Find the right design solution for a client? No sweat. Rebrand a company’s logo? Kid stuff. Create illustrations from concept to finish? Easy. Impress faculty and industry insiders in the process?
Juniors and seniors in JWU's Design Solutions Team I class have been hard at work for the past 11 weeks, crafting the perfect client pitch, developing strategy, executing design concepts and helping clients turn their vision into reality.
This is an authentic learning experience.”
“This is an authentic learning experience,” says Deana Marzocchi, associate professor and department chair. “At the end of the course, especially after their second term, they feel more confident.”
According to Marzocchi, graphic design students in the College of Engineering & Design are required to take Design Solutions Team I and II over two terms, which encompasses 22 weeks of class time. She works in partnership with assistant professor Jeff Drury, guiding and supervising students as they work on their team projects. Student teams use Basecamp, an online project management and communication software, to share their designs and stay in touch with their clients.
“We assign the teams based on our prior knowledge of the students. As part of this process, they show us five of their best design pieces and talk about what position they see themselves in for their design team. We have them, from the beginning, think about what role they’re going to take on,” adds Marzocchi.
This year, six student teams worked with the following clients: Women’s Fund Rhode Island, Lost Art Cultured Foods, Mentor Rhode Island, Alakazam Family Entertainment, Rhode Island Community Food Bank, Providence Independence Trail and AIGA JWU Student Chapter. Earlier in the fall, students also worked with culinary teams from the Conscious Cuisine classes to create menu designs that fit pop-up restaurant concepts.
Graphic Designers as Problem-Solvers
“This was a really cool and challenging experience,” says Sarah Allison ’18. “I feel like it really pushed us as designers because we started with some labels, and they were good but they weren’t there [design wise]. Working with the clients allowed us to view ourselves as problem-solvers. I had never done a rebrand before, so working to solve a problem was a really amazing experience.”
Allison, along with project teammates Tim Jones ’18 and Deja Herrera ’18, worked with client Kaylyn Keane, co-founder and owner of Lost Art Cultured Foods, to rebrand the company’s line of organic cultured vegetables. They set out to redesign its logo and packaging labels.
Working with the clients allowed us to view ourselves as problem-solvers.”
“One of the things that was difficult for me, in the beginning, was to pitch our ideas to the client, because normally the design speaks for itself,” says Jones. “We had to present our ideas and convince the client about the direction we wanted to go in to meet her needs.”
The team working on the Women’s Fund Rhode Island project — Krystina Dimanche ’19, Moonkwang Kim ’17 and Tara O’Neal ’19 — worked on creating posters, illustrations and a new brochure to highlight the organization’s mission and values.
“Working with a client was a fun and new experience for me,” says Dimanche. “Kelly Nevins [executive director of Women’s Fund Rhode Island] was a wonderful person to work with. She knew what she wanted for the brochure from the moment we first met her. Women's Fund Rhode Island is an amazing cause to get behind and I was privileged to help them find a way to further their goal to a more equal world.”
‘I see myself doing this in the future.’
For Kiara Trusty ’19 and Sienna Silva ’19, the team that worked with Mentor Rhode Island, the experience was challenging in a different way: they had to work within very specific branding guidelines set by the organization.
“Now that I have this experience, I can definitely see myself doing this in the future as a career. For the most part, the process was pretty easy, because the client gave us the content and photos and that helped us. We had to work within some brand guidelines, so we weren’t able to get as creative as we would have liked, but it was a great first experience,” says Trusty.
Silva agrees. “Even with the constraints, we had a lot of leeway in the layout of the piece. It was an interesting process.”
Having Fun: It Comes with the Job
“Our client was Russ DeSimone. He’s a clown, a magician and a balloon artist. We worked with him to help him establish a persona and a brand that he could call his own — and it was so much fun,” says Lauren Carlson ’18. She worked with teammates Angela Babetski ’18 and Teagan Brewster ’18, to rebrand DeSimone’s business, Alakazam Family Entertainment, updating logos, business cards and a brochure. The team also scheduled a photoshoot for DeSimone with his stage assistants, Presto the rabbit and Flutter the fish.
“My father was a clown for the Ringling Brothers and that gave me a good and easy way to connect with Russ. I could understand where he was coming from, having grown up around the business, knowing about all the rules and regulations that go into being a clown and making sure our designs could fit his needs,” Carlson added.
“Russ was so much fun to work with. It was just a fun project in general,” says Brewster. “My favorite part about working with Russ was the passion he has for what he does. We too share our passion for graphic design, marketing and branding. It was awesome working with someone who’s also passionate about what they do.”
There’s Always Room for Improvement: 160 Versions Later
Frieda Rapp ’19 and Olivia Critchley ’19, who worked with the Rhode Island Food Bank, knew they were in for a challenge when they started exchanging design concept after design concept with their clients.
“Through this process, we’ve learned that there’s always room for improvement,” says Rapp. “The clients gave us so much feedback during the process, and that was really helpful. It was a really fun process.”
Through this process, we’ve learned that there’s always room for improvement.”
For Critchley, who was working with a client for the first time, the experience was very interesting. “It was nice combining all the different concepts together for the final design,” she says. Ultimately, their team provided RI Food Bank three posters the organization can use during at various times of the year.
By the end of the 11-week term, they had uploaded 160 versions of the design to the client’s Basecamp project folder. That, according to Marzocchi, is just what you want. “This project offers the perfect Basecamp example for other students to follow. The client feedback for this project was excellent; the process was seamless.”
Mastering Your Audience
The last presentation of the day, given by Adam Potter ’18, Jordan Schorr ’18 and Michelle Walker ’18, was about an organization that most students in the room were familiar with: AIGA Design, JWU’s student chapter for the professional design association.
“This time, we [the students] are the clients,” Schorr said as she began outlining the steps the teamtook to update the organization’s logo, create branded posters, a table skirt to use at events and a Snapchat filter.
Not everything is #FFFFFF and #OOOOOO.”
The team designed visually stunning marketing collateral using the CMYK — cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black) — color palette that’s standard in the printing world. Each poster included clever “designer speak” puns focusing on a certain aspect of graphic design. For example: “Not everything is #FFFFFF and #OOOOOO.” and “Do you need a [br] from life?”
“I’m totally in love with the design of the posters and the puns you’ve used,” says Krystina Dimanche, president for JWU’s AIGA Design club. “You guys did a great job. You have mastered the target audience with this campaign.”
Great Design Solutions = Happy Clients
Here’s what some of the clients had to say about the student’s design solutions:
“This [work] gives us an easy way for us to show our audience what we’re all about. This team was very receptive. I enjoyed working with you and I really think I have something great to work with and move forward.”
- Kelly Nevins, executive director Women’s Fund Rhode Island
“It was really nice to see it all come to life on the jar. Kaylyn, initially, was very protective of the brand, but your team did a great job making her feel comfortable. You’ve elevated the design.”
- Josephine Eke, mentor at the Social Enterprise Greenhouse working with Kaylyn Keane. Eke is vice president, branding, communications & marketing for United Natural Foods
“It was a pleasure working with your team. We had very specific requirements that needed to be met and you did a great job working with us within those constraints. These materials are perfect to give to people who are interested in mentoring.”
- Marc Mainville, communications coordinator & special assistant to the CEO for Mentor Rhode Island
“Working with my solutions team was an amazing experience. They carefully studied my existing collateral and identified areas that needed a fresh new look. Their passion for their work was evident not only in their designs, but also mirrored by their enthusiasm.”
- Russell DeSimone, owner, Alakazam Family Entertainment
“We wanted to start from scratch for this project. We started by giving them the old posters and challenged them to come up with a few concepts for us. They were able to narrow it down and give us something we’re really excited to work with.”
- Hugh Minor, director of communications, Rhode Island Community Food Bank