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Healthcare Communication Tools Project Named Runner-up in Metropolis Magazine Competition

Posted Jun. 10, 2013

The Healthcare Communication Tools project by graduate students in the Master of Fine Arts program in the School of Visual Communication Design (VCD) was named one of the runners-up in this year’s Next Generation Design Competition, sponsored by Metropolis Magazine. This year's competition focused on developing inclusive design solutions for populations that are typically underserved by the design industry. The team of students included Penina Acayo, Brito Diego, Adina Feigenbaum, Jason Goupil, Ian McCullough and Andrew Schwanbeck.

The project addressed malaria prevention in Kiberia, a slum outside of Nairobi, Kenya. A team of VCD graduate students spent a semester researching the culture, people and sanitation issues in Kiberia. Associate Professor Ken Visocky O’Grady organized the project with Justin Ahrens of the strategic design agency Rule 29, and Life in Abundance, an African-led nonprofit that helps to train, equip and empower local churches to serve the poor.

“For these entrants, design is no mere stylistic exercise, but an incisive and creative tool that can and must enhance the lives of those whose needs have been ignored,” said Ken Shulman in his article Aiming High, The Runners-up: A new generation of designers takes on an ambitious set of pressing social changes.”

“We tried to provide visuals that fit within their culture,” Andrew Schwanbeck, 2013 MFA alumnus said in Shulman’s report. “We didn’t want just another Westernized design solution.”

“Students spent nine to 10 weeks doing research on those areas,” Visocky O’Grady said. “They looked at visual literacy, photography from people at Life in Abundance, used photos to understand what life there was like and what graphic messages the population was exposed to. We worked on a real simple set of cards that have 10 common symptoms of malaria. We want practitioners to be able to put them on a table and have people point to the symptoms they have.”

The prototypes were tested by clinicians and patients in Kiberia, and refined by the graduate students. In April, the students presented the project to local design professionals at a collaborative event by AIGA Cleveland and the School of Visual Communication Design. Ahrens joined the Design For Good event to share more of the work he’s done in Africa. Read more about the project here.