, leading to an increase in CO2.

Now, that chaff is going to get turned into car parts. Ford is incorporating coffee chaff from McDonalds coffee into the headlamps of some cars. Ford has been using plastic and talc to make its headlamps, but this new process will reduce the reliance on talc, a non-renewable mineral. The chaff is heated to high temperatures under low oxygen and mixed with plastic and other additives. The bioplastic can then be formed into shapes.

Keep Reading Show less

For over 20 years, our country has perceived itself as more divided than united, and it's not getting better. Right after the 2016 election, a poll conducted by Gallup found that 77% of Americans felt the country was divided on the most important values, a record high.

The percentage of Americans who agree that we disagree got higher. During the 2018 mid-term elections, a poll conducted by NBC News/Wall Street Journal found that 80% of Americans felt the nation was "mainly" or "totally" divided.

We head into the 2020 presidential election more divided than ever. A new poll from USA Today found that nine out of ten respondents felt it was important to do something about the conflict in our country. We can't keep on living like this forever.

Keep Reading Show less
via Honor Africans / Twitter

The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

Keep Reading Show less