| Follow Us:



Wedge Detroit

4843 Commonwealth
Detroit, Michigan 48208

Ajooni Sethi

By Tunde Wey
October 26, 2012

Detroit has a celebrated design culture that has benefitted from approximal academic institutions and progressive founders. It is evident from the Detroit Institute of Arts to the highly-lauded Mies van de Rohe buildings, its manufacturing industry to its planned neighborhoods, design is part of the Detroit’s bearing.

Its downtown streets are arranged as spokes jutting from a hub. Some of its bars enjoy smart Art Deco curves that round impressive wood interiors. Its parks, with their carefully-planned open green spaces, tumble easily into untamed fields (including the finest example of an urban park quite possibly in all of America, Frederick Law Olmsted’s meticulous Belle Isle). Everything is designed and articulated.
The city’s tradition of design is being expanded on by a brashly precocious group, Wedge Detroit. Founded earlier in the year by four recent graduates of the University of Michigan – Ajooni Sethi, Laura Wilming, Dylan Box and Ellen Rutt – Wedge is helping institutionalize an unfamiliar yet welcome brand of design into the city. Wedge self-identifies as a design firm “which uses design to add value to the already present infrastructure in the city.” Wedge leverages design through two avenues, its client work and what it describes as “community-driven design projects.”
Ajooni Sethi, Wedge’s Community Engagement Manager, explains a community design project as something that engages multiple communities. “It is not transactional; it is for redesigning resources—inviting people to look at resources of the city in a different way.”
Hopscotch Detroit, a 3.78-mile hopscotch course chalked on city sidewalk stretching from Midtown to downtown, is Wedge’s
“It is not transactional; it is for redesigning resources—inviting people to look at resources of the city in a different way.”
first community design project. The event was held on September 22 as part of the Detroit Design Festival, a weekend-long art and culture event orchestrated by the Detroit Creative Corridor in partnership with local designers and artists in order to showcase Detroit’s design talent.
The hopscotch project was an exercise in rethinking the often-ignored assets of the city and what they could potentially be. “It was redesigning a sidewalk—turning a sidewalk into a playscape. We invited people to engage with sidewalks in a different way,” Sethi says. The course, which snaked along cafes and past office buildings and schools, invited a diverse group of kids, young adults, older folks and at least one pregnant lady to participate and play with space in an hitherto unexplored (at least not recently) way.  Just as important as the community that congregated around the physical course after its completion was the community-focused effort that went into creating it.
Working with Imagine Detroit Together, a group that promotes community building through public events, the team at Wedge built a formidable coalition of local partners and volunteers. Organizations such as D: Hive, Loveland Technologies, Quicken Loans and Osborn Neighborhood Alliance among many others were critical collaborators in Wedge’s ambitious plan to break the world hopscotch record.
The Wedge team attended various community meetings, putting down test hopscotch courses at neighborhood picnics, barbecues and the like. Through this they were able to interact with and appreciate the value of their project from the community’s perspective.
Dylan Box, Wedge graphic and product design lead, describes their process as heavily reliant on user interaction and participation. “Like anything you do in a design firm, you have to interview your users; you have to go out and observe how people use your product. This was a way to see how people reacted to the idea. The results were overwhelmingly positive. We could see how residents used the course; it was customer discovery in the most basic [form].”
When it was all done they had participated in over a dozen public tests of the hopscotch course, engaging over 1,500 people in the process. Employing over 100 volunteers to lay down the final course, the Wedge team and their supporters surpassed the world record for the longest hopscotch course by a third of a mile. During the single day event, around 200 people hopscotched the course, but even more amazing are the people who continue to find the chalk outlined course as they walk the city. It is not uncommon to see kids or adults temporarily unmoored from their walk, hopscotching a few squares with obvious glee.
While Wedge has a strong portfolio of client work—providing “high-end design at start-ups costs” to businesses such as Lush-iuos Cupcakes , an alcohol infused confectionary maker, and Booklify, a social textbook marketplace—their work to intertwine good design with community-focused projects is important to Detroit. In a city whose design past is lauded almost as loudly as its present failings are criticized, Wedge could help create a marriage of community and design that drives social good.
The intention behind the design of the city, as evidenced through these inspiring institutions, was to create a city that worked well for its residents. Wedge Detroit is helping Detroiters find new meaning in their community assets.

Photograph by Marvin Shaouni Photography.

Share this page
Signup for Email Alerts

Twitter Feed

Related Resources

  • Detroit Design Festival
    Presented by the Detroit Creative Corridor Center (“DC3”), DDF is a community curated and supported design festival developed to showcase the talents and abilities of Detroit’s creative communities.
  • Imagine Detroit Together
    Imagine Detroit Together is building an army of fun loving, engaged people who want to bring the city together through cool projects. 
  • The Heidelberg Project
    The Heidelberg Project is an open-air art environment in the heart of an urban community on Detroit’s East Side. 
  • Osborn Neighborhood Alliance
    The Osborn Neighborhood Alliance works as a partner with the community to make sure kids are safe, healthy, well-educated and prepared for adulthood.