Design Activism

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Students and professors of USF’s design department came together last Friday to apply their design skills to today’s political conversations. Department head Rachel Beth Egenhoefer promptly planned an opportunity for her students to take action after she attended the San Francisco Women’s March.

“I wanted to do something quickly to sort of capitalize on the momentum that people were feeling from the Women’s March. There’s definitely been a response from students that they want more things like that, where they can come together and do something,” said Egenhoefer.

 

Her plan came to fruition as an extracurricular opportunity for her design and social change class. Egenhofer also invited the rest of the students in the design department. Every computer the X-Arts lab was taken throughout the event.

 

When it was clear that many students wanted to share their opinions, Egenhoefer led the event with a class discussion to get an idea of the topics most concerning to design students. After the event, it was clear that they share the same fears as many other USF students and community members. However, these students had a mission to achieve before the end of the event: to design eye-grabbing postcards with a clear message to send to their respective senators.

 

“I wanted to do something with our students where they could use design to voice their concerns and take action. I wanted us to feel like we did something by the end of the workshop,” said Egenhoefer.

 

Students designed a collection of postcards that covered a variety of issues plaguing America today, including women’s health, immigration, the border wall and the environment. “The conversations we had were about their fears, and the uncertainty of what’s happening,” said Egenhoefer.

 

Senior design major Sarah Frei created a postcard with a collection of colorful hands joining together. Her inspiration was her frustration with Trump’s recent travel ban against citizens from seven countries with Muslim majorities.

 

“I know people who have family from the countries affected and I follow a couple Iranian filmmakers who I really admire. I wanted to make something that sends the message: we wouldn’t be the country we are today without the contributions of these immigrants,” Frei said.

 

Megan Badilla, a junior design major, saw a strong correlation between the recent protests and the protests of the civil rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s. She theorized that the images would be nearly identical if the modern photos were shot in black and white. “It sort of shows how history repeats itself,” she said.

 

“I think it’s important for any USF department, but especially the art department to have a say in an important issue in our world such as this one. It was exciting to have a group on campus share my interest in combining design and activism,” Badilla added.

 

Egenhoefer was ultimately satisfied with the group’s ability to rapidly create a finalized product, one that could bring them the immediate reassurance that they had taken part in speaking up. At the end of the session, the postcards were printed, addressed and stamped; Egenhoefer delivered them to the mailbox shortly after.

 

“I sometimes feel reassured by our students because they are so passionate. I hope that in my teaching in the classroom and in extracurricular activities like this, we really inspire them to use design for the greater good,” Egenhoefer concluded.

Photo Courtesy of Rachel Beth Egenhoefer

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Katie Ward
Katie is the Editor in Chief of the San Francisco Foghorn. She has also worked as a staff writer, copy editor, and news editor. Katie hopes to continue her work in the journalism after she graduates in May of 2017.

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