Funding Received: 2013
New York, NY
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
August 26, 2013


The AIGA/NY team has made great strides since our last update. First, we’re excited to present the initiative’s new mission statement:

DESIGN/RELIEF is a participatory design initiative to help three New York City neighborhoods – Red Hook, the Rockaways and Lower Manhattan – imagine a more vibrant future for themselves as they overcome the lingering effects of Superstorm Sandy. DESIGN/RELIEF aims to demonstrate design's role in creative placemaking, to help these neighborhoods be more livable, walkable, vibrant and enjoyable.

Second, we’re pleased to announce Laetitia Wolff as Program Director for DESIGN/RELIEF. Laetitia is a design writer, curator, aka a cultural engineer whose latest work focuses on design + the city. She led desigNYC as its first director from 2011-2013 and recently co-curated “EmpathiCITY, Making our City Together,” a community design project for UNESCO’s Creative Cities of Design network. Through her creative practice she produces integrated communications strategies and innovative, content-rich programming. She has consulted for Times Square Alliance, the city of Montreal, Parsons School of Design and currently for the Swiss EPFL+ECAL Lab, at the convergence of new technologies and design. She teaches in SVA’s Impact! Design for Social Change program. Formerly the editor-in-chief of Surface and Graphis magazines, Laetitia is also the author of the award-winning monograph Massin (Phaidon) and Real Photo-Postcards (Princeton Architectural Press).

As DESIGN/RELIEF Program Director, Laetitia will oversee all operational aspects of the project, work closely with the AIGA/NY board, participants and design teams, and facilitate conversations among a wide range of constituents to sustain the program’s reception, engagement, and participation within local communities.Given her previous work art directing design teams and shepherding community-based projects, we’re thrilled to have Laetitia on board to guide the process and structure of the initiative.

Third, we’re proud to unveil the DESIGN/RELIEF program identity, which will function across all three project sites, as well as serve as an identity system for potential future iterations of the initiative by other AIGA chapters throughout the country. "The specific AIGA/NY instance of DESIGN/RELIEF uses a simple graphic motif of vibrantly colorful waves, echoing the waterfront condition of the three neighborhoods with which we'll be working, and the optimism we hope to bring to each community," explained AIGA/NY board member Manuel Miranda, designer of the initiative's identity. "AIGA chapters that choose to adopt the program for their own use will be able to customize the logo in a way that is responsive to the themes and issues they choose to address," Miranda said.

We continue to make progress on the development of a project website that will document all of our research, process, thoughts, conversations, project design progress, and community events related to our DESIGN/RELIEF work.

Lastly, we will soon announce the interdisciplinary design teams, launch a call for participation that will enable the involvement of our overall design community, and start programming community input gathering and collaboration events on the ground with neighborhood partners and relevant stakeholders in Red Hook, the Rockaways and the Seaport in Lower Manhattan.

Red Hook at sunset. Photo by Irina Lee. 

Ongoing Site Visits

Our team had a chance to visit Red Hook recently, as guest of the NYC Mayor's Fund and under the guidance of NYC Small Business Services (SBS). We met with key players in the community, including social services nonprofits Red Hook Initiative and Good Shepherd Services, Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation, and small businesses such as Flickinger Glassworks and the Red Hook Winery, a case study attesting to the considerable recovery efforts small businesses had to undertake after Sandy. SBS is potentially a strategic partner to AIGA/NY as we explore the legacy of DESIGN/RELIEF and the role communication designers can play in expanding the definition and means of creative placemaking.

Local wayfinding signage for Distillery Tours, Red Hook Winery and Chocolate Factory Tours. Photo by Willy Wong. 

Welcome sign greets visitors for the discussion on Hurricane Sandy Recovery Efforts and the tour of Liberty Warehouse, tour event was located on Pier 41 in the historic shipping yards of Red Hook. Photos by Irina Lee. 

Red Hook Winery welcomes SBS. Red Hook Winery aims to restore and transform Brooklyn winemaking with Long Island grapes. Photo by Willy Wong. 

Recent Wins

—Hired a Program Director
—Finalized project’s mission statement
—Completed design of project’s identity
—Initiated search for project designers

Please send all Design/Relief inquiries to Laetitia Wolff, lwolff [at]