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We are the people we have been waiting for

A call to action: small footprint, high impact

We are the people we have been waiting for’ is a re-quote from Yvon Chouinard’s book, Let My People Go Surfing. He quotes the ancient wisdom of an anonymous Navajo Medicine Man as he describes the evolution of the values and philiosophy that underpin his now global brand, Patagonia

These words became the inspiration for an exhibtion I designed for SustainLab RCA which took place during the Royal College of Art Student Union’s Green Week (6-17 March 2018), giving a new level of visibility to the diversity of approaches and perspectives being taken around sustainability at the university. The intention was to inspire a call to action for students, tutors and senior management.

Exhibtion concept

While reading Yvon Chouinard’s story one morning in the library, connections started to flicker in my head and then quickly translated into scribbles on the pages of my sketchbook. How might we use the the inspiring words of thought leaders to elevate the inspirational work that is emerging from students at RCA?

The idea that quickly took shape was to leverage the work we had already been doing with SustainLab Pecha Kucha evenings, where students and allumni were sharing their projects relating to sustainability. By presenting their projects collectively alongside selected quotes we could build a strong and coherent narative around the need to embed this thinking across the institution and in the next generation of designers and artists.

Each student/allumni project was formated using a simple poster template with a QR code allowing visitors explore the work further online.

Exhibtion design

With the content already sourced, the excecution of the exhibtion itself needed to embody the values it respresented.

The design solution was a direct response to our earlier Service Design RCA Work In Progress show which was fabricated from black painted MDF screwed and glued together, and destined for the skip after the exhibtion. Taking this ‘waste’ material, I explored a simple aesthetic, inspired by the contrasting colours of the black paint and beige MDF to create a professional finish with a high visual impact using laser cutting.

By deliberatly avoiding the go-to, non-recyclable, disposable materials of temporary exhibtion design - vynil and foamboard - and reframing the exhibition as a design opportunity in itself, the resulting quote boards and poster panels were cheap to fabricate, reuseable, and diverted waste from incineration.

We continued the low-impact theme by celebrating the opening of the exhibtion with a ‘Bring Your Own Vessel’ vernissage event. We even got reviewed online by FashionNerd - you never know who’s watching.

Special thanks go to those RCA students and allumni who contributed their work for the exhibtion, and the wonderful workshop technicians.