Brick X Brick

BrickXBrick.Co started as a senior thesis project for my B.F.A. in Graphic Design at Bowling Green State University. Believe it or not, my project began as an entirely digital investigation into software glitches. I had a certain philosophical fascination with the visual artifacts created by systems that breakdown. It took me quite a while of blundering through the project and a lot of hours messing with the data files of audio and video imagery before I realized that the metaphor was my real attraction, and that the artifacts created by digital systems in a state of flux were kind of the icing on the cake.

In this method of thinking I found the basic building blocks of my thesis. I saw around me a world filled with what felt like categorical inaccuracies built into the apparently solid foundations of culture which were determining laws, governance, corporate rights, legal rights, human rights, the list goes on. We have no efficient or elegant debugging procedures for these lines of code.

I became frustrated that many of our old errors have resulted in many current negative effects. Looking around my own city I saw the latent impacts of redlining, insurance negligence, economic downturn and poor city planning. The result of these challenges has left many areas of my city down trodden and suffering from blight and a general malaise. I wondered how I could take part in altering these issues by leveraging design as a front line change agent capable of moving something from it’s current state to it’s desired state.

I engaged with Yusuf Lateef, a Masters student at BGSU, and Asst. Professor Jenn Stucker to help form my initial inquiries into addressing our city. These investigations led me to connect with The Arts Commission of Toledo, Americorp, AIGA Toledo for whom I am a board member, and a local neighborhood collective known as The Old West End Neighborhood Initiatives (OWENI). The result of this investigation moved my work from the pixel by pixel based investigation into the environment of systems error into the brick by brick reality. By chasing the magic of momentum I found myself crawling through demolished sites and collapsing buildings to connect with the most basic building blocks of a society, our homes. As a way of leveraging my talents to support the hard work taking place by community foundations I formed a business creating limited edition runs of design artifacts sold to raise funding in support of community initiatives in need of attention, appreciation, and funding.


“Brick X Brick aims to recontextualize the way we look at blight ownership and transform yesteryears failings into todays prosperity. Our bricks come from the foundations of locales affected by blight, often homes or buildings that are condemned or marked for demolition. The condition of these bricks varies greatly and each piece is a unique and beautiful object with it’s own history. We work to retain the natural patina while cleaning followed by two coats of nontoxic weatherproof white on a single side to heighten edition engraving. Any item sourced from the rough and tumble wild of suburban and urban sprawl comes with an unknown history. We’ve completely encased every brick with a clear coat for clarity and to increase safety. This process ensures that no matter the history of any of our bricks, our products have an added level of protection through encasement. Once securely sealed, the bricks are backed with cork board to protect delicate surfaces in your home. Each engraving highlights the zip code of the original locale and connects us back to a very human story of habitation, ownership and history.

The Brick X Brick program serves as a creative entrepreneurship model that leverages low tech solutions, readily available supplies, and a focus on community to transform the impact of blight into an opportunity for resurgence. Your purchase is as much for a natural and beautiful design artifact as it is for this mission. Proceeds from your purchase are returned to community initiatives that seek to strengthen the lives and neighborhoods of those most affected by economic hardship. The reality is that communities don’t truly end with zip codes. Our packaging was created with sustainability in mind. Created by hand and lovingly assembled, our packaging is made from a sturdy and recyclable cardboard screenprinted by hand using nontoxic water-based acrylic inks. Our Interior packaging is hand screenprinted and bound with renewable hemp rope. Our glass votive candle holders are manufactured here in the Glass City by world renown Libbey Glass, a global leader in glass production. A 2-inch succulents of random variety is also included in each kit making your purchase ready to set up the moment it arrives.

The solution to blight is complicated, and I believe this cuts to the core of why Brick X Brick exists. Simply removing blight materials is not going to alter the scenarios responsible for their original creation. Focusing our efforts on changing the lives of those who make up communities for the better in order to establish a more stable, safer, and more compassionate world can lead to healthy, educated, engaged individuals. Knocking down dangerous buildings is a step towards improvement, but the actions of hardworking community members are what will ultimately alter the lives of youth, neighbors, and subsequently city policy. Brick X Brick is building foundations in support of these leaders.”

For me constructing the narrative of a project, branding the visuals, and launching both products and digital presence is a given. I love doing this work and I’m extremely proud that my work was able to find a way to benefit our community.

The initial run of Brick X Brick is sold out. This amounts to $1500.00 in donation returning to community groups who work to build programming addressing youth, blight, and neighborhood resiliency. Subsequent editions would put the operation into the black around the fifth run.

Thanks to the thoughtful leadership and guidance of ACT members Michelle Carlson, Ryan Bunch, Marc Folk, Americorps member Lindsay Akens, the open invitation from OWENI leadership, the collaboration between myself and Handmade Toledo for workspace, AIGA Toledo, Jenn Stucker, Yusuf Lateef, and many more, I’ve been able to activate design thinking and skill execution to benefit our world. It starts here, with us, brick by brick. We need you out here.