Brick X Brick . Co

The Brick X Brick program serves as a creative entrepreneurship model that leverages low tech solutions, readily available supplies, and a focus on community to transform the impact of blight into an opportunity for resurgence. Proceeds from purchases are returned to community initiatives that strengthen the lives of residents and neighborhoods of those most affected by economic hardship. Senior Thesis BGSUGD. Winner Outstanding Senior Student, Community Engagement Award.

Brick X Brick aims to recontextualize the way we look at blight ownership and transform yesteryears failings into todays prosperity. Our bricks come from the foundations of locales affected by blight, often homes or buildings that are condemned or marked for demolition.

The solution to blight is complicated, and I believe this cuts to the core of why Brick X Brick exists. Simply removing blight materials is not going to alter the scenarios responsible for their original creation. Focusing our efforts on changing the lives of those who make up communities for the better in order to establish a more stable, safer, and more compassionate world can lead to healthy, educated, engaged individuals. Knocking down dangerous buildings is a step towards improvement, but the actions of hardworking community members are what will ultimately alter the lives of youth, neighbors, and subsequently city policy. Brick X Brick is building foundations in support of these leaders.

Proceeds from sales of Brick X Brick are donated back to community initiatives from the locales of the original brick in order to facilitate meaningful change through design and community activism.

You can take part in this mission with us by visiting brickxbrick.co

Design is a fundamental change agent.

Design moves something from it’s current state to it’s desired state. This thesis seeks to put that belief into practice. Brick X Brick is a pilot program that takes aim at the malaise associated with Rustbelt decline. Blight is a bitter symptom of failed lending practices, histories of redlining, poor economic prospects, and poor educational standards for specific portions of our highly segregated population in Toledo. This legacy combined with The Great Recession and the failed neoliberal agenda has left those most vulnerable often unable to financially cope.

For the individuals manning the front lines of urban disarray, living next door to blight and fighting to keep youth educated and engaged enough to surpass their circumstances is a constant challenge. A direct influx of creative and financial support to their initiatives would serve to solidify their efforts.

The Brick X Brick program serves as a creative entrepreneurship model that leverages low tech solutions, readily available supplies, and a focus on community to transform the impact of blight into an opportunity for resurgence.
 
Proceeds from purchases are returned to community initiatives that strengthen the lives of residents and neighborhoods of those most affected by economic hardship.
 
Survey & Collaboration 
 
Traversing areas of my city with Yusuf I came across areas that google maps recognizes as drivable roadways when in reality they are overgrown forests. The homes dotting the streets, once beautiful and crafted, are victim to a history of insurance abuse, economic downturn, redlining and a history of white flight. 
Yusuf was a great resource always keeping me on the path of serving the needs of the community. His guidance led me to taking part in meetings with OWENI leadership, who came to serve as a further guide for my work. OWENI is a group of dedicated volunteers serving their neighborhoods through community action. You can read much more about them here. Yusuf and I continue to collaborate and discuss future work to this day involving the same topics.
 
Process: Progress 
 
Believe it or not, this project started as an investigation into glitch and digital spaces. Over time while investigating I came to understand that what I found so wonderful about glitching software and overwhelming circuits was that the moment of exposing a supposedly reliable system as nothing more than a series of complex working agendas was the real draw for me. Capturing an artifact of that proof was like seeing a security photo of a culprit caught red handed, the truth exposed. Ultimately, the purely digital experience wasn't in line with my interests though I'll continue to pursue it in other projects. I loved the inherent power relationship and the perception of reality at play with these moments, but the digital metaphor breaks down for me in the real world where I'm surrounded by the slow burn of latent analog culture errors. There is no reset button for our cities, and due to the long time frame of decline it becomes challenging to view the blight artifacts around us for what they are: the latent impact of an analog system attempting to provide but often breaking down. 
 
At the end of the day, I decided to start working on fixing the glitch. To solve by doing. Pixel x pixel became brick x brick.
 
Pixels as a base unit of expression were replaced by bricks, a base unit of home building and social dwelling. It was not feasible in my artificial thesis timeframe to correct the cultural and legislative wrongs responsible for our circumstances, but I could begin to show a path to the future through forgotten buildings. To recontextualize rubble into ruins, and to reintroduce these narratives to our lives in hopes of continuing the conversation surrounding such circumstances while also providing a gateway to recapture profit and progress, funneling it into the neighborhoods. There are teams of hardworking community members taking action to fight a poverty culture and apathetic mindset. This was a way of leveraging my talents to support their incredible work.
 
 
Stone
 
I had zero experience working in this medium prior to beginning, but that's part of the enjoyment of design for me. Design is medium independent and the process of investigation led me to renting space at Handmade Toledo to start using hand drills and diamond core bits to work the bricks into a functional state for this agenda. I invested a lot of money and time into trial and error, learning about tools and bits along the way. The numbers on the project don't look good from a start up perspective, but after it was all said and done, I could be in the black by the fifth edition even considering I donated 100% of ALL payments from this first edition to our first recipients. I did this because I feel it's important to showcase that yes, this process does work, yes, your involvement with this mission has impact, and yes, we can find the future in forgotten forgotten buildings or impossible circumstances.
 
Packaging
Created by hand and lovingly assembled, our packaging is made from a sturdy and recyclable cardboard screenprinted by hand using nontoxic water-based acrylic inks.
Interior packaging is hand screenprinted and bound with renewable hemp rope. Each glass votive candle holder is manufactured here in the Glass City by world renown Libbey Glass, a global leader in glass production. 
 
A 2-inch succulents of random variety is also included in each kit making every purchase ready to set up the moment it arrives. Ideally the future of Brick X Brick will involve special limited editions of bricks from various locales each lasered to the zip code of origin. Specialty projects involving schools and community groups can also be released in limited edition.
 
Nothing in a Vacuum 
 
This project wouldn't be what it is without the guidance and collaboration of Yusuf Lateef, a Grad Student at BGSU and longtime resident of Toledo, and Jenn Stucker, my design professor and collaborator. Between the three of us a number of interesting projects revolving around design and community narratives have begun to emerge. Jenn has been working hard with the AIGA Toledo board (whom I serve alongside her) to put together a distinct-yet-aligned project of her own. 
In the course of my investigations, I partnered with guidance and thought leadership from a number of helpful sources. Thanks to the thoughtful leadership and guidance of ACT members Michelle Carlson, Ryan Bunch, Marc Folk, Americorps member Lindsay Akens, the open invitation from OWENI leadership, the collaboration between myself and Handmade Toledo for workspace, AIGA Toledo, Jenn Stucker, Yusuf Lateef, BGSUGD, and many more, I’ve been able to activate design thinking and execution to benefit our world.
 
Thank you for looking! 
UPDATE 6-24-16: Educators and a few others have contacted me requesting access to documentation of the project to share as a design for social good case study.
 

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