Client, Year

Baltimore Museum of Industry, 
2023

Services

Logo
Exhibition
Interpretive Graphics

Photography

Vivian Marie Doering

Food for Thought

Honoring the heroism of food service workers

“Food for Thought” was a groundbreaking exhibit that recognized heroes who otherwise go unnoticed—those who prepare and distribute over 88,000 meals each day to ensure Baltimore City Public School (BCPS) students don’t go hungry. Ashton worked with the Baltimore Museum of Industry to design an immersive experience that elevated these workers to the level of recognition they deserved.

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Using cafeteria furniture in unexpected ways created a sense of nostalgia within the exhibit’s school-based environment. The melamine chairs, sourced from BCPS’s surplus supply, were handpicked to create the color palette; elsewhere, a traditional folding table filled in as a text panel.

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The goal was to increase the visibility of those doing important work who too often remain out of sight. The individual portraits made each subject look and feel like a superhero, while accompanying audio recordings allowed them to share their story in their own voice. As each person’s interview played in the space, the gallery spotlit that speaker’s portrait.

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Data graphics accompanying each portrait complemented the chair-based color palette. Topics covered included school nutrition, students’ favorite school meals, and food insecurity in Baltimore.

The visual system’s adherence to geometric forms, simplified color palette, and function-as-design sensibility amounted to a style we liked to call “Educational Bauhaus.”  

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An interactive area encouraged both children and adults to engage with the subject of school meals and nutrition. Two tables introduced tactile elements typically found in primary schools: a chalkboard table asked visitors to “draw your favorite school food memory,” while a felt-covered table prompted them to “create a balanced meal on the plate.”

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At a third table, people were asked to write thank-you notes to food service workers; the resulting messages were displayed nearby.

By making the personal feel heroic, and the heroic feel personal, we reminded each visitor that individual efforts can positively impact all of us.

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