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NYC Census 2020 on LinkNYC

Contributed by H James Lucas on Oct 13th, 2020. Artwork published in
September 2020
.
    A LinkNYC kiosk with messaging in English
    Photo: H James Lucas. License: Public Domain.

    A LinkNYC kiosk with messaging in English

    NYC Census 2020 is a temporary agency within the New York City Mayor’s office dedicated to ensuring a fair and accurate count of everyone living in the five boroughs. The U.S. Census routinely undercounts Black and immigrant communities, especially when those communities have a disproportionate number of members living in homes without a legal address (such as a basement apartment), so in 2019, NYC Census 2020 and numerous partner organizations made extensive plans for in-person outreach to these “Hard-To-Count” communities. The need for social distancing in the wake of COVID-19’s spread forced a reorientation from in-person outreach to messaging in the form of web ads, sharable social media content, television spots, in-business posters, and outdoor ads.

    A LinkNYC kiosk with messaging in Spanish
    Photo: H James Lucas. License: Public Domain.

    A LinkNYC kiosk with messaging in Spanish

    One such channel was LinkNYC, a system of hundreds of sidewalk kiosks across all boroughs that display news, history facts, and advertisements (and provide free wi-fi and charging). The campaign for these 15-second spots needed to be bold and direct, imparting vital information to passersby. The type needed to convey urgency without wholly departing from governmental propriety. Designer H James Lucas selected Bild, a typeface still under development by David Jonathan Ross. Bild’s Black Compressed face was released through Ross’s Font of the Month Club in 2017, and the range of widths was expanded in 2019. But it was the introduction of new weights in the June 2020 club release that gave the family the range the campaign required.

    David was a generous partner in the project, providing a font for Condensed Light and later updating it (overnight!) to include the diacritics needed for Spanish and Haitian Creole versions. He also initiated the process of finding suitable Devanagari and Bengali counterparts, a process which led to the selection of Indian Type Foundry’s Akhand.

    Many of the neighborhoods targeted by the LinkNYC messaging showed promising upticks in self-response, so the campaign was adapted for large-scale projection in Manhattan and neighborhood-specific web banners reaching New Yorkers across all boroughs.

    A LinkNYC kiosk with messaging in Nepali
    Photo: H James Lucas. License: Public Domain.

    A LinkNYC kiosk with messaging in Nepali

    A LinkNYC kiosk with messaging in Bengali
    License: Public Domain.

    A LinkNYC kiosk with messaging in Bengali

    A LinkNYC kiosk illustrates the current response rate of the Morningside Heights neighborhood
    Photo: H James Lucas. License: Public Domain.

    A LinkNYC kiosk illustrates the current response rate of the Morningside Heights neighborhood

    Projection onto a building at Bowery and Houston
    License: Public Domain.

    Projection onto a building at Bowery and Houston

    Two of hundreds of neighborhood-specific web ads
    Photo: H James Lucas. License: Public Domain.

    Two of hundreds of neighborhood-specific web ads

    NYC Census 2020 on LinkNYC 8
    Photo: H James Lucas. License: Public Domain.

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