SYNOPTIC OFFICE, NEW YORK NY / HONG KONG CHINA
Caspar Lam and YuJune Park are the founders of Synoptic Office, a New York City and Hong Kong-based design consultancy that works with some of the world’s leading cultural, civic, and business organizations including Carnegie Hall, Bloomberg Markets, and the US House of Representatives. Synoptic Office’s mission is to help organizations unlock human stories and reveal connections through design, language, and information.
In addition to their studio, YuJune Park and Caspar Lam have dual careers as educators at Parsons School of Design in New York City. Caspar is the undergraduate Program Director and an Assistant Professor of Communication Design. YuJune is an Associate Professor of Communication Design at Parsons where she was the Program Director from 2014-17. Both lecture widely on design and serve in design leadership, most recently on the boards of AIGA New York and the Type Directors Club.
Tell us how and why you became involved in socially responsible communications, any thoughts on why design can be an especially effective tool for this goal, and, if you wish, give us an example of a project of which you are proud.
We founded Synoptic Office on the belief that every organization can activate its data and institutional archives in ways that resonate personally with audiences. Data is knowledge, and we believe when it is activated through design, it can cultivate stories, reach new audiences, and ultimately shape culture.
Our studio recently partnered with Carnegie Hall to create their updated Timeline of African American Music, a prime example of what innovation through design can achieve in the cultural sector — and exemplifies why it’s essential for heritage cultural institutions to embrace digital platforms and make the most of their data.
The updated Timeline of African American Music provides the next generation of students, educators, researchers, and music lovers worldwide with an interactive digital resource exploring the rich history and influence of African American music.
We were tasked with making 400 years’ worth of material — academic essays, photos and historical images (including related holdings from Carnegie Hall’s Rose Archives), and audio — easy and compelling to explore for a wide range of people, from middle and high school students through to high-level researchers, as well as casual music fans. The result is an online encyclopedia of musical genres one can discover through sound and stories.
Through a collaboration with Apple Music, the Timeline embeds music throughout the site. This enables Carnegie Hall to tell the story of music in an innovative way — the history of music through music. The timeline is a free, open-source gift to the education community and the wider public — one we’re confident is indicative of a bright future for innovative creations at the intersection of scholarship, technology, and design.
Given the confluence of events and challenges our society now faces, does this moment in time present any special opportunities, urgencies, obstacles to designing for good?
The flow of data undergirds our entire information economy. It must be nurtured and activated to transmit knowledge and connect with audiences accurately and effectively. Our hope is that by integrating products, experiences, and spaces with backstage data through thoughtful and beautiful design, organizations can preserve cultural history and disseminate knowledge beyond physical walls to communicate in new and meaningful ways.