Carpenter Exchange (CE) is a creative placemaking initiative along the Detroit / Hamtramck border. CE brings a set of community artist partners together, including Power House Productions, The Hinterlands , Popps Packing , Carrie Morris Arts Production, and the City of Hamtramck . This 16 month program is funded in large part by a National Endowment of the Arts Our Town grant. These grants are best known for encouraging creatives to deepen public engagement and open fresh connections between local organizations and small businesses.

Multilingual accessible tools
Multilingual accessible tools
Interpretative map of Hamtramck
Interpretative map of Hamtramck

The Work Department facilitated a 9 month collaboration with the artist partners called, “Let’s Talk About It.” Using a customized collective impact model, our process began with planning and designing workshops that honed in on the project’s mission to develop a set of shared values, a communication strategy, and engagement strategies for participatory implementation. We knew that we needed make our work accessible to broad perspectives ranging from Hamtramck’s strong immigrant community, where over 6 major languages are spoken, to art collectors to national purveyors of design and culture.

Our challenges were clear from the start: how will we synchronize the vision of diverse artist partners who wish to scale their artistic practices? and how will we create an inclusive, meaningful, and collaborative framework that speaks to vastly different audiences?

Social media engagement
Social media engagement
Social media engagement
Social media engagement

To begin to answer these questions, we began by asking the artist partners to ‘talk about it’. We hosted a series of artist partner workshops that included “Let’s Think Together” (creating easy to understand messages and stories for low literacy and non-english speaking audiences) and “Let’s Focus” (defining of shared goals and objectives for communications and engagement).

Let's Think Together! participatory design workshop
Let's Think Together! participatory design workshop
social media engagement
social media engagement

We also convened some of Detroit’s most influential designers who foster connections within the Hamtramck community. Nate Mullen and Kikko Paradela, pictured below, were instrumental in helping us to develop a beautiful communications system that would be accessible across an expansive range.

Informed by the workshops, we proceeded to refine a dynamic identity and communications system for CE. Synthesizing and visualizing a enormous range of ideas that emerged from the artist partners was no easy task and prioritizing simple messages was key. We packaged this process into a design toolkit that utilizes a kinetic brand. We applied the ideas to an array of design templates - digital and print - that partners can use to communicate the individual programs as the CE initiative unfolds over time.

Services Provided:

  • Research
  • Visual Design
  • Communication Strategy
  • Participatory Design