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Department Of Design

Stop and Look: BYU Alumni Make Art in Downtown Provo

BYU Art and Design Students Boost Community Function and Morale with Utility Box Design

BYU alumni are designing functional art to beautify downtown Provo and reduce vandalism. Downtown Provo, a local non-profit organization, has worked with the City of Provo on beautification through wrapping utility boxes with unique designs since 2020. That year, vandalism on utility boxes spiked and Provo City started discussing how to address the issue. The solution included covering utility boxes in art by local designers. The first designs were installed in 2022. The utility box project has “drastically reduced” vandalism, according to Executive Director of Downtown Provo Quinn Peterson, and brings an aesthetic yet practical appeal to utility boxes in the community.

Katrina Ricks Peterson (’16) and Alex Vaughn (’13) spoke on their experiences designing for Provo and how BYU’s Department of Design prepared them for the experience.

“It was a fun challenge to work on a small thing that didn't necessarily have a single surface area. It’s dimensional,” said Peterson. Though she didn’t get to choose the site, she created the design to be site specific. “I wanted people to be able to walk around it and see that each panel is its own canvas.”

Peterson worked with Downtown Provo when she was a student at BYU. She now works as a full-time designer for Actual Source and does freelance projects, like the utility box. “I feel like the graphic design program definitely teaches you core principles of design,” Peterson said. “There are things that can only be learned through experience in the field, but the program helped me develop skills in foundational design, which applies to everything you do as a designer.”

Vaughn agreed. “I absolutely wouldn't have made something like this had I not gone through the design program,” she said. “BYU teaches you the fundamentals so that you can take something and make anything out of it.”

The utility box project had clear constraints, which Vaughn appreciated as a designer, but she wanted to add a personal touch. “I wasn't going to do a very self-centered design, but I still wanted to put my personal twist on it, so I did a lot of gradient work. I wanted to design something that was bright and colorful so that when people drive by they notice it. I believe color makes people a little happier and I wanted my design to inspire happiness.”