Taking on the city's complaints in a street-front, open-door design shop.


Bureau of Doing Something About It: Propeller Gallery

Exhibition × Naming × Visual Identity × Community Engagement × Print

Role: Creative Director
Studio: Bruce Mau Design

In 2010, the Toronto Complaints Choir collected over 1000 grievances, gripes, and annoyances from people across the city. The choir transformed these troubles into a siren song for the disenchanted.

The team was drawn to this concept, as it's an idea filled with huge opportunity. As designers, problem-solvers, and optimists, a complaint is a wish that things could be better. 

When the Propeller Centre for the Arts invited our team to put on an exhibition in their street-level gallery, we wanted to do something interactive that engaged the city of Toronto. We used the space to take on the complaints that we hoped we could help solve.

Over the course of twelve days, we invited the public to visit our pop-up studio to inquire, collaborate, ponder, and generally meddle in whatever way they liked. Our creative team worked in the gallery to research, ideate, and prototype design solutions to a variety of the city's complaints.

More than anything, the project created a message of empowerment. The invitational, open-source environment demonstrated that anyone can question the way things are and that anyone can work to make things better.

Democratizing the power of design was perhaps our most meaningful solution.
The process and outputs of the project were collected into a book, outlining the process and sharing a set of nine design tools that anyone can use to take on tough challenges.