Paula Scher, a distinguished alumni of Tyler and a pivotal figure at Pentagram, is celebrated for her intricate typographic map paintings that not only depict geographical locations but also embody her personal interpretations and social commentary. The ‘Philadelphia Explained’ project allowed me, along with my peers, to contribute to this narrative, offering our own insights and perceptions of the city we know so well.

As part of Tyler’s Distinguished Alumni Mentorship Program, Scher collaborated with over 150 participants, including myself, to piece together this vast artistic expression. Each of us was given a segment of Philadelphia to detail under Scher’s overarching vision, blending individual creativity with her iconic style. The project was not just about painting; it was about capturing the essence of Philadelphia through a collective lens, making the city’s complexities and nuances come alive on the gallery’s walls and floor.

The process was as educational as it was inspiring. Scher’s team at Pentagram meticulously vectorized her initial black-and-white painting of the area, setting the stage for our contributions. We, the students, were guided by specific guidelines on the scale and style of our strokes and lettering, ensuring a cohesive yet varied depiction of the city. The collaboration was not just a lesson in design but in synchronization and collective effort, with each brushstroke adding to a larger, shared vision.

The final piece was a sprawling, vibrant representation of Philadelphia that stretched across the 2,100 square-foot gallery. While geographically imprecise, the map pulsed with the personal experiences and interpretations of its creators, offering a textured, layered understanding of the city beyond mere landmarks and roads.

This collaboration with Paula Scher was more than an academic exercise; it was a profound intersection of learning and doing, of absorbing from a master and contributing to a masterpiece. The ‘Philadelphia Explained’ installation stands as a testament to the power of collective creativity and a deep, shared connection to our environment. As a participant, I found the experience immensely enriching, broadening my understanding of design and collaboration, and deepening my relationship with the city itself.

‘Philadelphia Explained’ was not just an artistic endeavor; it was a dialogue—a visual conversation among students, a renowned designer, and the city itself. It was an honor to be part of such an innovative project and to leave my mark on a piece of art that so vibrantly celebrates the spirit of Philadelphia.