Raising Awareness: Graphic design students seek to bring attention to environmental issues through special topics class
Discussions of environmental issues and how one might limit his or her “carbon footprint” aren’t exactly standard fare for a graphic design classroom.
However, at Troy University, a group of graphic design students gathers each Monday night under the direction of Art and Design Chair Jerry Johnson and then embarks to create projects they hope will increase awareness of environmental concerns.
The special topics class “International Green Design” is part of an academic partnership the Department of Art and Design has formed with Southwestern Oklahoma State University and Dong-A University in South Korea.
“The purpose of the affiliation is to provide a research and development opportunity in the area of ‘green’ or sustainable design,” Johnson said. “Students and faculty from each university collaborate on forming a local, regional and international plan to address sustainability issues through visual design.”
Johnson said the students’ response to the class surprised him.
“I expected to get three to five students, but 12 people signed up for the class,” Johnson said. “The students are on the edge of their seats and have been very interested. It has been a real eye-opener for some of them.”
One student, Freddie Pierce of Montgomery, said the class had certainly raised his awareness of the various issues related to sustainability.
“At first, I was not that knowledgeable of the issues of sustainability and the whole ‘going green’ movement,” Pierce said. “After a little research and class time, one must realize that this issue is not something one person can solve alone. In our class, we use graphic design to put out information and visuals that would catch the attention of individuals of any age that might not have the time to become aware of the issues otherwise. You can’t change or help what you don’t know, so we can help increase the knowledge.”
Johnson says the class challenges students to research and discover environmental and social problems that compromise the sustainability of the world.
“Students are expected to use their design skills to create effective informational graphics, to shed light on these issues and to serve as a call-to-arms of sorts,” he said. “We hope to be able to share these designs with larger audiences to help increase awareness about issues related to sustainability and possible solutions to these issues.”
One such possibility, Johnson says, is to develop an exhibit featuring the artwork produced by the students that could be shown at each participating university.
“We hope that these designs will raise consciousness about sustainability issues in the larger community,” Johnson said. “We hope to be able to find a forum to put the designs our students do out there before the public so that they have a chance to make a difference.”
In one project, students selected a common item or problem, researched it and developed an effective design to bring awareness to possible solutions.
“Most of the designs have been for printed pieces or Web pieces,” Johnson said. “However, one of the students developed an application for the iPhone, and I hope that there is some commercial opportunity there for the student. Their creativity has been fun to witness.”
And while Johnson hopes the message of concern for the environmental issues will reach a larger audience, he also expects the course to have a great impact on his students.
“I hope that through their involvement in this special topics class these students will become more effective in conversing about green issues and being bold about working with others to find solutions to problems that affect us all,” he said. “I also hope that through our involvement with other universities the students will grow interculturally.”
Ellis is a coordinator in the office of university relations and editor of the Troy University Magazine.