Design for People

This is a book about the relationships that form between clients, designers, and the people whose lives are affected by design. I interviewed hundreds of people and helped develop a workflow for which there was no precedence. Luckily, I enjoy figuring things out as I go.

Design for People is a compendium of work from Open, a New York City-based design studio run by Scott Stowell. The book contains twelve chapters, each highlighting the story of an Open project as told in the words of the clients, designers, and other people affected by Open's work.

To make this book, Scott needed help. Alice Twemlow, the chair of my graduate program, recommended me for the job. When I met Scott, the design of the book was, for the most part, complete. At first I was worried. Would this design be too prescriptive? In the end, the design became a wonderful limitation. It encouraged succinct, smartly edited storytelling.

Scott selected twelve projects to be featured in the book's chapters. For each chapter, I began by interviewing Scott to get his side of the project story. Scott would then give me a list of other people involved in the project. I proceeded to arrange these interviews via phone or email.

1,096 messages posted on Basecamp
266 people contacted for interviews
73 hours and 4 minutes of audio
5 interviews ruined by faulty software

After completing one chapter, it was clear that I couldn’t handle the work load on my own. I enlisted my friend Bryn Smith, a graphic designer and writer whose organizational skills are unparalleled. Bryn and I split up the chapters and proceeded to tackle the interviews. We managed our entire workflow via Google Drive. We also uploaded copies of all documents, transcripts and audio recordings to Open’s Basecamp. We met in person on a weekly basis to asses our status and support each other where needed.

Audio recordings for each interview were sent off for transcription. Once we received the transcripts, we extracted quotes for each chapter and fit them together to form a flowing narrative. This process was like putting together a giant word puzzle; we spent months passing marked-up PDFs back-and-forth to each other through email.

For every project, we interviewed end users. This was one of the most surprising and rewarding challenges of creating this book. Some of my favorite end users we talked to were the maintenance crew at Brooklyn Bridge Park, who gave their opinion on the the signage Open designed for the park. For designers, I can’t recommend this process enough—listening to the people who use your product every day will enlighten you in ways you never thought possible.

Services provided:
Writing and editing, interviews, transcription, project management

2015 - 2016