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Graphic design delivers the power to change

BGSU graphic design students do work that is meaningful and makes a difference

By Julie Carle

Bowling Green State University graphic design students understand “design has the power to change.”

Many students “have a desire to do meaningful work and to make a difference,” said Jenn Stucker, division chair and associate professor of graphic design. The program, which is housed in the School of Art, has shifted its focus over the past several years to recognize that interest. “We want students to think of their role and their position as a communicator, because as designers we are the conduit between the client and the customer.

“The value of design cannot be underscored. As designers, we have to think about what is the experience we want our audience to have and what is the behavior we want to see happen. That’s the responsibility we really have – to participate in our society and to influence how people respond to a topic."

The graphic design faculty is uniquely focused on letting the students know “they have the opportunity to become agents of change,” Stucker said. “We encourage our students to be cognizant of their communication and the tools they have in front of them to address really important issues for the wellbeing of our society, and how we make our society better.”

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The program has focused on Design for Social Impact for several years and introduced the minor two years ago for non-BFA majors. Students from other art programs, as well as from other majors, such as business and apparel merchandising and product development, can incorporate the social impact emphasis into their coursework as a minor.

Students are guided toward addressing the social challenges of issues, including climate change, human rights, health and health care, public policy and social enterprise. They gain the skills to become catalysts in communities through projects focused on cultivating empathetic and positive social impact solutions from ideation to implementation, Stucker said.

Recent graphic design students developed their senior thesis projects on topics ranging from gender segregation of bathrooms and textile waste to human trafficking and preservation of the mason bee. This year’s seniors are focused on social issues that include hoarding, sugar addiction, overlooked Indigenous culture in the United States and mitigating medical misinformation on social media.

The top graphic design senior thesis project for 2019-20 was “Microagressions, Microassaults, and Microinsults,” created by Gyona Rice. She followed her older sister, Dajaniere, in the BGSU graphic design program. Dajaniere’s senior thesis project about using art to fight depression earned the Medici Circle Cup Best of Show Award for the BFA thesis show in 2017.

“It’s not often that we have two siblings in a program,” Stucker said. “They’re both artistically talented. They see design as an opportunity to utilize their artistic talent because graphic design is communication for the masses. They recognize the opportunity and the platform that design gives them, using their skill set as artists and designers.”

The program has many graduates who are doing meaningful work in their communities.

"We are proud of our graduates," Stucker said.

Some of the students who are doing work in social impact include Adriana Brown, who was a fellow for Design and Diversity; Benjie Wilhelm, who started his own studio but also does work on behalf of LGBTQ+ issues; and Zach Minnich, who works at Span and has done the 3D and animation work on a stereotypes project called Type Cast.

As additional students graduate with a lens of social impact, the BGSU graphic design brand will continue to ripple through communities, industries and issues and “make a real difference in society with the work they create,” Stucker said. 

“Individually, graphic design is an opportunity for an artist to get their voice out there. Designers can be introverted – their physical voice may not be loud, but their visual voice may be much louder.”

Media Contact | Colleen Rerucha | rerucha@bgsu.edu