Keep Running is a call to action for communities to develop an understanding of safety and risk in our city and an opportunity for audiences to consider their own lived experience and/or to develop understanding and empathy.
Image: Brett Brown Studio
Commissioned by the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) as part of the off-site exhibition program for Who’s Afraid of Public Space?, Keep Running draws on data collected by XYX Lab’s online mapping project YourGround (2021). This earlier project allowed women and gender-diverse people to share their perceptions of safety during exercise and recreation in public space via anonymous geolocation on an interactive map. Importantly, YourGround encouraged participants to describe their experience in their own words, revealing the powerful human stories that lie beneath statistics. As XYX Lab notes, this approach is “key to understanding women and gender-diverse people’s nuanced and frequently problematic engagement with public space.”
For Keep Running, the XYX Lab team carefully selected a range of YourGround submissions that reflected common experiences of multiple women and gender diverse people while navigating Victoria's public spaces. Designed by the head of department (design), Associate Professor Gene Bawden, each poster in the series includes the participant’s entire entry in bold, easily legible type. The central geometric form, however, is constructed with key words extracted from the submission and rendered in a custom typeface.
Bawden explains: “The typeface is drawn from the visual language of data – bar graphs and pie charts – elements traditionally used to make statistics more visible and immediately understood in reports. In the context of Keep Running, they overlap and intersect as an amalgam of data visualisations that concurrently reveal the key point of the participant’s story. The data represented in the poster is no longer detached from human experience but enmeshed within it, as it is in real life.”
Although the title of the project is taken from one participant’s story, it is a shared response to situations in which people feel unsafe, situations where running away is the only option to escape danger. It also subtly references a social and political notion that placing the onus on women and gender-diverse people to alter their behaviour is not a solution to the lack of safety and gender-based violence. Rather, as XYX Lab stresses, public safety is a shared responsibility that should concern us all.
Image: Brett Brown Studio
A single, polished A0 poster was fixed to hoarding within ACCA’s Project Space, linking the carefully curated internal spaces of the gallery with the dynamic, unstructured exterior of the city. Responding to particular sites, XYX Lab installed the posters and digital billboards within the physical localities the stories were drawn from. The sites were carefully chosen: alleys, laneways and underpasses – familiar locations that induce fear, whether perceived or real. Set among other paste ups – including festival posters, alcohol promotions and women’s apparel advertisements – Keep Running established a provocative and site-specific dialogue, prompting a collective reading of the environment.
Image: Adam R Thomas
The project culminated with Make Inclusive: Public Spaces with Monash University XYX Lab, a workshop held at ACCA as part of Melbourne Design Week 2022. Open to the public, the event drew a unique audience of architects, landscape architects, journalism students and criminology academics. Everyone participated in a speculative rendering of how they might collaboratively address the issues relative to each of the stories and statistics located on the main exhibition poster.
The resounding impact of Keep Running was acknowledged at the AGDA Design Awards 2022, where it was awarded a Pinnacle – the highest recognition in Australian graphic design. Print category juror, Emilio Roccioletti, labelled the project “a triumph [that] captures the true purpose of engaging design, whilst communicating the important issue of unsafe spaces for women and gender diverse people in urban areas of Melbourne.”
The success of Keep Running reflects XYX Lab’s commitment to translating their research in gendered spatial inequality into real world projects. It quite literally takes to the streets – activating the sites and surfaces of the city to amplify the voices of those who often go unheard. In doing so, it invites us to reflect on own lived experience and question how we might collectively create a more equitable urban life.
- Victorian Premier's Design Awards for Communication Design for ‘Keep Running’ Finalist
- Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA) Awards: Pinnacle – Print Design
- Design Institute of Australia (DIA) Awards: Award of Merit – Interact Category