YOU MADE HISTORY 

is the permanent installation of over 400,000 names of people who helped make health care reform a success. Thanks to the tireless acts of many, 10 million people gained health coverage in the first annual open enrollment period of 2014. My involvement with health care reform began at Organizing for Action, and started to grow as the number of enrollees continued to soar. I was tasked to plan, design and execute a dynamic permanent record to commemorate this historic moment.

WHAT I KNEW

The installation would be housed at OFA headquarters in Chicago, every name needed to be represented in some fashion, and visitors would have to be able to search for their own name. 

QUESTIONS I HAD

Is this going to be a digital installation?
How much space do I have to work with?
What is the proposed budget?
How many names did you say?!

IDEATION

To visualize the scale of this project, I needed to brainstorm with my coworkers for potential directions. We pulled inspiration from existing installations, and considered how they could relate to our scenario:

  • Many small objects (like thumb tacks) that would symbolically represent each person
  • Map the data geographically, and have the names be secondary information
  • An art piece representing the accomplishment using suspension, projection or another medium
  • A narrow wall with scrolling marquees of names. Guests type in their name to see it scroll across
     

THE SOLUTION

From the start, we wanted to beautifully portray the magnitude this historical moment had on our country. What better place to store moments in history than a library? Libraries have books, and we had tons of names to fill them with. Would the books be on shelves? Would they be different sizes? How many names would fit in each book?  

With a better sense of the direction, I decided mounting different-sized books on the wall in a unique grid would be the most visually appealing. Basing the books off of Field Notes notebooks, I planned to have 48 pocket-sized books, and 28 nearly twice the size with 100 pages each. After checking the math, I knew I could fit 400,000+ names in these 76 books.

Initial sketches / planning

Initial sketches / planning

The proposed space for the library nook and installation

The proposed space for the library nook and installation

The color palette was chosen to match existing walls in-office, and the desire for sophistication and celebration within the space.

The color palette was chosen to match existing walls in-office, and the desire for sophistication and celebration within the space.

Worthe Numerals from House Industries were chosen to attract attention and give each book its own personality.

Worthe Numerals from House Industries were chosen to attract attention and give each book its own personality.

I ensured enough books would fit horizontally in the space, and limited the vertical space so people could reach every book via step ladder. With a gutter of 1 in. between each book, the final grid mixed the two sizes together nicely, and ended up abstractly looking like the United States (on accident!).

I ensured enough books would fit horizontally in the space, and limited the vertical space so people could reach every book via step ladder. With a gutter of 1 in. between each book, the final grid mixed the two sizes together nicely, and ended up abstractly looking like the United States (on accident!).

THE LIST

With the help of a dozen dedicated interns and staff, we went through an excel file of over 400,000+ names with a fine-toothed comb to make sure all entries were real people. Here's some of our favorites that didn't make the cut:

  • Olivia Newtown-John Wayne
  • Quentin Tarantina Turner
  • Stevie Wonderwoman

DIVIDING AND CONQUERING

Now was the matter of placing all of these names into 76 books of varying sizes. A large-scale data merge in Indesign was the best man for the job. One of our talented developers wrote a life-saving script that randomized the names, while formatting them for the data merge. This same script would be used to direct people to their names later on.

USER INTERFACE

To accomplish the important task of allowing people to search for and find their names, our UX designer and developer worked together to implement the script into a working interface. Guests would be able to type their name into an iPad, and be directed to the exact book and page number their name was in. This relationship allowed for the names to live on forever both digitally and physically.

INSTALLATION

To adhere the books to the wall, we considered magnets, nails, snaps, clips, tape, and velcro. We wanted the installation to be aesthetically pleasing, while still useable to guests. Transparent adhesive clips were the best solution. They allowed for the books to slide in and out, while not being visually intrusive.

To adhere the books to the wall, we considered magnets, nails, snaps, clips, tape, and velcro. We wanted the installation to be aesthetically pleasing, while still useable to guests. Transparent adhesive clips were the best solution. They allowed for the books to slide in and out, while not being visually intrusive.

While the back half of the books sat nicely against the wall, their fronts sprung open due to their saddle-stitch printing. We considered multiple remedies, including getting them reprinted perfect-bound. However, we found that binding them with grommets and string made for a better presentation overall.

While the back half of the books sat nicely against the wall, their fronts sprung open due to their saddle-stitch printing. We considered multiple remedies, including getting them reprinted perfect-bound. However, we found that binding them with grommets and string made for a better presentation overall.

THE BIG REVEAL

OFA hosted a large open house to celebrate both President Obama's birthday, and the success of health care reform. Organizers, volunteers, staff, and local politicians were in attendance. Many guests interacted with the installation, and were overcome with emotion upon finding their name. 

1-victorywall.jpg

SPECIAL THANKS

Design Director: Carly Pearlman
Designers: Nikole Gramm & Tyler Deal
UX designer: Adrianne Hawthorne
Developers: Meagan Evanoff & Jordan Bouvier
Project Managers: Traci Wile & Jonathan Kibort
Photography: Justin Kidd