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Graphic design students collaborate with nonprofit organizations on rebranding campaigns

December 20, 2013
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Students in Christos Theo's advanced graphic communications course pose with representatives from the Eau Claire City-County Health Department, Sojourner House and Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention.


EAU CLAIRE — Senior art & design students specializing in graphic design at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire recently partnered with local and regional nonprofit organizations to develop rebranding campaigns intended to enhance the organizations' public image and visual communication effectiveness.

They presented their design proposals to representatives from the Eau Claire City-County Health Department, Sojourner House and Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) as part of the Community and Regional Outreach Initiative in Christos Theo's advanced graphic communications course.

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New logo students created for the Eau Claire City-County Health Department.
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Billboard created for the Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention's campaign for the prevention of underage drinking.
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Informational card students created to increase awareness of the Sojourner House in Eau Claire.

"Our graphic design students have been involved in these community outreach projects for almost 20 years," said Theo, professor of graphic design and chair of the department of art & design. "The collaborative endeavors continue to enhance the relationship between our university and the surrounding community. In addition to their community service, the opportunities provide our students with real-world experiences and enable them to acquire valuable high-end, team-driven design solutions for their professional portfolios."

During the semesterlong project, students work on creating new visual identity systems, environmental and architectural graphics, and public awareness campaign proposals based on their clients' needs.

In addition to nonprofit outreach, students have collaborated with area business and civic leaders to help provide effective visual communication as a means for stimulating economic growth in the region, Theo said.

Amy Schleichert, St. Paul Park, Minn., and her team worked with a representative from ASAP on a campaign for the prevention of underage drinking. She said the project was both a challenging and rewarding experience.

"The most challenging part of this project was communicating as a group and working as a team to narrow our focus on one concept from so many differing ideas and opinions," Schleichert said. "Up until now, our courses have mostly focused on individual work, so we had to be flexible and open-minded and willing to compromise for the benefit of our client. We worked very hard on this project and it was satisfying to be able to share the final proposal with our clients who are so passionate about their work."

Schleichert, who will graduate this month, hopes to work for a small design studio in the Twin Cities area.

Serena Wagner, Eau Claire, worked on a team that partnered with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department. Wagner, who is interested in a career working with nonprofit organizations after she graduates in May, said the project provided her with a chance to gain professional experience in the field.

"This course presented us with a great stepping stone into our careers through the opportunity to work with a real client in creating a campaign from scratch — and then giving a professional presentation of our work, which is what we will have to do in our careers," Wagner said. "We worked with the client to identify the issues and problems in their current campaign and then created visual representations of our solution. It was very rewarding to see the client's appreciation and excitement for our work."

Gina Schemenauer and Cortney Draxler, health educators for the Eau Claire City-County Health Department, were the client representatives for the organization.

"We were very impressed with the level of professionalism and skills the students demonstrated," Schemenauer said. "They had great energy and were very intuitive about what we were looking for. We gave them the background of our organization and they just ran with it."

Schemenauer said this is the first time the Eau Claire City-County Health Department has worked with art & design students from UW-Eau Claire and would definitely partner with the department again.

"Their work and presentation was well thought out and researched," Schemenauer said. "We are already thinking about projects to collaborate on with future students."

Theo said this is a very rewarding course to teach because it allows him to watch students grow into professionals as they progress through their projects.

"As a graphic designer, your creative work has to connect with others in order to be successful," Theo said. "Learning to communicate with the client and understand what they desire is critical. I am very proud of the level of professionalism and dedication the students have displayed throughout the semesterlong project."

Over the years, senior graphic design students have provided research, consultation and visual solutions for a number of organizations, including the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport, Eau Claire Regional Arts Center, Chippewa Valley Symphony, Habitat for Humanity, Eau Claire Area School District and Downtown Eau Claire.

Since the creation of the Community and Regional Outreach Initiative, students have earned various awards of appreciation and recognition from the Eau Claire City Council. The success of the community outreach initiative also has been highlighted at the Wisconsin State Economic Summit in Milwaukee and has received the first Wisconsin Ideas Fellowship from the UW System.

For more information on the Community and Regional Outreach Initiative, contact Christos Theo at theocm@uwec.edu or 715-836-3277.

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