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Heroes

When an artist got his hands on these 2 billboards, they became windows to the natural world.

A lot of us start our days like this:

Photo by Eric Demarcq/Flickr.


After spending so much time pulling our hair out in standstill traffic, we're usually looking for anything that might brighten our morning. A fresh cup of coffee. A surprise call from a friend. Something little that breaks up the monotony and holds the stress at bay, even for just a minute.

But what if the morning commute didn't have to be so bad?

That's why artist Brian Kane decided to delight commuters in Boston by replacing billboards with powerful pictures of nature.


Photos by Simone Schiess, used with permission.

Brian has an interesting background as both a fine artist and as a user-experience designer for websites. Where those worlds collide is where he's done some of his best work.

"I'm trying to apply the rules of good user experience to public art," he told Upworthy. "We've learned a lot about how to give users beautiful moments in UX. I want to take those best practices and apply them to the real world."

Having nothing to look at during your morning commute other than a giant, faded photo of a Big Mac? That's bad user experience.

That led him to this project, called "Healing Tool" (a reference to a tool in Photoshop that allows designers to easily retouch photos), in which he and his team placed two digital billboards just north of metro Boston, in one of the most congested areas of the city. He rented the ad space earlier this year from Clear Channel for a month, fair and square.

But instead of featuring big brand logos or exciting "limited time offers," Kane's billboards were, essentially, windows into nature. They displayed photos of the natural landscape, which rotated throughout the day and night.

They were gorgeous.

There's no conservation fund behind this. No mission to save the trees or combat global warming. Just an attempt to make the world a little more pleasant.

This year, advertisers are expected to spend about $540 billion globally, according to Ad Age. Meanwhile, Scenic America estimates there are as many as 780,000 billboards lining U.S. roads.

But Kane insists he's not out to make a big statement about advertising or to fight for the beautification of our highways. He just wanted to create something people would enjoy looking at.

He calls it a campaign without a message.

"People just like the idea of something pleasant in their daily life that's not selling them anything."

Which is why, he says, he resisted the urge to put his logo, website, or even his name on the billboards.

The response was tremendous.

"I got a lot of phone calls from happy commuters, and that makes me happy," he said. "If you can give them 20 seconds of joy, I think that's really what an artist should aim to do."

Kane says he hopes to bring the project to new areas in the spring, especially outside the U.S. But he has no plans to brand it or expand on its underlying message.

"I want this to be open to interpretation," he added. "I think, in my opinion, that's what makes it stronger"

You can see his billboards in action below:

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