When Samantha Moore moved from Philadelphia to New York to attend the School of Visual Arts, she experienced a feeling she’d never really anticipated. Little frustrations–an inexplicable 10-minute delay on the subway, someone winning a cab over her, a million little invasions of personal space–began to take their toll. They didn’t seem like coincidences. Together, they began to feel like the city was out to get her personally.
New Yorkers know the feeling well. It’s the classic buildup of stress that pushes many to their breaking points. But Moore decided to channel her stress into something that could help her fellow city-dwellers. For her SVA graduate student thesis, she created a line of “interventions” that aim to ease the friction of living in a city packed with 8.4 million people.
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Moore decided to target frustrations on the C train, one of the most infamously stinky and uncomfortable lines in the city. On one trip, she and fellow design students unfurled a banner in the center of the train detailing the above-ground scenery they were passing several leagues below. The idea, Moore says, was to allow people to connect with the city, even if it wasn’t visible in real life.
“When we go on trips, road trips for example, the entire point is the journey. I found that to be missing on the subway ride,” Moore says. “I started thinking about how you can put the journey back into the experience.”
By making the ride less something to be endured and more to be enjoyed, Moore found that passengers had more engaging conversations in the cars. “Children would point to certain buildings and parents would tell them about them,” Moore says. “People wouldn’t even realize the landmarks they passed under every day to get to where they’re going.”
On the subway, when no pole or grip is available for passengers to grab at rush hour, the key to staying standing is in the knees. A proper bend will guarantee that you don’t go flying into the person in front of you when the train jolts forward, but tourists often miss this critical information.
To make light of what can be an aggravating (and sometimes kind of dangerous) situation, Moore installed a playful snowboard decal on the floor of the C train. “That way it’s more of a challenge to stay up,” Moore says.
There are not very many places to let out a good ‘ol primal scream of frustration in a city. It’s a shame, because laughing, crying, and screaming are terrific ways to relieve stress. That’s why Moore decided to bottle instructions for each in a jar. The “Let It Out Service” crying jar comes with a fresh, stinging onion. Laughing includes a USB stick of funny Youtube video. Screaming, meanwhile, contains a set of binder clips that you can attach to your nail bases. (Then, wait for the endorphin rush.)
For the final piece of her project, Moore designed a website that allows New Yorkers to make suggestions for other interventions. Anyone can submit a piece of text or a drawing to communicate his or her idea. Moore, who now works as a design strategist for a brand consultancy in the Flatiron district, says that investigating these types of interventions has actually changed her own relationship with the city. “I think about things a lot more, why they’re happening,” Moore says. “I can take a step back and relate in a realistic way.”