A Designer Turns The Communal Message Board Into Oversized Art

Half guestbook and half bathroom wall, Grand Central explores broadcasting and anonymity.

Word to your mother. I love you Cody. I’m in college right now. Why am I doing this?


The anonymous messages that make up Swiss graphic designer (“more or less”) Thibault Brevet’s graduation project could’ve been lifted from a bar’s bathroom wall. In fact, they were submitted anonymously, via smartphone, to an online platform Brevet named Grand-Central. Then, the user-generated messages were printed on paper discarded by newspaper printers, using a massive rolling plotter designed and programmed by Brevet in his final year as a graphic design student at University of Art and Design Lausanne.

“It functions as a guestbook,” explains Brevet. “It unrolls and creates a dialogue physically in front of the audience.” Visitors to the show (there are four coming up across Europe this fall) are prompted to visit the Grand-Central website on their smartphones or laptops. There, they’ll find a input box and a prompt to say something, either in text form or as a simple .jpg image. After they’ve submitted a message, Thibault’s rolling plotter prints each submission in thick, spindly letters, thanks to a rig of three wide-tipped markers. The result range from reflective to ribald, and an 84-page book for sale on Brevet’s website preserves the best for posterity.

It may be a bit like a guestbook, but Grand-Central is also related to the culture of the Internet, and the forums and discussion threads that populate it. Brevet disrupts what we’ve come to expect from online message boards–anonymity–by putting all of the commenters in the same room. Does the content of our commentary change, if were standing mere feet away from our audience?

And more importantly: Given a chance to broadcast to a large audience, what will we choose to say? The answers range from a (very appropriate) excerpt of Kevin Kelly’s 1998 essay, The Third Culture, to a Warhol banana doodle, to a bitter comment about unrequited love… All suggesting that while our methods may have improved, the message stays largely the same.

Click to enlarge.

For more info, head over to Brevet’s website–which is worth a look itself, for its awesome use of the Google Maps API.

[H/t Designboom]

About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.