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Civic City

Civic City is an institute for critical research in design that assembles a network of designers and thinkers to create a platform for the exchange of knowledge.

Founded in Zurich in 2011 by Ruedi and Vera Baur and Imke Plinta, Civic City works as an independent association, assembling a network of professionals such as designers, architects, sociologists, political scientists, geographers, urban planners, and more. As a principle, the institute advocates against design processes that are not context-specific or embedded in the social reality of the community it seeks to serve. Instead, it focuses on design that encompasses the environment it is being used for. The organization arranges courses in design, develops research and projects in different domains connected with the city, and works on publications. 

Over several decades, the work of Civic City has been applied to nearly every discipline of design. They have worked on community-based signage for the Paris Metro, examined the visual identities of international aid organizations, and authored a breadth of theoretical work. The team at the institute is widely credited with launching a wave of political activism within the fields of graphic design and its allied professions.

Recently, Vera and Ruedi published Our City to Change, a book that seeks to graphically explain contemporary issues of economics, finance, ecology, nutrition, and immigration. The book positions itself as a ‘visual deciphering’ of the contemporary problems of the world. By partnering with data providers, many of the pressing issues of the day can be rendered more intelligible and therefore more solvable.

We had a chance to speak with Ruedi and Vera Baur on our podcast, Social Design Insights, where we discussed the evolving possibilities of graphic design in the public space, and how the graphic arts can be an agent of political change. Listen to the episode below.

49 | Designing the Politics of the City


Social Design Insights would like to thank all those who make our weekly show possible: Baruch Zeichner, our Producer and Sound Engineer, Donna Read, for producing our video content, and Leah Freidenrich, Director of the Curry Stone Foundation. Our theme music for 2017 is "Sorry" by Comfort Fit. The break music is "Coquette" by Avalon Jazz Band from their album "Je Suis Swing."