Foster Exchange
Foster Exchange
Foster Exchange
Foster Exchange
Foster Exchange
Foster Exchange
Foster Exchange

Foster Exchange

University of Washington, Seattle, Seattle, Washington, 2010

Description

Project brief: Objective: to design an installation that supports and enhances the reputation of the University of Washington Foster School of Business, under the overall theme of “The Nobility of Business.” The design installation should heighten the appeal of PACCAR Hall, the new home of the School, and support its long-term vision of becoming the best public business school in the United States.

The client intended for the design installation to be “iconic”—an easily recognizable visual symbol and marker for PACCAR Hall and the UW Foster School of Business. For example, the Seattle Art Museum has an iconic representation in the Hammering Man sculpture by Jonathan Borofsky; the W Hotel in Seoul has an iconic representation in the Wooden Mirror installation by Daniel Rozin. The client also requested that the installation be elegant, subtle and responsive to its surroundings. They preferred that the installation not be overly aggressive or intrusive.

The audience for the piece extends from current students, staff, faculty and visitors to the thousands of alumni and professionals who visit each year.

Approach: Under the broad theme “The Nobility of Business,” several concepts were discussed: man’s physical, emotional and spiritual need for work; an exploration of business evolution over time (for example, a visual and typographic timeline that shows the development of trade from early Native American and European pioneers to mid-century entrepreneurs to contemporary global firms); the power and potential of business to improve the well-being of a society on many levels (successful businesses provide individuals with greater financial means, while also supporting and giving back to their communities with philanthropy and social services).

The most compelling concept actually allowed the audience to determine and contribute to the content of the installation themselves. Initial tests with handwritten response cards (given to students and faculty in the Foster School of Business and the School of Art) resulted in a fascinating and diverse set of responses.

The final design installation asks viewers to contemplate the purposes and results of business in society today. Viewers are asked to respond to the open-ended question “Business is...” on a companion website, Fosterexchange.com.

User responses then appear on a series of 23 LED displays that wrap around a four-story-high brick column in the Garvey Atrium of PACCAR Hall, the new home of the UW Foster School of Business.

In addition to user responses to the “Business is...” query, the LED monitors also display stock market openings and closings, predictions for the future and even advice for students. The displays also show images of bricks in between these text messages.

Effectiveness: Faculty member Pete Dukes notes, “The installation is being very well received and getting rave reviews. Students are actively submitting their thoughts and are having fun coming up with clever (and short) phrases to capture key characteristics of what business is.” For example: Business is… Bicycle-delivered sandwiches to your chair in 10 minutes or less. Business is… Work, and if you are lucky, fun. Business is… not being afraid to take risks. Not being afraid to plunge into the unknown. Not always having to work for “the man.”

The client and designers regard the installation as successful because it has stimulated discussion and debate about the nature of business and business education. With the U.S. economy in decline, and the collapse of numerous financial firms, many business schools are in the process of reconsidering the nature and values of business education. This installation allows multiple participants to comment and share their views on the role of business in society, and to examine the ethical and social considerations that are essential to business leadership.

A solution was developed that, though permanent, also allows change and evolution over time (rather than the need for replacement), as the LED monitors can display any kind of text or visuals.

Juror Notes

We appreciated the clever activation of the space at different scales, bringing to life their theme of “change.”

Collections: AIGA 365: Design Effectiveness (2011)
Discipline: Environmental graphic design
Format: Exhibit, Signage, Artifact, Experience
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