Founded in 2001, CUP’s work addresses the needs of communities struggling to understand the complex public policies and decision-making processes that impact their lives, from affordable housing to labor rights. By collaborating with the people most impacted by public policies and systems, CUP creates easy-to-understand, culturally relevant visual materials that help marginalized communities access services, claim their rights, and fight for change.
Their core programs include “Making Policy Public,” a production series that joins an organization with a designer to create a visual explanation of a critical policy issue in the form of a pamphlet that folds out into a large-format color poster; “Public Access Design,” a series of short, intensive collaborations resulting in a booklet for a community organization working to break down a complex policy affecting its constituents; and “Envisioning Development Toolkits,” a set of interactive tools and workshops designed to demystify urban planning and empower local community members to participate in discussions around new development proposals. Additionally, CUP organizes youth education programs to get high school students out of the classroom to explore fundamental questions about how New York City works.
All of CUP’s visual tools are designed to be used by constituencies that can most benefit from the information. One recent initiative was “Here to Stay!,” a trilingual guide about Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a form of humanitarian immigration relief for youth under 21.
Other visual tools created by CUP are “Reclaim Your Worker Rights,” a guide for workers who have been wrongly classified as contractors by their employers; “Hey, that’s not okay,” a guide for young queer people of color about fighting gender-based violence in NYC schools; and “Your Truth Your Rights,” a booklet to explain Transgender, Gender Nonconforming, Intersex, and Nonbinary folks’ rights to safe housing in New York City jails and New York State prisons.
In 2021, CUP released “Can You See My Screen?” a booklet designed by students at KAPPA International High School about how digital equity impacts remote learning, with a focus on the 16 million K-12 students in the U.S. who did not have internet access when schools across the country closed due to COVID-19.