Design as social activism takes a variety of forms, ranging from a poster decrying the death penalty to an awareness campaign for a children’s after-school program. At the Baltimore-based Piece Studio, design activism is about engaging with community groups and local organizations to give them a voice and aid them in achieving – and even recognizing – their goals. In this context, the designer’s work can be a kind of community organizing. As the firm’s co-founder Bernard J. Canniffe says, “At Piece Studio, we probably spend more time in the community and less in the studio.”
Piece Studio evolved out of a class taught by Canniffe, the co-chair of the graphic design department at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore (U.S.). Canniffe created the course as a means of helping with a Johns Hopkins University initiative to address the disconnect between Hopkins and the East Baltimore community where the school is located. Through the course, Canniffe met Oliver Munday, a student, and along with Mike Weikert, also a co-chair and professor in the MICA graphic design department, the three came to realization: There was potential to build a studio devoted to design that empowers – and nurtures – communities, advocacy groups, and individuals.
Piece Studio formally launched in August last year and has demonstrated its founders’ philosophy in action for a variety of organizations and events in Baltimore. For Martha’s Place, a women’s drug rehabilita...