A Chain Reaction: The Continuing Effects of a Classroom's Response to Tragedy

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Before the advanced graphic design class, Design Aid Center (DAC) had the chance to finalize its name and logo, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, changing the start-up goals of the program. Students took the initiative to help with the recovery efforts and developed public service announcements (PSAs) with very little experience and funding. The students and the class demonstrated what the DAC was able to accomplish by galvanizing a classroom effort to produce a message supporting the restoration process of the affected communities. This classroom model, which places graphic design students in leadership roles helping communities, is unique in that it provides them with professional level experience, meets the outreach goals of the university and services the needs of Non-Profit Organizations (NPO). Building on this well-received and widely accepted deliverable, the DAC positioned itself as a leader in the community, the profession and academia. In order to capitalize on this momentum and strengthen its own presence in the community, the DAC aligned with a Mississippi-based NPO that was willing to serve as the case study on which all other collaborative projects between student, university and NPO will be modeled. The DAC is groundbreaking in the pairing of design students with NPOs to realize the best possible scenarios for both groups. It is at the forefront of a new movement to reposition designers as project leaders and decision makers. If this arrangement proves viable in future endeavors, the long-term goals of the DAC involve national and international collaborations.


Keywords: Tragedy, Social Conscious, Responsibility, Design, Non-Profit Organization, Public Service, Student, Community, Arts
Stream: Media and Communications
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Prof. Rebecca Davis-Kelly

Assistant Professor, College of Architecture, Art + Design
Graphic Design, Mississippi State University

Mississippi State, Mississippi, USA

Rebecca Davis-Kelly was a former graduate student at the University of North Texas and is currently an assistant professor of graphic design at Mississippi State University and partners in a small graphic design studio working on such as clients as Frito-Lay, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Campbellā€™s, Hasbro Toys and Southwest Airlines. Her research agenda involves advocating for the ethics and responsibilities of graphic designers, and is also concerned with the level of corporate involvement in our everyday lives. With all of those agendas combined, (and quoting one of her favorite professors) it is her mission to prove to the world that graphic designers can do more than sell toothpaste.

Ref: I08P0410