Ziddi Msangi’s syllabus for AXD451 “Graphic Design: Community Engagement Design” begins with a quote from John Dewey: “One is to do in school what one will do in society.” For many years, this staple course of the CVPA graphic design curriculum has delivered on that promise with long-form relationships with community groups.
Since 2011, the course always begins with an “Allens Pond Project”, speculative design that provides students the opportunity to work directly with staff at Mass Audubon’s Allen Pond Wildlife Sanctuary in Westport, Massachusetts. Students create a variety of design projects and proposals, which have included a portable trail map/guide, new signage systems, and visual informational campaigns.
Most recently, in the Fall 2021 semester, Msangi’s students developed a social media campaign, augmented reality-based tours, and activity books about the Salt Marsh Sparrow designed for young learners.
Full-Time Lecturer Janet Fairbairn also regularly teaches AXD 451. In her course, students have worked with local organizations, including Our Sisters’ School, where girls from the greater New Bedford area learn from a curriculum that is interdisciplinary, social justice oriented, place-based, and project oriented.
CVPA students created iconography and signage for the school, including its “outdoor classroom.”
Other collaborations include the Westport River Watershed Alliance, Sophia Academy, and the Women’s and Gender Studies program at UMass Dartmouth.
Fairbairn describes the mutual benefit of these projects: “Students consider the needs of the project/client. They begin by fully researching the client/subject, learn to work collaboratively, explain their design choices, and professionally present their work. I believe this not only serves the client, but it also gives the student valuable empathy and understanding about issues and concerns in their surrounding area.”