Graphic design students engage with the community

April 20, 2015
Graphic Design

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Graphic Design Four is the last graphic design class that University of Wisconsin-Platteville students are required to take before graduation. When students take this class, they are one step away from graduating. This is the reason that Gregory Nelson, assistant professor at UW-Platteville, has developed a program that will prepare his students for their upcoming careers. The program is called Design for the Greater Good, and is funded by the Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement, a program at UW-Platteville that helps fund projects that will benefit community partners and get students to actively engage in the community.

Design for the Greater Good was developed by Nelson and is geared towards helping nonprofit organizations that may not have the resources to hire a design service. He originally came up with the idea when he heard about PACCE and did some research on projects in the community that other universities have done in the past. Nelson said that he took from a few different ideas and it sparked his idea to incorporate this PACCE-funded project into his curriculum for Graphic Design Four. Oftentimes students are required to travel out of Platteville in order to meet with their clients. PACCE funds the travel expenses of the students and any materials that are required to produce the samples for students to present to their clients.

The program is designed so that students are able to find a nonprofit organization that interests them. The student is responsible for calling the organization, developing a partnership, setting up meetings and developing their designs according to the feedback of the customers. Students also write a proposal before they begin creating their graphic designs. Students are given class time to work on their projects and are given feedback to help with the progression of their projects. The students develop several concepts and then present each concept to their client. In the meeting they have a discussion about which concepts the client likes, which ones they don’t like and what direction they want the students to take. Then the student goes back to the classroom and works on those revisions and takes it back to the client until it is approved.

Some of the work that students do for the community includes websites, brochures, logos and screen-printing. Nelson commented that this program is mutualistic because the small businesses get the opportunity to get some great design work when often times they do not have the resources to hire a design service. Meanwhile, the students are able to gain experience that will look great on their résumés. “I hope that they are gaining an understanding of the importance of giving back and being involved in the community,” said Nelson, “It’s not just about doing work for money, but there are also benefits to doing things that are not for a salary. Giving back to the community has bonuses that continue on forever.”

Nelson plans to continue doing this project with his Graphic Design four class. The students have given great feedback on their overall experiences with their projects. Nelson plans to expand the project as much as possible with the available resources. “For me, the most rewarding part is that I get to see the students gain confidence in themselves,” he said. “Initially, when I first talk to them about the project and I tell them that they are going to have to go out and find a partner they tend to be a little nervous about that. I like to see that nervousness fall away and watch them become confident. I think that by the end of this they generally do feel more confident about their work and about themselves.”

Written by: Olivia Hennes, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, 608-342-1194, henneso@uwplatt.edu

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