Q and A, Pedro Mendes, Associate Partner, Pentagram

1. Can you briefly explain the philosophy behind how Pentagram approached designing the identity for Grace Farms?

When we started working with Grace Farms, we understood that our design needed to reflect a deep understanding of the brand’s vision, identity, and goals. Grace Farms is a place for people to experience nature, foster community, pursue social justice, and explore the connections between art and humanities, immersed in a beautiful landscape. The identity takes visual cues from the delicate architecture of the River building and the organization’s mission. The mark is set in a contemporary customized typeface, with a structure that brings together sinuous curving letterforms and tailored typography that creates a connection to the natural environment and evokes openness, approachability, and of course, grace.

2. What did you learn from that experience that your team is now using as you work on the Peace Forest and Common Good exhibitions?

The Grace Farms identity is delicate, honest, and balanced, bringing together natural materials with warm tones that are activated by the subtle use of contrasting colors or innovative design solutions. While each exhibition is treated differently, they are both rooted in Grace Farms’ core brand, vision, and goals.

The Peace Forest exhibition is a celebration of Grace Farms, the River building, its landscape, and the whole community. In our design process, all the components were carefully considered to bring all these elements together in a harmonious and meaningful way. The tree pedestals designed by Shohei Yoshida and Peter Miller, create a direct reference to the landscape, while the glass applied on top of it and in the map reference the transparent nature of the river building facade. A layered glass application resembles the building roof floating above the landscape casting soft shadows on the ground surface and also evokes the notion of Grace Farms bringing people together through their programs and initiatives. The exhibition design utilizes natural materials such as salvaged wood from the Grace Farms site, metal and glass sourced from a fair supplier, and fabric panels created from the same sustainably and fairly sourced cotton utilized on the Design for Freedom face masks. 

The Common Good exhibition is a celebration of the Design for Freedom initiative, combined with the work done by all the involved parts during the Covid pandemic when producing and distributing PPE and supporting communities and institutions across the country. Similar to the other exhibition, each design element was carefully considered, but in this case, the content and messaging displayed needed to be treated differently, allowing it to become the hero of the exhibition to positively inspire others to do good. The space layout dedicates individual sections to specific types of content, and a thread installation created by Mass design placed in the center of the room connects all pieces. Like the Peace Forest, our design for the Common Good exhibition utilizes natural materials such FSC certified wood and fabric panels created from the same sustainably and fairly sourced cotton used on the Design for Freedom face masks. Due to the nature of this exhibition and its space, all the panels and displays are modular and can be interchanged at any time, making it incredibly flexible and interactive.

In both cases, we utilized a layered approach where we combined materials, depth, scale, passive and active elements to create engaging spaces where each part plays an important role without competing with each other. The visitors are invited to explore and interact with the exhibitions, discovering subtle details along their journey, just like Grace Farms.

3. In your opinion, how do these projects support the mission of Design for Freedom (eradicating forced labor from the built environment)?

I believe that we have the power to create solutions for existing problems if we engage in meaningful conversations around these subjects. Design for Freedom has a noble mission to solve systemic issues in many industries and production or supply chains. These projects expose more people to the initiative, its mission, and its impact, while showing people that change is possible and united, we can take action and make a difference for the common good.

4. How has your understanding of forced labor changed or expanded because of Pentagram’s relationship with Grace Farms?

I was already familiar with this subject, but the depth of my knowledge was not as extensive as it is now. Unfortunately, this is a reality that most people don’t think about regularly because the information is not always available or easy to find, and in some instances, it is practically impossible to trace a product back to its source or have accurate information about it. Grace Farms and the team helped to shine some light on the existing issues and potential solutions to solve them, making us all more aware of our role in this subject.

5. Lastly, how can colleagues in your field and other design firms support this important mission?

I believe that we should all support this mission by making conscious decisions regarding which materials we use, how they are created and where they come from. If we all start using sustainably sourced and free of forced labor materials, most suppliers will embrace this change and start adopting a more fair supply chain structure. Sharing knowledge is also very important to make the transition from an exception to the norm, and we should all share what we support and believe in. I also believe that individuals shine through collaboration and interaction with others. If other designers or design companies have ideas or projects that could have an impact on this mission or the overall subject, they should share them, partner up, or start their endeavors for common good.