Cultural and social sustainability, and responsible design practices are recent topics discussed at the national level in graphic design. The university also encourages the development of sustainable practices. I have taken undergraduate students on research trips to a Kam minority village in China where the students learned about socially responsible, community-based design techniques and cultural preservation.
While in Hong Kong, I supervised a $190,000 documentary project that sent nine groups of students to the village. While at Pacific, I took one student and my colleague, Jennifer Little in 2010 and two students in 2011 with me. My students obtained support from Pacific Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships while I was supported by Rupley-Church Grant for International Understanding, Eberhardt Research Fellowship and Scholarly/ Artistic Activity Grants.
While it is optimal for students to be immersed in a community, it is also possible for students to make an impact long-distance. I have created a series of projects that introduce Arts 75: Graphic Design I students to community-based design, global perspectives, fair trade and cultural sustainability. Working long-distance with a community of Dimen in China, students have digitized unique local design motifs and proposed simple products that can be easily made by the villagers and sold to visitors to improve Dimen’s standard of living. The motifs are be part of a digital library that will be handed over to the village and is already used in promotional materials. I have taken the student product prototypes and further refined in collaboration with local artisans. We developed products that are currently sold in US to support the Dimen community. The students also developed a coloring book based on local animals that will be given to school children as a reward for participating in workshops and that will bolster their local identity and pride in their village.
In collaboration with Shanna Eller and her Sustainability Office, I have organized two sustainability exhibitions in the Reynolds Gallery and the Art Department Foyer, coordinated art department entries and installation, and created class assignments for my classes that addressed sustainable issues.
The project received 2013 and 2014 SEED award honorable mentions. Standing for Social Economic Environmental Design, SEED highlights best practices in the field of Public Interest Design.