'Designer-citizen-teacher’ Stucker models power of design

StuckerIf you’ve visited downtown Toledo in the summer, or the Toledo Museum of Art, or the Wood County Fair, or any number of other places in the area, you may well have experienced some of graphic design division chair Jenn Stucker’s artistic outreach.

“Her creative work is becoming a model in the field,” said Dr. Katerina Rüedi Ray, director of the School of Art.

In recognition of her artistic achievement and engagement, Stucker received the 2017 Outstanding Early Career Award at the Faculty Excellence Awards April 13. Presented by the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research, the award is designed to enhance the academic career of junior faculty by providing discretionary funds for the support of future scholarly activities. It brings a $1,000 credit to the recipient's discretionary research account, in addition to a $2,000 cash award.

Stucker holds a Master of Fine Arts in graphic design, the terminal degree in her discipline. Her success is “evidenced by major international design awards and invitations to speak at national leadership venues as well as external funding,” Ray said in nominating Stucker for the award. “It is significant in its breadth, spanning personal/professional client-based work, design for social impact and research in pedagogy. It is also a model of depth. In particular, her projects addressing design for social impact that require extended periods of research and community-building stand as powerful embodiments of the scholarship of engagement.”

Stucker has a broad and inclusive vision of what design is and how it can be utilized. She inculcates this vision in her students and provides opportunities in which they can participate, most often with community partners.

“As I navigate a world that is becoming more networked and complex, there are three interconnected modes that guide my investigation in my field: Design as Artist and Practitioner, Design as Scholarship of Engagement, and Scholarship of Design Pedagogy,” Stucker said. “Working within these modes requires a flexibility to be a leader, communicator, facilitator, collaborator, sympathizer, participator and innovator in a variety of self-initiated projects. Through Design as Artist and Practitioner, my work pushes my experimental approaches to form-giving, reinforces my skills in design practice and deepens my tacit knowledge of collaborative dynamics.”

The second mode “involves creative placemaking through community engagement by which I seek to foster growth, promote positivity, and contribute to the common good of both the design community and the public. In my third mode, I approach Scholarship of Pedagogy with intent to define and elevate the education of the field of design. All of these endeavors are deeply interconnected with my teaching and service, and therefore I would call myself a designer-citizen-teacher. This purpose fits the graphic design division’s mission for the program ‘that encourages independent and collaborative thinking, creative problem solving/analytics and design, creative writing, design for the public good, exploration of alternative visual communication methods, and a solid understanding of modern professional practices.’

A good example of a project she and her students conducted is last year’s award-winning Sit@Tell, which used graphic design to introduce some of Toledo’s underrepresented communities to one another and themselves through a series of chairs designed by the students, accompanied by oral histories of the communities, also collected and recorded by students. Stucker used the grant money she earned through an earlier community-based project to fund “Sit@Tell,” and the proceeds from the auction of the chairs went back to the Toledo Arts Commission to fund projects for young people.

For this project, she won the highly selective and prestigious Platinum Award in the Creativity International 46th annual Print and Packaging Awards, and the top award in the collateral material category. Her earlier “You Are Here” project for Toledo garnered the How Magazine International Design Awards Outstanding Award along with a Merit Award. He work, primarily for nonprofit clients, has received multiple national and international awards. In 2012 she received a Creativity International Print and Packaging Design Gold Award for her poster design for a lecture by the internationally acclaimed art historian Richard Shusterman. In October last year she won the 45th Creativity International Print and Packaging Design Silver Award and in  September 2016 (after receipt of external review letters) she won a Graphic Design USA Certificate of Excellence (given to 15 percent of 10,000 entries) for her design of Toledo's Arts Commission Strategic Plan for the Arts and Culture.

“To receive two How Magazine awards and three Creativity awards in five years is a tremendous achievement indeed,” Ray said.

Stucker’s work does not stop with the end of the academic year. Since 2007, she and School of Art colleague Amy Fidler have conducted the Summer Workshop for Experimentation and Thought (SWEAT), which invites students and professionals to use design to explore ideas ranging from the presence of junk food in everyday lives to communities’ love of county fairs.

Her energy also extends to leadership in professional service. Stucker is co-president of the Toledo chapter of AIGA: The Professional Association for Design, and is an active member with other associations, tirelessly promoting both the profession and the communities.