For Art & Design senior Kelsi Franzino, helping cities and neighborhoods like Detroit which are facing infrastructural issues is not about intervention — it’s about support.
During the winter 2016 semester, Franzino and her classmates in Art & Design Prof. Hannah Smotrich’s visual identity design class partnered with Brightmoor Maker Space, a community workshop for building skills to design a logo and marketing platform for BMS. BMS was founded by Art & Design Prof. Nick Tobier and Bart Eddy, Detroit Community Schools co-founder, in 2015, though it is currently facilitated by the community of Brightmoor and Detroit Community Schools and is located at their warehouse on the campus of Detroit Community Schools.
At the end of the semester, Franzino’s logo, featuring the words Brightmoor and Makers, connected by geometrical supports, was chosen to be implemented across the organization.
“I kind of created this support system in it,” she said. “Showing that support and how (BMS) helps out their neighbors (was important).”
Located near the northwest border of Detroit, Brightmoor is one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the city. From 2000 ti 2010, the city saw a 36 percent drop in population to 12,836. Several journalists who have visited the areas have painted pictures that aren’t positive by far, such as Rollo Romig’s article in The New Yorker, “When You’ve Had Detroit,” seriously damage Brightmoor’s public image.
“Much of Brightmoor matches what Detroit looks like in the popular imagination—an alarming amalgam of city dump, crime scene, and wild prairie,” Romig wrote.
However, residents of the community are quick to point to increasing beautification efforts in the neighborhood, such as large murals on the sides of buildings and community gardens. Many believe that through neighborhood organizations, church groups and innovation from both residents and the University, perceptions of the area are beginning to shift.
In a video produced by BMS, Dennis Talbert, interim chair of the Brightmoor Community Center, said outsiders can misconstrue the strength of the community, and BMS is working to combat this negative rhetoric through innovation.
“When you think about Brightmoor, you have to kind of think about Brightmoor from a different perspective,” he said. “Some see it as blight, others see it as an opportunity.”
The BMS project as a whole, which began through a donation platform on crowd funding site Patronicity, met its goal of $25,000 on July 10, 2015 and subsequently received an additional $25,000 from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. According to its website, the money raised from the donation drive was used to renovate the vacant building on Detroit Community Schools’ campus, buy tools and materials — bringing together community resources to support skill-building and entrepreneurship — and build the infrastructure to make BMS sustainable over time.
The money also funds other projects spawned from BMS, which include a gardening collective that gives fresh vegetables to residents in the neighborhood and an organization where a group builds large tricycles for the purpose of transporting clean water.
Franzino said after her class visited BMS and was able to talk to the project’s key stakeholders and former students of the program, they were better equipped for what the client was looking for in terms of branding.
“We had to figure out what the Brightmoor Maker Space was all about and what their goals were,” Franzino said. “One of the biggest challenges in designing for the Brightmoor Maker Space is thinking outside of the box because a lot of the initial ideas were very literal, like tools and things like that, so trying to reimagine what a maker space is and what it does and for them, it’s kind of all about community.”
Smotrich wrote in an article on the Art & Design website that through these meetings with BMS staff and with Tobier and Eddy, she and her classmates were given the opportunity to see what working with clients would be like, and how an organization like BMS can affect students in the area.
“Stamps students were able to develop a fuller understanding of the goals for the maker space and make a strong connection to Detroit Community High School students and their creative work,” she said.
After reading the BMS mission statement, Franzino said she and her class got to work on designing, and received critiques along the way from BMS alumni and mentors. Though her logo design received positive feedback from Tobier at the end of the course, she was surprised to have won.
“I wasn’t really expecting it and I wasn’t really sure they were going to end up choosing one of our designs so I was pretty happy to be selected,” she said.
Franzino said she saw BMS as a valuable resource in Brightmoor due to its ability to provide students with design skills not often offered in school.
“I think probably the most important thing is that it gives the kids an education that they’re not getting in the public school system,” she said.