ThoughtMatter | Essays

Work Worth Doing: Branding the 100 Gates Project

Ambition, art, activism, and empowerment are core values among many designers who blend their profession with their passions.

We set out to find projects we actively want to work on—endeavors that afford opportunities for us to show how design can affect the world and influence the way people see things.

And in today's environment, which Michael Bierut calls "uncharted territory" in his story about designing Hillary Clinton's campaign logo, it's more important than ever to seek ways to contribute our skills for the greater good. There are, of course, some disturbing and downright frightening things going on in our world, but hope comes from the ever-growing importance of acting against them, making our voices heard, and serving the values we believe in.

As a team at ThoughtMatter—and as the individuals who comprise the studio—we stay informed about what’s going on in our community and the world at large, and we identify opportunities where we can use our skills and creative thinking to do purpose-driven work.

The 100 Gates Project is a unique, street art-centric grassroots initiative that was started a few years ago by a group of New York City artists with an idea about how to improve their community. They went door-to-door in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, asking merchants for permission to paint murals on their roll-down security gates. The artists eventually teamed up with Natalie Raben, senior vice president of partnerships and public affairs for the Lower East Side Partnership, who organized and connected artists with merchants to expand the program throughout the neighborhood.

The goal was to create an off-hours street art gallery that would improve the community while deterring illegal graffiti in the area. Residents, business owners, and visitors have noticed success on both fronts.

"The art and the color and the artistry of the pieces certainly beautifies and energizes our neighborhood,” says resident Milan Vatovec. “Also, the fact that some of them are open and some closed at different times of the day makes for a pleasant surprise every time I see a gate in a down position that I haven’t seen in a while.”

"I think the murals have definitely helped cement the Lower East Side as a major hub of street art in New York,” says resident and project artist Kim Sillen, adding that the project’s contributions to a vibrant streetscape helps draw people to the neighborhood, and entices them to walk around and explore once they’re there.

"And if there’s ‘graffiti,’ it’s generally street art,” Sillen says. “The project has definitely upped the ante.”

When we heard about this project, we reached out to Raben to learn how ThoughtMatter could help. It seemed like work worth doing. Then, we discovered that, despite its name, the goal was not to stop at 100 murals in the Lower East Side. They wanted to grow.

And, to our excitement, we were welcomed aboard as partners to make this change happen. After a walking tour of the murals in the Lower East Side, ThoughtMatter began working to develop a brand identity for the 100 Gates Project that would serve the larger vision for the program.

We intentionally designed the look to retain the project's grassroots vibe. We drew inspiration from the visual language of the city and street art culture. We positioned the project as an outdoor gallery that is open when more traditional galleries are closed, and we created a system flexible enough to accommodate the 100 Gates Project's presence in other neighborhoods. We knew that branding the project would enhance its legitimacy, setting it up for further growth. All of this work paid off—literally.

In the winter of 2016, the 100 Gates Project received a Neighborhood 360° grant from the NYC Department of Small Business Services. With this support, the project could reach more boroughs, starting with downtown Staten Island and extending farther north to East Harlem. ThoughtMatter was proud to lend a helping hand in creating the grant application that secured this funding.

The branding and grant application are just the beginning of our investment in the 100 Gates Project. Right now, we're rebuilding the 100 Gates Project website, and helping to design and distribute roll-out kits in the new neighborhoods. We’re not sure what comes next, but we’re excited to be involved as the 100 Gates Project continues to turn heads across the city.

When we started working with the 100 Gates Project, our goal was to help them grow. But our mission has always been greater than helping a project expand. For us, it's about using our design and thinking in ways that serve our communities and add to their culture. It's about enabling more artists and merchants to collaborate in the name of beauty and diversity.

We believe that this work matters—now, more than ever.

To learn more about the 100 Gates Project, and to get involved, visit the organization’s website. (The newly re-designed iteration is in development, and will go live this summer.)

Posted in: Social Good

Jobs | February 22