Dimeji Onafuwa is the Portland Exhibit Designer of Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy, Reframed and Exhibited. He also serves as the Communications Designer for the national exhibit and his company designed the book Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists by Valaida Fullwood and Charles W. Thomas, Jr. He sat down with us to share some of the inspiration and stories behind the design of the exhibit.
Our goal when designing Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy, Reframed and Exhibited was for people to see themselves as givers by not just visiting the exhibit but interacting with it. We did this by integrating specific design elements:
Monochromatic Color Scheme: All of the pieces of the show are black, silver and white. We did this so people could understand the message beyond the design. We did not want the design to distract people from the pictures and stories.
Chandeliers: We designed these to represent a cloud of witnesses that testify about the importance of giving in communities. It is also an opportunity for visitors to walk among givers as a way of understanding their stories.
Quotes, pillars, and floor vinyl: The whole library is a part of the exhibit. We wanted people to be surrounded by quotes, imagery, and elements of the exhibit.
Free Standing Narratives: These are designed to be life size stories, the same height as people, so you can be amid the storytellers as you read their stories.
Why I Give Chalkboard: This is my favorite part of the exhibit. It allows everyone to participate and serves as a microcosm of community by showing how we are all working together to support others to achieve their goals.
These elements allow each person to experience the exhibit differently. Although the design is important and powerful, to me the most important part of the exhibit are the stories. By telling stories within our communities, especially within communities of color, we have the opportunity to highlight counter narratives. This change will have a national impact.
Please enjoy the exhibit and continue to tell your stories.