the Neighborhood Design Center
Project No. 3637

Johnston Square: Enhancing Pedestrian Safety and Celebrating Neighborhood Identity

NDC’s Community Design Works program partnered with ReBuild Johnston Square Neighborhood Organization (RJSNO) and students from the Maryland Institute College of Art Center for Social Design, to create colorful crosswalks, murals, and signage in this East Baltimore neighborhood. This project is part of a larger initiative, Made You Look, which supports design interventions that help save lives and prevent traffic-related injuries in Baltimore.

What We Did

  • Visioning
  • Branding
  • Community Engagement
  • Grant Proposals
  • Design


  • MICA Center for Social Design
  • Maryland Department of Transportation
  • ReBuild Johnston Square
  • City of Baltimore


  • Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • AARP

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Designing a vibrant neighborhood brand

One of the Plan’s recommendations was to develop an overall brand for the neighborhood to recognize existing residents, assets, and businesses, provide a positive gateway to and from the neighborhood, and support redevelopment.

NDC Community Design Works volunteers Glenn Dellon, Ryan Cosgrove, and Zachary Robertson created a complete branding package to give visual unity to some of the community’s main goals. The process involved several iterations that became more refined with each round of feedback.

Project cross-pollination

This new Johnston Square branding was applied as a large-scale mural by Christina Delgado as part of NDC’s Designer-in-Residence program Build Together.


The Challenge: Create safer streets for children and families

In Baltimore, vehicles have been tracked going more than 80 mph in school zones and children have been hurt. Neighbors were especially concerned about through-traffic on one-way streets (that were designed to quickly move higher volumes of traffic) which do not have stop signs or traffic lights.  

Community leaders identified a need to enhance the visibility of pedestrian zones and intersections to make drivers more aware of and respectful to other road users. This is especially important for kids walking to the Johnston Square Elementary School and Henrietta Lacks Educational Park and Pool, (another NDC project — read more here) between which there was not a crosswalk! 

On average, a Baltimore resident dies every week from injuries sustained in a traffic related accident. Someone is injured in a traffic-related accident every hour. 

Made You Look initiative

One solution to traffic-calming is Art in The Right of Way. The Made You Look project began as a collaboration between MICA’s Center for Social Design and the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Office. It was conceived by MICA graduate students Quinton Batts (a former NDC Social Design fellow) and Vilde Ulset who investigated ways to reduce these troubling statistics through design interventions as part of their graduate coursework. The initiative has since been stewarded and expanded by the Neighborhood Design Center.

Art in the Right of Way interventions include horizontal murals painted in crosswalks and sidewalk bump-outs can alert drivers’ attention to pedestrians, bike-riders, and other road users.

The Vision: Create a sense of place and safety

Create crosswalk art to not only slow traffic, but be an opportunity for branding and neighborhood identity that residents of all ages can enjoy and take pride in. It will also:

    • Increase social connections between residents

    • Improve the health and wellness of the community

    • Boost economic activity in the area

    • Expand ways to safely move around the community

    • Strengthen connections between city government and residents

The Build: Bee Safe crosswalks

The Made You Look team worked with Johnston Square Elementary School students to understand how youth interact with their neighborhood streets and their feeling of safety while walking to school. The students were asked to draw pictures using the design prompt “if the intersections represented us, what would it look like?”

In March of 2022, Baltimore Department of Transportation installed bump-outs, crosswalks, and sidewalks surrounding Johnston Square Elementary School, and MICA and NDC helped organize volunteers to apply the colorful painted artwork.

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The Future: The Neighborhood Design Center is currently in the process of expanding Made You Look beyond Baltimore City.