Research Teaching & Student Work

Design Activism and Impact in the Classroom: Presenting at CAA 2019 with Design Incubation Panel in New York

Last month, I presented work at the College Art Association (CAA) 2019 Conference in New York with the Design Incubation panel.

My presentation reviewed a methodology, based on my research and design practice, called the ‘blended perspective’, that merges rigorous social impact assessment (SIA) guidelines from the social sciences with a human-centered design approach to improve methods for assessing social impact as a major outcome of graphic communication design work. It is a model, or process for understanding and measuring social impact that incorporates phases such as identifying social impact objectives, conducting baseline studies, and measuring and monitoring impact.

This methodology in the classroom exposes students who are considering social, economic, political, and/or cultural design agendas in their practice how design activism and action for change can shift design futures in a measurable way.

This presentation also reported on student case studies where this methodology was integrated into the learning objectives of the classroom. In the example cases, students work across different contexts, but otherwise they share a similar goal, which is that they intend to build awareness around a particular issue and foster shifts in behaviors and attitudes. The main learning objective for students is to focus on how to measure “increased awareness and shifts in behaviors.” The learning process highlights theories of cause and effect as well as tools and tactics for measuring and monitoring change.

Photo notes
“Bees are in Danger” by Sydney Evans and Rachel Leslie
“Gender Equality” by Danika Scones

To view the full abstract submission, click here.

Teaching & Student Work

Design for Good: Students Work with Shelby County Health Department to Raise Awareness around the Opioid Crisis

Students at the Memphis College of Art designed campaigns for Shelby County Health Department to build awareness around the opioid addiction crisis in our community and help shift attitudes and behaviors around the stigmas of this addiction. Three campaigns were designed with all the campaigns communicating the core message that opioid addiction can happen to any of us.

Students who worked on this project included Bri Gilmer, Kelli Laderer, Sam Maxwell, Amber Stillwell,  Justin Wells, and Anthony Williams. The project was completed in the Design Lab course at MCA, which functions like a design agency where students work collaboratively to design solutions for clients. Contracts and fees are also negotiated and students are paid for their work.

The city awarded the students for exceptional work in design for social change and service to their community. The city plans to implement the campaigns across the state of Tennessee.

The first concept is called “all about the person” and focuses on the people affected by the opioid crisis. Opioid addition crosses many boundaries of age, race, personality-types, and economic status, and affects all types of people. The campaign highlights the range of individuals who may suffer from the addition.

Through the use of photography and hand-written testimonials, the concept confronts the fear of admitting to opioid addition by emphasizing that individuals often hide their disease from their family, friends, and peers.


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The second concept is called “all about the visibility” and is a typographic solution for the campaign. The hands reach out for the addition (visually represented as pills and needles), but also suggest reaching out for help and support simultaneously.

Other taglines were created including:
“Not all Addiction is Seen, Do not be Invisible”
“Be Visible, Get Help.” and
“Fight the Problem, Not the People.”

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Opioid Addiction Awareness Campaign Presentation_Page_11The third concept is called “all about the feeling” is an illustrative approach to symbolize the mental state of someone, or someone you know, who is struggling with addiction. The silhouetted figure is encompassed in a prescription bottle to convey the feeling of being trapped and alone. The figure is made entirely of prescription opioids as it has become their new identity.; which unfortunately is the case for many of those affected.opioid-addiction-awareness-campaign-presentation_page_18.jpg



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