Students majoring in graphic design took their skills out of the classroom and into the real world during the spring 2013 semester, when they offered their services to Prosperity Gardens – a community garden in Champaign.
Professor Nan Goggin, center, the director of the School of Art and Design, says industrial design is the school's largest major. Professor Cliff Shin, left, designed an award-winning washer and dryer for LG; professor David Weightman, right, has worked for Massey Ferguson and Yamaha, and helped students design U. of I.'s Solar Decathlon house in 2009 and 2011.
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
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Under the direction of professors Eric Benson and Brian Wiley, the project kicked off with students spending one “immersion” weekend visiting the gardens, meeting with Prosperity’s founder and executive director Nicole Bridges, and brainstorming with the designers from Little Things, a professional graphic design team based in Detroit.
Catherine “Kiki” Kolakowski, now a junior from northwest Chicago, said the weekend was intense. “We pretty much put together an identity for Nicole in the gardens,” Kolakowski said.
Over the next six weeks, two teams made up of 32 sophomores and juniors created a new logo, signage and T-shirts; coded a custom website; developed a social media campaign; produced two videos for promotion and fundraising; and created a comic book and a cook book featuring garden produce.
“There’s a big sign there now, so it’s very recognizable,” Kolakowski said. “Before, we just drove right past the site. We had no idea it was there.”
Matt Lanter, now a senior from Kankakee, Ill., found himself pitching in to voice television and radio commercials, develop a Twitter feed, and help build a fence around a new garden plot. Even though those tasks don’t involve graphic design, Lanter said he considered them part of the overall job.
“Truthfully, I wasn’t too concerned about the fact that these things didn’t involve sitting at my laptop clicking away,” he said. “I’ve noticed that graphic design is probably a combination of four or five different jobs nowadays, so I feel like the same type of problems could come to a graphic designer’s desk.”
Students had so many ideas, some only made it to the concept stage. They created plans for a farmer’s market information booth, a mobile market trailer, and an aisle endcap to sell salsa made from Prosperity Gardens produce in local supermarkets.
Reluctant to leave their “client” on her own, the students created a summer internship for Kolakowski, who commuted from Chicago several weekends over the summer to make brochures, business cards, fliers and bus ads.
“This was really fun because it wasn’t just another project that you work on for two weeks and then have a class critique,” Kolakowski said. “This was actually helping someone for a good cause, and being able to put our graphic design skills to use. It was really nice.”