This has been an exciting year for Spin350 and the variety of unique projects that have come in has been so rewarding. One of those unique opportunities was working with the Middle East Initiative at Harvard’s Kennedy School on two connected projects. The first was to redesign MEI’s entrance lobby wall for their offices in 124 Mt. Auburn Street in Cambridge. The second was to design a department brochure, based on the redesign of the lobby.

Client Overview

The Middle East Initiative’s diverse programs address topics including political transitions, alternative energy, humanitarian crisis response, economic opportunity, demographic challenges, and beyond. Through the integration of research and policy analysis, education, and community engagement, MEI aims to enhance public policy and build capacity in the Middle East.

Project Overview

The MEI Project Director and Coordinator contacted me early this summer with a request to update their existing lobby wall art, which was simply a foamcore sign on a red painted wall. Being the first suite on the first floor of University Place, a building filled with Harvard department offices, they wanted their lobby to stand out with a wow-factor and a conversation piece. They were open to ideas, but knew that they wanted a nod towards Islamic geometry, which is popular in Middle Eastern architecture. Once the lobby was finished being designed and installed, they wanted me to design an accompanying department brochure.

Original lobby, pre-redesign

Design Process

Step 1 of every project of this size begins with a discovery meeting. This is when I meet with the client in person and sit down with all of the core decision makers. From that initial discovery meeting, we will have a unified plan in place to move forward with.

The next step is this particular project involved a lot of research and education. I needed to learn about Islamic geometric patterns and how to use and not use them when it came to interior, spacial design. As we built out design concepts, we needed to work within the parameters of the wall dimensions, factor in spacing for department branding and also create something that could be reasonably cost-effective to produce and install.

Once the design concept was approved, I moved into the production and installation phase. The final design involved cutting a pattern out of wood and mounting it an inch off the wall as if to be floating. The client and I decided on 3/4 inch cherry veneer which was meticulously router cut to spec. I also changed the paint colors in the lobby to a rich slate color to compliment the wood. Lastly, I added an angle of white PVC sintra and the department name as finishing touches.

Newly designed lobby

Close up detail

Close up detail

External view From 2nd Floor Balcony Into The MEI Department

External view From 2nd Floor Balcony Into The MEI Department

Part 2 – Brochure

As mentioned above, the MEI wanted a new department brochure that complimented the newly fabricated and installed wall, and that was the next phase of the project. I proposed a large tri-fold design that was die-cut in the same shape and angle as the wall. I wanted both projects to reflect the same art direction even though one was life size and one was a hand held piece. It was important to the client that their data and key messaging be easily visualized by their audience, so I designed multiple infographics to illustrate this content.

Closed Brochure

Inner brochure spread

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Detail of infographic

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Open brochure showing die-cut and fold


Spin350 is an award winning design agency in Boston that specializes in branding, print design, web design and exhibit design.

Interested in hiring Joe Lyons and Spin350? Or even chatting as a first step? Just email or call Joe (617-910-9875). He’ll take your idea and bring it to life. 

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