One day, a few months after starting work at Tether, a email went out asking if anyone wanted to lead a team to design and build an installation for the Seattle Design Festival. I put my name in the hat, fully expecting someone more senior to take the role. But, no one did. Which is how, three days later, I ended up in front of over a hundred creatives1 from around Seattle, pitching initial concepts for an interactive installation.
Over the course of four months, I organized and led a team of ten designers, architects, and a contractor2 to create an installation based on the festival's theme, Design in Motion. Interpreting motion as the root of change, we developed an experience intended to turn passive festival-goers into collaborative artists by asking them to participate in the installation's gradual transformation. We just needed a few huge letters, some nails, and flagging tape.3
After months of planning, prototyping, and presentations to the Design Festival board, we were ready finally ready to build. We installed the piece in Seattle's Pioneer Square on a beautiful day4 in September. Between assembling the letters and cutting and mounting the acrylic, the project took over twelve hours to install.
Over the two days of the Festival's opening block party, participants transformed our pristine set of letters into a tangible, evocative, living installation — and, by the end of the party, a wonderfully successful day-glo mess. To me, the installation was successful because it gave people — adults especially — permission to have fun5 in a way they don’t always experience. It's a reminder that even the smallest actions can be a source of inspiration and play.
The installation was striking in its ability to draw in a range of genders and ages, and accommodated a uniquely wide set of uses…it was intensely used by such a range of individuals in so many ways that the designers likely never expected, and at the end of the day…that is the ultimate sign of success.
MACKENZIE WALLER, DESIGN IN PUBLIC