Design for Good: Empowering a Better Future from Africa to Cleveland



AIGA Cleveland and the School of Visual Communication Design at Kent State University are jointly hosting an evening event to discuss socially responsible design concepts in our neighborhood and abroad on Thursday, April 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative.

Keynote speaker and Creative Director of Rule 29 Justin Ahrens will share his goal in “making creative matter”(r) through design for good projects. Ahrens will discuss his Africa-based work with Life in Abundance that has challenged his team’s perspective on a designer’s possible impact. Kent State VCD graduate students, who supported recent work for Life in Abundance aimed at access to healthcare, will share their research, their role in the project and the resulting prototypes.

Bringing these concepts home to Cleveland, a second group of VCD graduate students will share similar concepts from their experience collaborating with Neighborhood Family Practice (NFP), a community health center that serves residents of the west side of Cleveland.

Alumni, friends and area professionals are welcomed for a cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvres from 6:30 to 7:30, followed by brief presentations from Ahrens and the VCD graduate students. Registration will open in March and can be found on AIGA Cleveland’s website. The evening will cost $10 for AIGA members and $15 for non-members. Student AIGA members are free and student non-members are $5.

About the Graduate Studio Projects 
Information and quotes from Nicole Gennarelli’s report.

Visual Communication Design Associate Professor Ken Visocky O’Grady and students from his Graduate Studio course researched and developed prototypes to address malaria prevention and sanitation awareness in Kibera, Kenya, and Rumbek, South Sudan during the 2011-2012 academic year. Graduate students in Associate Professor Sanda Katila’s studio course worked with the NFP during the fall 2012 semester and will continue developing the project this spring.

O’Grady organized the project for his class through Ahrens and Rule 29.

“There are many cases of malaria in East Africa, and we wanted to do something to help the people,” said Adina Feigenbaum, one of O’Grady’s graduate students and contributor to the project. “We wanted to create something that would explain to the people in these countries what to look for, how malaria is spread, etc. In Kibera, a slum, there are so many sanitation issues due to lack of drainage, sewers, toilets, trash facilities, etc. The sanitation problem was mostly touched upon by our long-term solutions.”

The class created symbol prototypes and icons that would speak to the intended audience. The prototypes were sent to Kenya with Life in Abundance for testing in the summer of 2012.

“The prototypes sent over included: coloring and activity books for children that explained where malaria comes from and teaches them about symptoms and going to a clinic to get help when they don’t feel well,” Feigenbaum said. “A school game to teach children facts about malaria and sanitation, a pamphlet of information about the causes of malaria, prevention of malaria, and symptoms to watch for and symptom cards to aid as a communication tool within the clinic were also sent over. Icons of different symptoms were created to help patients and physicians better communicate about how they’re feeling and help bypass a language barrier.”

The students had to do research and familiarize themselves with the culture, population and issues the people are facing in those countries, O’Grady said.

Similarly, students working on the Neighborhood Family Practice (NFP) project researched the makeup of their target audience and how to effectively communicate with them. NFP serves a largely Hispanic and generally low-income audience, providing them with unique communication challenges. The project’s objective is to enhance NFP’s relationship with current and future patients and their community to provide an engaging and beneficial healthcare experiences.

After conducting secondary and observational research, as well as primary interviews, the group decided on six areas for target messaging: the waiting room; televisions and tablets on site; a board game and activity book; a referrals and rewards program; social media; and mobile outreach. The project will continue this spring with the design and implementation of the key messages. For more information and story updates, visit


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