Bruce Willen

Designer / artist / musician / writer / educator / Founder of Public Mechanics studio & Post Typography

Public Art, Placemaking

Library of Lost Gloves & Lost Loves

“Find a glove, leave a glove. Take a glove, leave a love.”

Public art, placemaking

The Chairs

Sculptural seating that twists chairs and benches into playful, expressive forms

Public Art, Research, Writing, Design

Ghost Rivers

A multi-site public art installation and history tour that reveals lost streams buried beneath Baltimore.

Design, Writing, Strategy, Public Art

The Necessity of Tomorrow(s)

A provocative, participatory design series for the Baltimore Museum of Art

Light art installation

Some Thing in the Water

A 25,000 sq. ft. underwater light and sound installation for the Light City Festival

Public Art, Placemaking Signage

Waverly W

A sculptural steel gateway to Baltimore’s Waverly neighborhood

Design, Branding, Strategy

Parkway Theatre

Experiential design and signage for Maryland Film Festival’s landmark new film center

Experiential, lighting

The Voxel Theater

Visualizing the language of theater in a high-tech performance space

Design, branding, strategy

Baltimore City Signs

A signage family designed to create a distinct visual identity for the city

Exhibition design, Writing

Words are Pictures are Words

A Baltimore Museum of Art educational space exploring the use of text in contemporary art

Design, branding, wayfinding

Union Collective

Reenergizing a former industrial site with massive murals and colorful signage

Design, Branding

Beyond Video

A high-impact storefront for a new film archive and video rental concept

Interactive art installation

Public Print Lab

A cellphone-connected, participatory, print-on-demand exhibit

Digital art

All, American browser extension

A Chrome browser extension that questions the journalism of otherness

Placemaking, Art

Public Park

An art action to activate a vacant lot and interrogate the practice of land banking


Street Numbers

An ongoing catalog of weird, wild, and wonderful building numerals from around the world



Instrumental duo and experimental sound project with William Cashion (Future Islands)

LP, Thrill Jockey, 2016

Peals – Honey

“Equally playful, mysterious, and oddly catchy... full of thrilling, inspiring soundscapes.” – PopMatters

LP, Thrill Jockey, 2013

Peals – Walking Field

“An instrumental album rich in textural layering, immediately engaging yet hypnotically serene.” – Pitchfork

Interactive Sound, 2014/2016

Peals – Bubble Bath

Interactive ambient music generator

Ltd. Cassette, Thrill Jockey, 2015

Peals – Seltzer

“Past, present and future are unfolding at once, and Seltzer is their effervescent score.” – A Closer Listen

Music video, 2020

Peals – Wind Honey

Float through the cosmos inside a drop of honey

Film score and performance, 2020

Symphonie Diagonale (1921)

A new score for one of the earliest abstract films

Film score and performance, 2018

The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)

New ensemble live score for the silent German animated masterpiece by Lotte Reiniger (with Sarah Hughes)

2002–2011, 2021

Double Dagger

Post-punk bass/drums/vox trio from Baltimore with Dennis Bowen and Nolen Strals

Feature documentary, 2013

If We Shout Loud Enough

An inside look at the Baltimore underground music scene through one of its most pivotal bands, Double Dagger

Music video, 2008/2021

Double Dagger – Luxury Condos for the Poor

A virtual condo tour goes off the rails of reality

CD, 2005

Materials – Materials

Lo-fi synth-wave toy-keyboard party-punk project with Kim Cafuir and Nolen Strals

Essay, Design Observer. May 2019

In Defense of Inconvenience

An argument for the power of serendipity and a critique of experience design dogma

Lecture. April 2021

Community, Collaboration, Amateurism

A talk about my work and three themes that have shaped my practice for GMU’s 2021 Visual Voices series

Panel discussion. 2018

Branding Politics: Does Campaign Design Matter?

Organized an influential panel discussion in DC on political campaign design

Editorial, Washington Post. June 2018

Ocasio-Cortez scored a victory—for well-designed campaign posters

The first published article on AOC’s smart, effective political campaign branding

Editorial, Baltimore Sun. April 2016

Prioritizing Civic Innovation in Baltimore

Successful advocacy for the creation of the Mayor's Office of Innovation, which was established in 2018

Book, Princeton Architectural Press. 2009

Lettering & Type

A smart-but-not-dense guide to creating and bending letters to one’s will

Essay, Maharam Stories. 2012

Michael Cataldi: Tire Swings and Flower Pot Holes

Turning broken things into joyful moments in the Greatest City in America

Presentations, Panels, Conferences


Featured presenter and panelist on design and interdisciplinary collaboration at dozens of conferences and colleges

Essay, Maharam Stories. 2012

The Book Thing of Baltimore

The pleasures and pitfalls of an unlimited supply of free books

Colleges, conferences. 2005–2019

Teaching + Workshops

Adjunct Design faculty, teaching multiple undergraduate- and graduate-level courses and workshops

Bruce Willen is a multidisciplinary designer, artist, musician, and the founder of Public Mechanics — a design studio working in public and cultural spaces. Bruce collaborates with civic, arts, and design innovators on projects that jaywalk through the intersection of experiential design, placemaking, public art, performance, and civic design.

Bruce co-founded the acclaimed design agency Post Typography where he led high-profile branding, digital, public art, and experiential design projects that have shaped the visual language of Baltimore and the sustainable building industry. He is the co-author of the book Lettering & Type and has written for the Washington Post, Design Observer, and other publications. Bruce’s designs and illustrations have appeared on multiple covers of Time Magazine, The New York Times, and ESPN, among others. His work has received numerous fancy-pants design awards and has been published in dozens of design periodicals and books from Phaidon, Taschen, and Rizzoli, as well as a Post Typography monograph from European publisher Pyramyd Éditions. He has spoken at the Cooper Union, Minneapolis College of Art & Design, and Harvard University among many others.

As part of his interdisciplinary practice, Bruce composes and performs music and sound art, including several new silent-film scores. With the instrumental duo Peals, Bruce has performed in clock towers, museums, and living rooms on multiple continents and has released recordings with legendary indie label Thrill Jockey Records. Prior to Peals, Bruce contributed to Baltimore’s music scene for nine years as a member of the influential post-punk band Double Dagger, subject of the 2013 documentary film If We Shout Loud Enough.

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Bruce Willen