Throughout history, powerful pairs have joined forces to rescue society from peril. This year in Jacksonville, local students and practicing design professionals came together with a similar goal — to identify a pressing problem at school and create a thoughtful, sustainable solution.
For the last four years, AIGA Jacksonville (the professional association for design in Jacksonville) has partnered with local schools to give students hands-on design experience in a program called Discover Design. Mentors dedicate every Saturday morning for eight weeks to their students; in return, the students bring their enthusiasm and fresh ideas to the table. This year’s high school participants hail from Bishop Kenny, Frank H. Peterson, and Stanton College Preparatory.
The topic, School: By Design, encourages each pair to examine their school’s “ecosystem” from the student’s vantage point, re-imagine a better environment, and solve a problem of their choosing with design thinking. The project connects students to a subject they know well, and one on which they are likely to have strong opinions.
At our first meeting, participants arrive energetic and optimistic. Students and mentors lay the groundwork for their relationship while creating collages to showcase their personal style. In the following weeks teams will hone students’ ideas, defining audience, message, and a delivery vehicle for the campaign. Each of these details is compiled within the creative brief — a written roadmap for the design process — and then executed in the lab.
The range of selected topics is impressive, spanning from conservation to individuality. One highlight is Rachel Hart’s ‘Competiquette’ campaign, an interactive quiz about students’ personal behavior in the classroom. The goal is to raise awareness about a healthy level of competition at Stanton College Preparatory. Other innovative projects include: the ‘Big Red Goes Green’ campaign advocating for a recycling program at Bishop Kenny, a poster series promoting Challenge Day at Frank H. Peterson, and a humorous video animation encouraging the use of ‘Just One’ paper towel.
The richness of the mentoring program lies in its varied local partners. Architect Corie Baker volunteered her time to speak about the impact of designing sustainable school environments. Duval County administrators critiqued each project, helping students to hone their messages. The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville provided inspirational studio classrooms and exhibit access. And once again, the University of North Florida offered up their design lab for working sessions.
Given the opportunity by AIGA and its partners, these students have embraced community challenges and volunteered their talents to enact change. Many of their projects will be brought to life by donations from local businesses, and those that require further funding will compete for national grant money this fall. With their creative forces unleashed, these dynamic duos have found smart problem solving and a can-do attitude to be potent remedies for society’s ills. What could be more heroic than that?
Checking out the students’ work in person. Their projects will be featured at the May 4th Artwalk in the old library!
– casie, design mentoring co-chair