We’re a civic design studio based in New Orleans that works to make cities more comfortable for people.

Founded by Candy Chang and James A. Reeves in 2010, Civic Center blends art, design, education, research, and urban planning to create spaces and tools that help people navigate their cities and improve their neighborhoods. We believe that public spaces should inspire conversation, make the machinery of the city more accessible, and restore a sense of dignity to the public realm.

We tell stories. Cities are full of people and stories. We ask questions and start public conversations. We promote participation of large audiences through thoughtful design.

We make the city easier to use. Our neighborhoods are complex systems, and government interaction can be downright intimidating. We develop tools to help people navigate bureaucracy, and we illustrate how laws, regulations, taxes, and delivery systems affect all of us. We also show how alternative systems might work better.

We help communities solve hard problems. Engaged citizens are an invaluable resource. We empower people with new information and original studies that help communities organize, make decisions, and influence their leaders. We conduct research, forecast economic scenarios, and develop analytical methods to improve the understanding of complex challenges faced by our communities.

We make tools for working together. Citizens can make a greater impact when they collaborate. We create web applications and design products that improve the quality of group communication and build trust among partners.

We teach. We develop curricula and teaching materials, conduct workshops, and give talks about making cities more comfortable for people. We like to teach courses in design, cities, and history, and we work with academic institutions, public schools, community organizations, and local government.

Candy Chang is a public installation artist and designer working to redefine the ways we use public space to improve our neighborhoods and our personal well-being. She’s a 2011 TED Senior Fellow and a 2011 Tulane University/Rockefeller Foundation Urban Innovation Fellow. She holds a B.S. in Architecture, a B.F.A. in Graphic Design, and a Master’s degree in Urban Planning from Columbia University. She was an art director at The New York Times and a design researcher at Nokia, and she has collaborated with community organizations on urban design projects in New York, Nairobi, Vancouver, New Orleans, Johannesburg, and Fairbanks. Her work has been exhibited at the National Design Museum, Koltsovo International Airport, and many humble sidewalks. She believes that one of the greatest things in life is spending time in public places with the people you love. She also believes that the design of these spaces can better reflect what’s important to us as residents and as human beings.

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James A. Reeves is a writer, educator, and designer. He attended the University of Michigan, Pratt Institute, and Tulane Law School. He has taught courses in design, research, history, and visual culture at Pratt Institute and Parsons School of Design, and he established several successful design programs for K-12 students in Brooklyn. In 2001, he co-founded Red Antenna, a creative studio in New York City. His first book, The Road to Somewhere: An American Memoir, will be published by W. W. Norton in August 2011. He lives in New Orleans.

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Kristina Kassem is a multidisciplinary artist and designer with degrees in Fine Art and Epistemology from the University of Michigan. In Michigan, Kristina worked as a welding and metals assistant as well as organized summer youth art programs. Upon arriving in New Orleans, she worked with the VOODOO Music Experience’s Art Department. She can be found volunteering at local shelters and playing any piano she stumbles upon. Kristina is also a devoted vegetarian, animal rights activist, and metalhead.

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Alan Joseph Williams is an urban planner, and has been involved in New Orleans’s recovery process since 2005. Consulting for both the public and private sector, Alan has advised numerous stakeholders on the changing economic, demographic, and policy conditions in the region. He has worked professionally to advance master plans, urban improvement districts, workforce development education, and clean-energy financing programs. In addition to his work with Civic Center, Alan supports Reboot, a service-delivery design consultancy. Alan also likes advocating for better transit, teaching art to high schoolers, and swimming.

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Ron Morrison is a research coordinator and print artist. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and graduated with degrees in Psychology and Gender Studies. For the past two years he has been working at Hagar’s House, a transitional home for women and children. There he has been creating popular education pedagogies sharing radical gender and race based theory with staff and residents. He believes that people should have full participatory access to shaping their cities and communities and seeks to utilize information design as a medium for sharing available resources and deconstructing discursive power paradigms. He can often be found playing banjo on his front porch or buried in a book at Fairgrinds Cafe.

Dan Parham is a design strategist and product manager. Dan has worked extensively as an interaction designer, product design strategist, and creative director. He has split his time between New York and Silicon Valley for both Fortune 100 companies and award winning design agencies. Dan’s work has won awards from the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, and the Broadcast Designer’s Association.

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Tee Parham is the lead engineer at Neighborland. He has advised companies on technology matters for over ten years. He has led numerous software development efforts on a variety of platforms and managed a consulting business since 2002. Tee has worked with companies such as Nester Hosiery, Cloud Automation, and Equifax. Tee has a M.S. in Operations Research from the University of Tennessee. He lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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Chris Palmatier writes application code and does UI/interaction design and front end development, as well as visual design. He also (occasionally) designs furniture.

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Erica is interested in studying architecture. She enjoys building houses on Sims 3 as well as sketching plans for ideas on how the ideal house should look. She’s working at Civic Center to improve her knowledge of architecture and graphic design, and she plans to take photos of the different types of building styles throughout New Orleans.

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