The Street Artist's Toolkit

Products of our Design Research and Integration course with IDEO and co-created with Ailun Sai and Michael Kenney, the Street Artist's Toolkit is a collection of three artifacts meant to aid street artists and graffiti writers create, sell, and legally protect their art. They include a large-scale pantograph drafting tool; The Street Artist's Guide to Copyrighting, a pocket-size guide that informs street artists how to protect their art; and StreetMeet, a portfolio application and associated website. All three products were on display and received rave reviews at a one-night exhibition our class held at the SVA Gramercy Gallery on 23rd Street.

human-centered design research

IDEO is renowned for its revolutionary human-centered design research process. Under the guidance of instructor Lawrence Abrahamson, Design Director at IDEO New York, our class delved deep into the field of street art, graffiti, and its relationship with other artists, the government, and the public-at-large. Specifically, our team - the "Street Artist to Gallery" group - researched deeply into how street artists transition from the graffiti to the gallery scene.

From the wealth of information learned through in-person interviews, news articles, documentaries, and other primary and secondary research, we distilled our research into insights as well as design principles to prototype around. More specifically, we were able to narrow our focus to three main obstacles the street artist faces when attempting to gain recognition and monetize on their work: 

  1. Currently, street artists sometimes suffer from "rectangle fever", which is to say that they struggle in creating or reproducing their work from their large-scale, wall-sized canvases to traditional, gallery appropriate, painting-sized canvases.
  2. Street artists are actually unaware of their rights when it comes to protecting their work from unauthorized theft and reproduction in other media.
  3. Graffiti writers and street artists lack an easily accessible, inexpensive method to advertise themselves and connect with brands. Currently, galleries and curators help artists connect with brands and professional work, taking a 50% commission in the process. Additionally, graffiti crew websites that specialize in connecting artists to professional work accept only those artists they deem worthy.

ideation and prototyping

From these insights, we utilized various prototyping methodologies to birth the Street Artist's Toolkit. After several rounds of ideation, the team settled on the idea of the Toolkit to address each of the obstacles facing street artists today. The aforementioned set of speculative tools combine to aid the street artists and/or graffiti writers in their quest for legitimacy. These include (1) the pantograph, a scaling tool meant to help artists get over their "rectangle fever" and transition their work from the wall to the canvas; (2) The Street Artist's Guide to Copyrighting, a field notes sized pamphlet  that informs street artist's of their rights while also helping them navigate the waters of legal protection of their artwork; and (3) StreetMeet, an app and website that connects brands and street artists without taking a large fee and without any talent prerequisites.

The Gallery show

After completing our high-fidelity prototypes, the time came to show them off and get feedback. To do so, our entire class came together to throw Off The Wall: Exploring the Intersection Between Graffiti and Street Art, a one-night gallery event showcasing the semester's worth of design research work. The show was a great success, attracting over 100 designers, journalists, artists of all formats, lawyers and curators. All three artifacts were a great success. Street artists and graffiti writers loved utilizing the pantograph, we were approached by a copyright lawyer regarding mass production of the Guide to Copyrighting, and many artists agreed that, should StreetMeet become a reality, they would sign up for it immediately.

the pantograph - a tool for scaling

the street artists' guide to copyrighting - a tool for protecting