Steal This Idea: GOOD Design L.A.
When the worlds of creativity and problem-solving intersect, you sometimes get beautifully practical results. That’s why we asked eight creative teams to present solutions to eight city problems—from how we move across the city to finding out where our food comes from—proposed by a group of Los Angeles urban leaders. The goal is two-fold: to show creatives as large-scale problem solvers that should be tapped by local government, and to demonstrate that some of the best civic ideas can come from outside City Hall.
The solutions that follow will be presented at a public event on April 8, 2011, as the latest program in an event series we launched in 2008 as GOOD Design. Similar events have been held in L.A., New York, San Francisco, at CEOs for Cities’ national conference, and in partnership with Art Center College of Design and Ringling College of Art and Design. A program with Academy of Art University launched this spring.
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Q: How do we get L.A. citizens to embrace the importance and value of having a strong public transit system in Los Angeles County—even if they never ride themselves—and to advocate their federal legislators to support the 30/10 Initiative?
—Maya Emsden, Deputy Executive Officer, Creative Services, Metro
A: Metro’s 30/10 Initiative, which would accomplish 30 years of transit development in 10 years, will create 160,000 new jobs, make 521,000 fewer pounds of pollution from mobile sources, improve the local economy, and modernize transportation in the city. Los Angeles is a town rich with culture, a place where creative people flock by the millions to display their talents in order to get discovered. So what if we used these talents to enrich the lives of Angelenos and advertise the city’s commitment to making public transportation in the city a priority? A campaign entitled SLOW DOWN would encompass the entire Los Angeles transportation system. The campaign asks artists, designers, actors, musicians, and creative people in general to create work that could be used to adorn the side of a bus or a TAP card, dress the seat, or appear in ad campaigns. Here’s one idea inspired by the artwork of Ed Ruscha. Think of other people like Tim Burton, Beck, Bret Easton Ellis, Kobe Bryant, Mike Shinoda, or even Megan Fox. If she can’t get dudes to ride the bus, who could?
—Bobby Solomon,The Fox Is Black, thefoxisblack.com
Q: How do public media companies expand beyond the traditional public radio audience to ensure they can continue to play important roles in the community?
—Madeleine Brand, Host of The Madeleine Brand Show, KPCC
A: Los Angeles is an American megalopolis, packed with citizens who’ve relocated not just from New York or Ohio or even from Colombia or Guatemala, but from all over the world. It’s a city full of voices, where people tell their own stories in many languages, including Spanish, Korean, Russian, Vietnamese, and Mandarin; however, American public radio still broadcasts the majority of its stories in one language: English. While it would be nearly impossible to tailor public radio programming for every community represented in L.A., providing translated broadcasts of local, national and international stories online could be a step toward reflecting its audience. By developing easily-navigable multi-lingual online content and also supporting it with a visual out-of-home campaign that celebrates L.A.’s colorful cultural makeup, public radio could expand its audience, its donor base, and better serve a diverse city.
—Amy Martin, illustrator and designer, amymartinillustration.com
Q: Los Angeles is a diverse population with many different cultures and economic strata. How do we motivate this population which may be interested in urban greening, but are not all that environmentally literate, to be inspired to take effective action?
—Andy Lipkis, Founder and President, TreePeople
A: A man builds a city by clear-cutting the trees, laying down roads, and making buildings (mostly houses). Then we have to put the trees back. Those who are so inclined will do it. But it is also easy to understand why some people don’t worry about it too much. This urban landscape is not structured for these trees. With all our roads and buildings, trees are not always missed in the landscape. This landscape is structured for us, alas, the poor tree, an afterthought. When reintroduced to our world, the tree is leashed to the house or marched along, single file, between a dusty sidewalk and an oily road.
What if we turn the whole process on its head? What if roads do not precede houses, and clear-cutting does not precede roads? Imagine a new type of urban planning that takes mass transit as a given and front yards as silly. We organize development not following the rule of an engineer’s curb but rather the guidance of the land. Imagine houses and trees growing together, side by side. They learn from one another, they play off one another. We grow with them and their canopies show us new potentials. And as we grow in this environment our entire dynamic with the tree changes.
—Bo Sundius and Hisako Ichiki, Bunch Design, bunchdesign.net
Q: How do we create more awareness in average L.A. consumers about where their food comes from, how it’s produced, and create an even higher level of interest in supporting the small and mid-sized farmers of the region?
—Paula Daniels and Alexa Delwiche, Los Angeles Food Policy Council
A: What if you could scan an item’s barcode in a grocery store with your phone and find out how “local” it is in relation to you? Would that affect your purchase? We’re creating a game and incentive-based system that starts with capturing information from a barcode about where your purchased food is from in relation to your location, communicating those economic choices to others using social media like Foursquare, and earning points and incentives for those choices through your credit card or banking institution. At the checkout, you’ll amass “buy local” points which could be redeemed for cash from your bank or credit card company. Your behavior would also be memorialized and mass-communicated on Foursquare as each “buy local” transaction would represent a “check in” at the grocery store with the list of points you amassed from each local company. Who knows? You could essentially become the “mayor” of a local farm!
—Natasha Case and Freya Estreller, Coolhaus by Farchitecture, eatcoolhaus.com
Q: Is there a solution that will empower children to learn about nutrition and exercise and choose appropriate, healthy foods regardless of parental circumstance?
—Dr. Leslie Saxon, Executive Director, USC Center for Body Computing
A: Kids understand that vegetables are good for you and fatty fried foods are bad. What’s currently lacking is the motivation to adopt healthy diets and behaviors. Motivation for teens and tweens is all about improving self-esteem. For a young person, weight is not just a matter of health, but a critical part of their self-image. “DownWithDenim.org” will reach kids with a fashion item central to self-image: denim jeans. This program connects health with appearance and uses visualization and fashion to empower overweight kids to take control of their bodies.
Participants engage with the program at a DownWithDenim truck, where they become inspired and make a commitment. Using augmented reality, kids can view how they would look at their healthy BMI. When they sign up for DownWithDenim, they receive a free pair of jeans in the next size down. An online community and mobile phone app provide concrete steps for how they can wear this downsized denim. Daily text messages from volunteer nutritionists, coaches, trainers, and celebrities offer emotional encouragement and give participants targeted diet and exercise information. Using the website and app, participants can monitor and share their progress, post photos, chat with experts, and gain support from a community of peers. The jeans themselves become a visualization of progress as, each day, the zipper begins to slide smoothly upward, inch by inch. Each time a participant fits into their downsized denim, they can return to the truck to claim a new smaller pair of jeans.
—Stuart Karten, Erin Mays, Jonathan Abarbanel, Anne Ramallo, Nina Arshagouni, and Chris Clark, Stuart Karten Design, kartendesign.com
Question: How do we recognize outstanding employee performance?
—Dr. John Deasy, Superintendent, LAUSD
A: We’ve both benefited from teachers who have given their all and inspired us, so we jumped at the opportunity to come up with ways to celebrate great teachers in the LAUSD. Through our research we learned that teachers at different stages of their careers have different needs and motivations. With more than 650,000 students, cost, scalability, and community involvement need to be factored into any concept. So instead of defining one specific idea, we came up with many.
Wish Maker Once a year an excellent teacher would make a wish to beautify his school. Local hardware stores donate materials, and parents and students volunteer time to carry out the teacher’s wish. Examples could be planting a new flower bed, repainting a ugly wall, or even establishing a vegetable garden on the school grounds. It would be the teacher’s gift to the school and a symbol of his or her great work.
Recharge Good teachers are life-long learners, but anyone can burn out if he or she is not being refreshed. Fill them back up by providing learning experiences of their choices.
We ♥ Teachers Recognized teachers get a special card to use at participating businesses to get deals and discounts. Businesses shout out their involvement by putting “We ♥ Teachers” stickers on their windows.
—Dan Goods, directedplay.com,
David Delgado, davidjdelgado.com
Q: How can we design L.A.’s highly-visible traffic median islands to be an asset for the city? And how do we create a system that engages the community in landscape and maintenance of these important landmarks for sustainability?
—Rafael González, Chief Service Officer, Office of Neighborhood and Community Services, Office of the Mayor
A: Wilshire Water proposes the transformation of traffic islands into filter islands, repairing the infrastructure of the city to be more efficient and engaging the public in greater awareness of the environment. Using Wilshire Boulevard as a test site, the concept will renovate the traffic median with the ambition to showcase storm-water filtration in the most evocative sense—by purifying it for drinking. Runoff already collected in the conventional way will be conveyed through a series of anaerobic chambers beneath the traffic median and then pumped up to bio-filtration trays to purify the water to a drinkable quality. The water station will expose the process of water filtration in a highly-visible urban situation to maximize attention to what is typically a hidden effort. The system challenges the dogma of dirty water and pushes the envelope of water recycling. Living in dense urban centers we often lose sight of the power of nature and the importance of biological processes. It will be necessary to learn the role water plays within our lives and how our public street system can play an active part in maintaining this vital resource.
—Mia Lehrer, Ben Feldmann, and Meng Yang, Mia Lehrer Associates, mlagreen.com