Designed to serve: How a Hite Art Institute class helps area nonprofits

Design Students

On a recent morning, students from Hite Art Institute’s Design for Public Issues course gathered one last time before the semester’s end to present an important Christmas present.

They passed a binder, wrapped in gold paper, off to members of the Louisville Climate Action Network, the nonprofit they were tasked with working with for the semester.

The binder held the brand standards guide for the new suite of marketing materials the students had designed for the group – everything from a new logo, website, print materials, social media elements and environmental graphics for a proposed brick and mortar outreach center called the EcoDepot.

Like passing off a driver’s manual, the brand standards will allow LCAN to use the students’ designs to fulfill its mission of educating locals on how to reduce their carbon footprint.

“It makes us feel good to see it all out there in the world,” said Leslie Friesen, class instructor.

Since 2010, the course has served as a culminating, service learning experience for BFA students in the Graphic Design program, where they can apply all they’ve learned in their prior two years of classes. Students work as a team with a nonprofit to develop materials that effectively communicate the organization’s message and provide a strong, cohesive visual identity.

“The overall goal is to increase awareness, involvement and support for these nonprofits,” Friesen said.

Leslie Friesen

Organizations selected have limited resources and couldn’t otherwise afford the work.

For example, Friesen said a private agency would likely have charged LCAN as much as $200,000 for the the number of hours that the team of 13 students put into the project. 

“This is the huge advantage of having a metropolitan research university in this city – the focus on service. Students and faculty take the education process and apply it to the needs of the community as they’ve done here,” said Barry Zalph, an LCAN board member.

Zalph said the experience was educational for them as well, as they were exposed to tools they hadn’t even considered using.

The group had a simple website, a Facebook page, a few flyers, but not much else.

“They needed everything from soup to nuts,” Friesen said.

To help with the large task, the class visited Humana’s Digital Experience Center where members of their creative team, which included several Hite graphic design alums, lead them in a workshop that introduced their process of designing collaboratively. That process was incorporated into this year’s class as they developed initial design ideas for LCAN’s work.

“It got us building off each other’s work,” Friesen said.

Students said they felt proud of the end product.

“I’m surprised by how much work we got done,” said senior Jenna White.

“… and how well we worked together,” agreed Jennie DiBeneditto, also a senior.

written by Niki King