03 Aug Member Spotlight: Crisy Meschieri, Designer – Illustrator – Advocate
Our own Southern Region Associate Rep has a project to boast about, so we decided to feature her in our August Member Spotlight. We’ve known Crisy Meschieri as a great artist advocate, and as our Southern Region Associate Rep in Huntsville, AL, Meschieri runs the Designers Corner virtual meetup. She’s also advocated for the CASE Act, meeting with Senatorial staff to convince them of the need for a small copyright claims court. But it wasn’t until Huntsville, AL revealed their new transit system branding that we realized what a great designer she is as well.
Meschieri had already been working on projects for the city. She had recently completed a couple of vehicle wraps – one to advertise the Huntsville visitor’s center, and one of a police car to assist the police department in their recruitment efforts. Since the transit rebranding would involve vehicle wraps, and since Meschieri had a good working relationship with the agency, the Huntsville Transit Department asked her to submit a response to their Request for Proposals on redesigning the entire transit system.
Based on previous branding and vehicle wrap experience, she felt that the RFP was a bit ambitious, with too short a time frame for completion of what she knew would be an involved project. She proposed an alternate timeline to allow all elements of the project to receive ample time for completion and revisions. To ensure she was meeting best practices and pricing the scope of the project appropriately, she referred to the Guild Handbook.
The original bus and paratransit branding.
The RFP requested rebranding the public bus system and the accessible paratransit system, which gave special meaning to her. Meschieri’s father had been wheelchair-bound, so she knows from personal experience how vital accessible transit systems are. To her delight, she was awarded the proposal.
Huntsville (aka Rocket City) is the location of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the US Space and Rocket Center. To play off the aerospace connection, the transit system was initially named “The Shuttle,” causing ongoing confusion as visitors (and residents) assumed the buses functioned as one- or two-stop shuttle buses rather than being part of a comprehensive multi-stop transit system. Overall, the design was dated and visually uncompelling. The paratransit system also used an outdated name, “Handi-Ride,” that no longer meshed with accessible culture and advocacy. Even the transit map/brochure— a massive document that was hard to unfold when on the bus— was unwieldy.
The rebranding project included renaming the transit system, creating logos, branding guidelines, and a color ID system. The new identity needed to be distinct to Huntsville, contemporary, and recognizable. It also needed to be fully accessible to people with color blindness and visual impairment. To meet those needs, Meschieri researched accessible design and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements for signage. To assist her, the Huntsville Transit Department supplied Meschieri with the results of a sizeable public study they had recently conducted. That gave her a lot of insight into how people perceived and used the public transit systems.
After conducting her research, Meschieri submitted three ideas to the team for the transit system logo, including new names, and a survey she had conducted of competitors to the transit system. The designs were distinct from one to another: One based on the space connection, one playing off the idea of movement with the words “swift” and “dash,” and one refreshed the existing identity. To demonstrate the proposed designs, she created cutouts of the buses to show the comprehensive strategy of the designs. The space-based approach was the one that was selected: Orbit for the public buses (implying a full, cyclical, repeating trip), and Access for the paratransit system (with a shooting star incorporated into the logotype).
The new names and identities were applied to bus wraps, signs, brochures for both systems, monthly passes, and even tickets (an add-on to the original scope of the project). Meschieri described the design process as an excellent collaboration with the Transit Department team. For example, The Transit Department Team provided insights for the naming process and how to combine elements of the three directions while Meschieri combined them into one design. (The overall process took a lot longer than the original RFP assumed— 1 ½ years instead of 3 months!)
The transit system she designed was launched mid-July at a press conference attended by the mayor. Seeing her designs revealed to the press and public was an experience Meschieri found both exciting and humbling, and so far, the rebranding has been very well received. The bright, distinctive buses and new signage stand out, prompting a few people to divulge that they didn’t realize Huntsville had a transit system.
Takeaways from the project:
- Learn as much as you can about the topic in order to be able to provide informed design decisions.
- Give time to brainstorm — first ideas aren’t the best.
- Be open to your client “Frankensteining” ideas — try their suggestions, and integrate what they’re trying to convey.
- Assume the project will take a lot longer — and make sure not to blame the client.
Crisy Meschieri is a designer and illustrator living in Huntsville, AL with her “rocket scientist” (stress engineer) husband. She obtained her training at George Mason University with BFA in Art and Visual Technology. She intended to get a Master’s degree in art education; however, a dream job as a graphic designer for the Discovery network fell into her lap after an AIGA portfolio review at George Mason University. She decided to stop pursuing her Master’s degree and instead signed on to work as a graphic designer for the in-house agency at Discovery, collaborating with several networks and departments within the company. After relocating to Huntsville, she began freelancing full-time and has been doing so for over 6 years. She has collaborated with clients, including the Washington Post, NPR, the US Chamber of Commerce, Johns Hopkins University, Altmetric, High Brew Coffee, and Chameleon Cold Brew.
All photos © Crisy Meschieri. Used with permission.