with Bruce Mau Design
I worked with Bruce Mau Design from 1997-1999 over the course of which I was involved in a broad spectrum of projects: retail branding, identity creation, conceptual projects, and book design. Many of the projects I participated in are featured in Lifestyle; and in addition, from 2000-2001, I helped to complete the design of this book.
Art Director, 2003-2007
Opportunity: Create a visually provocative monthly design magazine supported by a strong, consistent but flexible visual identity; create unique treatments for covers and stories monthly
Challenge: Set industry standards for graphic design on a very low budget, small staff and limited resources on a quickly monthly turnaround cycle
Outcome: Double-digit percentage increase in subscriptions, Print magazine, SPD and AIGA awards for design. “Each and every time she brings the kind of strategic thinking necessary to go beyond what has been asked of her in order to deliver success, Nancy pushes a team to be smarter and think differently, and I relish the chance to work with her again.” (Former Creative Director and colleague, Criswell Lappin)
Learn Anywhere, Learn Everywhere 2010
with IDEO for University of Phoenix at Education Nation
Opportunity: Match thousands of visitors to Education Nation with their best learning styles, and offer opportunities to embody those learning styles.
Solution: Playful interactive kiosk experiences at the Education Nation plaza at Rockefeller Center were amplified by turning New York City into a pop-up school. We created seven classes across New York City based on each of the learning styles and turned iconic city landmarks into open-air classrooms. Activities at each location—such as learning to play chess, orienteer, or debate—were lead by subject matter experts, .
Outcome: Exemplifying UPX’s educational mission, this component demonstrated that learning can happen anywhere, everywhere, and anytime.
Link to video documentation
Harter Furniture 2008-2010
with Pro-Am (now Red Antler)
Opportunity: Develop exciting brand-driven multi-modal campaign experience (trade show exhibitions, sales tools, online presence) for new products
Challenge: Building multi-platform campaigns (showroom), web, social media, print, on tight schedules with a small team
Outcome: Increased sales, and return client business
with Institute of Play
Opportunity: Empower cultural organizations and corporations to address education, engagement, or other organizational challenges with the tools and methods of game design.
Solution: 1, 2, or 3-day workshops that explore the fundamentals of game design, game modifications, and playtesting, and their strategic application to organizational challenges.
Challenges: Helping adult professionals from a variety of backgrounds and a variety of roles within an organization to tap into their own creativity can be challenging. Guiding adults to see themselves as creative thinkers, makers, and doers is catalyzed by a mixture of group games and game-like activities served as critical catalysts.
Outcome: Over two years, we ran multiple workshops with corporations and cultural organizations. Workinng with members of the Chicago HIVE and the MoMA education department resulted in new educational programming and increased participation throughout all educational programs.
Link to video documentation (scroll down page)
MobileQuest CoLab 2013
with Institute of Play
Opportunity: Train middle school teachers in game design to explore opportunities for introducing games and game-like learning into their curriculum.
Solution: MQCL was a hybrid summer camp/professional development program for middle school teachers and middle school students in game design. After a week-long intensive program in game design for classroom integration, educators spent a second week practicing these new tools and strategies in a week-long summer camp for students.
Challenges: Progressive educational techniques—especially game-like learning—can challenge the power dynamic of traditional practices, and require extra supports for educators and partners new to the space. A mixture of conversational techniques and group games broke through those barriers.
Outcome: The program, now known as Teacher Quest, continues four years later with the same funders and partners and has plans to grow.
Link to video documentation (scroll down)
Citizen Bridge 2012-present
Opportunity: Empower New Yorkers in the face of climate change by reconnecting them to their waterways.
Solution: Citizen Bridge invites everyone to experience their local waterways as a new, unexplored frontier. It is a catalyst to reconnect New Yorkers to their waterways, through the monumental act of walking across and standing in the harbor. Citizen Bridge will also provide New Yorkers the network of resources to build their knowledge and skills of the waterways towards a more empowered future.
Challenges: Because of it’s large-scale ambition, Citizen Bridge faces many challenges. A major component of the research and development of the project from its inception has been dedicated to addressing these challenges in the form of design constraints. To date, two legal firms are retained pro bono to address regulatory issues, and two engineering firms are similarly retained to respond to design constraints. $60,000 in funds have been raised by the artist in addition to the in-kind donation of over $100,000 in engineering and legal fees.
Outcome: Though the project has not been fully realized, 7 prototypes have been constructed, many public presentations have been given, and a Phase One Kickstarter campaign successfully waged. These public acts consistently inspire the public imagination as well as other artists and makers to become engaged with the waterways. The project has also resulted in multiple artworks, two seasons of a radio show about the water, as well as New York City’s first water triennial, showcasing water-based works across visual and performing arts disciplines and featuring a conversation series around the social, cultural and political issues of climate change and the waterways as well as a design charette.
Link to Kickstarter campaign video
Commissioned by the American Embassy in Venezuela and Backroom Caracas
Opportunity: -SHIP was commissioned to create a vision of a sustainable future without fear and violence in Caracas Venezuela. Because of the economic and political crisis in Venezuela, public space has become a site of distrust, fear and violence. There is no longer a ‘public sphere’.
Solution: A mobile sports arena to engage crowds of Venezuelans in new versions of their national sport, baseball.
Challenges: Caracas can only support reliable internet connections of about twenty minutes at a time. We also had to overcome cultural differences around language and time. The project had no budget and so donated materials tested our creativity. We had limited work time every day: no electricity or water after 5pm. Luckily, the University was on strike. Instead of 6 students, over 40 showed up. We divided them into teams which greatly expanded our capabilities and process.
Outcome: -SHIP activated 3 main public plazas in Caracas, and gathered crowds of strangers to play baseball. A community participant remarked: “Today I saw something in Caracas that I haven’t seen in a long time: strangers smiling at each other.” A student participant said of the project, ‘I love my city again.’
CB RADIO 2016-present
with Clocktower Radio
CB Radio was inspired by the research, design, and development of Citizen Bridge, a temporary floating bridge to reconnect New Yorkers to their waterways. In order to learn about New York City’s waterways, Nancy Nowacek artist and project founder, engaged the expertise and advice of writers, architects, artists, industrial designers, bridge engineers, as well as the experts and enthusiasts that comprise New York City’s maritime community. From the Harbor School to the Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge, CB Radio—in collaboration with Jake Nussbaum, artist and Clocktower Radio Station Manager—will introduce listeners to the people and ideas that define New York City’s harbor.
Link to episodes, Season 1
KARAOKE ICE (2005-2007)
Opportunity: Create a mobile interface to engage an international art community as well as the trilingual local population of San José, California.
Solution: A karaoke ice cream truck bartering free icy treats for karaoke performances backed by custom ‘tinkle pop’ tracks under broadway stage lights.
Challenges: Much of this project was beyond the scope of our team’s expertise. We partnered with the CADRE program at San Jose State University for technical help building a custom karaoke engine, hired a composer to create context-specific backing tracks (that sound like ice cream truck music) and hired a commedia dell’arte trained performer to excite and transform audience members into performers.
Outcome: Daily crowds of 50-100, and performances by a dazzling range of visitors crossing spectra of racial, ethnic, age, and ability.
Link to video documentation
CREATURES OF HABITAT (2010)
Opportunity: imagine the future of the workplace
Solution: Bury the office! Force new practices and understandings of ‘work’ by leveling the work habitat and hiring temp workers to improvise with the physical tabula rosa.
Challenges: The commission budget was $2100, and was used to pay the hired temporary workers a fair day rate over the course of the biennial. Thus, all the materials—including 60 cases of office paper and 3 tons of playground grade dirt—were returned in full. Other materials were recycled or donated.
Outcome: The installation inspired audience members to share their work stories. Besides inhabiting an office that needed watering every day, temp workers remarked how much more relaxed they were in the atmosphere.
Link to project documentation