Miriam buchwald

American Exceptionalism



American Exceptionalism



With a focus on Pittsburgh's Hill District and how data can inform design, I created a rebuttal to American Exceptionalism, the idea that America is superior to all other nations. Relating the physical, social, and economic gaps in the Hill District led me to create a book visually representing how this individual community was left behind. 

This book represents seven benchmark years between 1950 and 2010. Each French fold page reveals text from that year’s State of the Union Address. The type is set to represent the economic condition of a location in four different scales. Line spacing is based on high school dropout rates. Missing letters reflect the unemployment rate and tracking is based on income. In essence, the larger the economic gap, the larger the gaps in the typography. The viewer can see the inequality in the difference between the overview of the United States and the local view of the Hill District.  

On each outer page, the appropriate President’s image is scale proportionally. The halftone pattern's circles expand as time shifts forward. Each year offers four perspectives: the United States, Pennsylvania, Allegheny County, and the Hill District.

Emphasizing exceptionalism through inappropriate scale the book is exaggerated at 18in. x 24in. The book is heavy and embodies the weight of economic disparity. 



During my visit to the Hill District I discovered there were often buildings missing. This defining characteristic inspired my overall theme of gaps.

I used Social Explorer to collect data.. 


After collecting data I developed formulas to proportionally translate the information to set the typography.

Taking visual cues from the Hill District, I developed a rich color palette.

I created multiple small dummy books before printing the final large copy.