For the past six weeks, students of SVA’s summer intensive program Impact! Design for Social Change have had the opportunity to combine their creative skills with their desire to make a positive difference in the world. Aside from engaging in a series of educational field trips, the international group of designers also took in lectures by Wendy Brawer, founding director of Green Map System; Cheryl Heller, chair of SVA’s new MFA Design for Social Innovation program; Asi Burak, co-president of Games for Change; and many others. With the help of DesigNYC, the students were also divided into teams, matched with New York City-based non-profit groups, and asked to come up with improvements for the organizations. In addition, each student was tasked with developing an individual project that focused on community social advocacy. It was a busy month and a half indeed.
The Briefs had a chance to visit the class on a day when the students were pitching their individual project concepts to Allan Chochinov, chair of the MFA Products of Design Department. Also on hand to offer critiques were Impact! co-founders Steven Heller (MFA Design Department co-chair) and Mark Randall (a principal at Worldstudio), as well as Yellowbrickroad founder and president Bob McKinnon.
Each student brought a palpable earnestness to his or her presentation and the feedback was direct and constructive. Impact! student Tania Jimenez, a freelance art director, graphic designer, and researcher based in Montreal, proposed her idea of helping to break down cultural barriers and stereotypes by organizing a series of cleverly-named potluck dinners in her community. “Where does this take place?” Heller asked. “How is this going to happen?” After Jimenez explained, Chochinov nodded in approval and advised her to take a more DIY approach. “Just do this on your own, don’t take an official route.”
Etienne Pham, an artist and West Coast transplant who now works as a designer in New York, offered his idea for a project that would cater to the unique healthcare needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender elders. “This project is about empathy, and you obviously have a lot of it,” Heller said. “Remember to keep your focus on that.” Among the other thoughtful proposals was Zennie McLoughlin’s plan to reduce the demand for plastic bottles of water, and Chris Seabrooks’ idea for a comic that helps school kids deal with the issue of bullying.
On Friday, August 19th at 133/141 West 21st Street, the 2011 Impact! students present their final projects and the public is invited. From 10am – noon, they offer their team presentations on the ideas they came up with for Southwest Brooklyn IDC, Lower East Side Business Improvement District, East River Development Alliance, and Northfield Community LDC. From 2 – 5pm, they will deliver presentations of their refined individual projects. And from 5 – 8pm, they will party—they’ve earned it.
Images: (top) From left: Steven Heller, Mark Randall, and Bob McKinnon. (bottom) Impact! student Jacqueline Minkler. Photos by Pascal Filion.