What do you get if you cross criminal justice reform with Six Flags?
Unexpected collaborations may yield unexpected opportunities.
MFA Products of Design, School of Visual Arts
Guidance from Allan Chochinov
Unseal is founded on the premise that progress relies on cooperation and transparency in and between industries and communities. Rather than associate progress with sacrifice, Unseal suggests that interdisciplinary collaboration would create opportunities to align business and organizational objectives with the common good.
The brochure for the event begins to build out the vision: what organizations would take part, how they might be grouped, and therefore, what kind of solutions they could come up with. For example, maybe if the Harvard Negotiation Project, Corrections Officers USA, and Seekers Unlimited (an Edu-LARPing company) united, they could create an immersive training program for corrections officers to teach the conflict de-escalation and resolution skills that are currently lacking.
Unseal calls upon all industries to come together to share expertise in service of solutions, not only for criminal justice reform, but across many verticals, combating income inequality, destigmatizing mental illness, responding to the growing elderly population, etc.
Based on the TED model, Unseal pursues its mission by facilitating intensive, interdisciplinary summits. I envisioned Cross Cut, a conference that would bring together representatives of all sorts—corporations, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, advocacy groups, and experts—to open dialogue and come up with new ways to address criminal justice reform.
It started with a freshness seal peeled off a yogurt container.
Unseal came about during a first-semester MFA assignment to redesign the next thing you throw away. In my case, the discarded object was a freshness seal peeled off a yogurt container. As I started sketching, I became intrigued by the message that these seals convey. Ostensibly, freshness seals signal food preservation and safety (or at least a lack of tampering), and yet as I considered where we encounter them, I found a contradicting interpretation: You don’t find freshness seals on homemade jam you buy at the farmer’s market. You find them on products that have traveled a long way and have passed through many hands to get to you. So actually, you could read a freshness seal as a symbol of distance and an unknown journey. Using the seal as a metaphor, I started to think about the way that silo mentality and lack of transparency may actually make environments less safe and productive.
I explored this theme by considering one of the United States’ least transparent systems: the criminal justice system. The United States has the largest prison population in the world, and has a much higher incarceration rate than other Western countries. The criminal justice system—from law enforcement to courts to corrections—is fraught with problems, such as systemic racism, disproportionate sentencing, and failure to rehabilitate inmates. These problems are exacerbated by lack of resources and counterproductive incentive structures, resulting in incoherent and inequitable carriage of justice and our current state of mass incarceration.
As I continued to learn about the many facets of the criminal justice system, I imagined strategic partnerships between criminal justice reform groups and companies such as Six Flags or Oculus. I built out these hypothetical partnerships by creating press releases and business model canvases based on the products at the intersections. This exercise revealed the possibilities that emerge when you create unconventional partnerships.
I also created designs for two apps—one for good, one for evil. The good app seeks to teach children about the functions and failings of the system by way of interactive, guided role play. The evil app, "PrisInvest" is a commentary on the problematic incentive structures created by prison privatization.