In 1980, the city of Cambridge, through the auspices of the Cambridge Arts Council, held a contest to re-envision all the vehicles used by the Department of Public Works (DPW). The prize was $500. Over 100 entries were submitted ranging from painting the tops of the trucks white and the bottoms orange to encasing them in chrome plating. Bill Wilcox, a prominent graphic designer from Boston, presented the winning design that is still used today – adding “The Works” in distinctive type across the already orange trucks. In addition to designing the trucks, Wilcox included suggestions for signage and letterhead – a coordinated design system for the DPW with “The Works” as the logo.
In October, 1980 the project was revealed to the public. According to Al Gowan in Nuts and Bolts: Case Studies in Public Design, “the first truck rolled out with Boston TV personality Shelby Scott riding on the back. The trucks and interviews with Wilcox and driver Ben Miele appeared in color on the 6 o’clock news.” (Gowan, page 32.) “The Works” was so successful that cities from around the world contacted Cambridge to replicate the design project.
Driver Ben Miele with Bill Wilcox, winner of the design contest, on the day of the unveiling, October, 1980.