Carbon Skyline




Souvenir postcard printed with carbon ink extracted from the atmosphere

How might we engender an emotional connection between tourists and local "landmarks"?

Graphic Designer
Copy Editor

Skills and Tools:
Graphic design
Creative writing

Products of Design,
SVA, 2015

So often when tourists visit a city, they only interact with the most famous landmarks and tourist destinations, but what makes a place loved by its' residents are the experiences they have in personal feeling public spaces. As climate change threatens our cities, we need to build support for climate change mitigation policies that can save them. Solastalgia is the feeling of homesickness one feels in a place that is familiar, due to environmental change or degradation. Is it possible to extend this personal feeling to visitors?

Project Summary

Carbon Skyline is a line of souvenir postcards, produced and sold in major cities. In lieu of famous landmarks, each card features a drawing of a place that is special to the people who live in that city. On the back of the card are coordinates, enticing the user to find that place, photograph the card in front or next to it, and finally, post the picture to social media using the hashtag #carbonskyline. These mementos allow visitors to intimately engage with a place, delight in being let in on a “secret,” and connect to their loved ones as they share the story of their experience when they send the card.

Focusing on personally symbolic places in major cities connects the visitor to a city with the native public conscience. The images in Carbon Skyline are of places dear to many, and so in addition to the personal and emphatic sense of solastalgia, they also create a sense of mass or public solastalgia.



Carbon Skyline's artwork is hand drawn by featured local artists, and reproduced in limited run batches, using ink made from carbon powder which has been harvested from the atmosphere of that city. The carbon is harvested using Studio Roosegaarde’s Smog Free Towers. The towers are essentially a giant air purifier, absorbing carbon from the air by using a relatively small amount of electricity (generated by its own wind turbine), which creates a pocket of clean air around it. The harvested carbon is collected on the device as carbon powder. By adding a medium made of alcohol, water, and gum arabic, the carbon powder can be turned into ink.

Carbon ink is recyclable, unlike conventional ink that is incompatible with paper recycling and decreases the efficiency of recycling processes, requiring greater amounts of energy and water to recycle printed paper. Wastewater generated during paper recycling can be contaminated by chemicals from inks, requiring treatment at the recycling facility to avoid releasing these materials into water supplies.

While not a practical solution to cleaning the planet’s air, the upcycled ink has symbolic power: preserving those places that we love means we must clean the atmosphere of carbon. Otherwise, those places will become just a memory.