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Civic City

The team of Vera and Ruedi Baur / Civic City are widely credited with launching a wave of political activism within the fields of graphic design and its allied professions. While they eschew such credit, their work dates back decades to a point where graphic design was only beginning to confront the problems of the city. Previously graphic design was chiefly understood as a sub-profession of advertising and publishing. It was done for commercial purposes – design applied for the purpose of getting you to buy more.

If graphic design can have a commercial or political impact, we must assume that it can have a social impact as well. Vera and Ruedi gather together architects, landscape designers, anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists and others to critically examine how design at all scales affects social outcomes.

Over several decades, their work has been applied over nearly every discipline. They have worked on community-based signage for the Paris Metro, examined the visual identities of international aid organizations as well as authored a breadth of theoretical work.

Recently, Vera and Ruedi published Our City to Change, a book which 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 them both 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."