In their third year, our undergraduate students have the opportunity to complete a ‘Design for change’ project. The project aims to give a space for exploring how design can contribute to social change. Past projects include:
Say something – an anti-sexual harassment campaign
A hidden disabilities learning kit – designed to build a more considerate atmosphere for those living with hidden disabilities through awareness within schools
A non-profit initiative called ‘Wear Conscious’ – a social media campaign for change in consumer behaviour and the fast fashion industry
This year, Aanand Tank (a graduate of the Typography & Graphic Communication department) and Shraddha Depala, from Sky Creative, joined the teaching team to inspire students through their experience working on Sky campaigns including Black History Month and Pride turns 50.
The students were also invited to visit Sky Creative, shadow a Diversity & Inclusion meeting with Aanand and Shraddha, and experience a tour of the campus and design studios.
Jamal Harewood is an activist who sets out to share his vision of race and identity through workshops around England. He is currently undergoing a freedom workshop that seeks to redefine the term ‘freedom’ by discussing each individual in the workshop—participants brought in different perspectives and Fresh insight onto specific topics free from any judgement and authenticity.
On the 27th of January, Jamal Harewood led an audience-based workshop, ‘Project Freedom’, in Minghella Studios theatre Reading university. It comprises a diverse number of students that seek to redefine freedom on their terms. The workshop was a playful experience where participants were encouraged to discuss and share their views and opposition to different themes and activities. Each individual created a new definition of freedom and a pledge to follow through. Overall, the workshop brought a collective of ideas together.
The premise of this real job is to document the workshop and create deliverables that would suit Jamal’s brand and idea. He wanted to write about the unique experience of this temporary community and show the discussions and interpretations of each individual.
After we document our client’s workshop ‘Project freedom’ and his interactions with the audience, we are tasked to create a booklet and UX blog post that include the wide range of diverse experiences and definitions of freedom from the participants. The audience is the focal point of the workshop, so it is important to make the deliverables as personal as possible, not only showing their ideas but their performances and behaviour.
Our Brief main goal is to offer attendees an opportunity to revisit their experiences in Jamal’s workshop. They would be able to look through the deliverables and find quotes and thought that they said at the workshop. Although we would only be able to document one workshop, Jamal would like to carry out this project in other workshops, thereby using this deliverable as a template for future workshops and making a profit from the booklet independently.
Booklet template. Amendable Canva template for client’s upcoming workshops
Blog post prototype.
Research and ideation
One of the primary branding guidelines Jamal gave us was to involve the colour black. Initially, he wanted the book page to be black but having an all-black book would not be legible with some research and inspiration, we were able to find what works for Jamals.
For inspiration, Jannah and I started looking at different design idea platforms such as Pinterest and Behance. We looked at different layouts and formats of presenting texts and theme pages. We found some booklets that integrated box shapes into the body text while acting as a filler; This helped because the body text of the booklet isn’t heavy, so it was important to find a way to show the text without the book looking empty.
We understood that for this deliverable to be genuinely successful, we needed to have colours that would resonate with Jamal and his brand. When researching, the colour yellow with black caught our eyes the most. The cheerful and eye-catching hues of yellows are balanced by the more sober and sophisticated shades of black. Black and yellow branding worked well as these two colours were balanced and contrasted.
We set out to not only look for design inspirations but a colour scheme for Jamal to use across the different workshops. The colours you use in your branding and design are more than just a matter of aesthetics. Is your brand exclusive, accessible, friendly, cheerful, or mysterious? Your choice of colours reflects what your brand stands for and what customers associate with it. Understanding Jamal and the type of brand he wants to represent was one of the primary key points noted when choosing inspirations online.
Due to the nature of this project, we had to find a way for Jamal to distinguish his booklets across different workshops. We thought of the idea of using colours to differentiate but keeping the layout and the design of the booklet the same would be helpful for Jamal to design his booklet without the need for designers. So when users see the different branding colours, they would be able to associate the colour with the various workshops.
Jamal Harewood gave us complete creative control however, he wanted the primary colour for his deliverables to be black. This was because his brand identity is black with a maze and fist logo showing his connection to the BLM movement. He wanted his brand identity to be applied to his printed booklet and blog post for a consistent brand identity. We explored different colour palettes that will complement the key colours (black and white) the client has requested to be used throughout each deliverable.
This was my first draft for the book cover. The layout was nice and exciting, but it had a stern look and did not fit Jamal’s brand. However, the design had a sophisticated look similar to a journal, which contrasted Jamal’sbrand for the booklet is meant to be playful and inviting. The structures are shown in different colours to give Jamal an idea of how we would represent his various workshops. The coloured box represents a door revealing the theme; it helps viewers know what to expect when coming to the workshop.
For the second book cover design, I played around with making the cover as friendly and as inviting as possible. However, it was typographically right. The title of the book, being vertical, was not legible, and there were too many different text formats that did not complement each other. This resulted in a lack of proper hierarchy in the text and could confuse users.
Jannah’sdesigns were interesting as they also played around with the vertical and diagonal layout for the text, but the background felt like something was missing. Jannah’ssecond draft also had the issue of being sophisticated and not fitting Jamal’spersonality or the playfulness of the workshop.
To move further, we decided to combine the best elements of our designs into one to create Jamal’s book cover. However, nothing on the book cover represented Jamal or his brand apart from his name. I suggested using the maze design and adding it to the book cover’s background, which worked well to show Jamal’s brand. I explored different layouts and formats for the maze design.
As we move further into the book cover development, Jamal told us he preferred the white background with the black maze line. we agreed with him because it was neater and more visually appealing when combined with the other book cover element
We took out the theme title from the front page because we did not want to give much away to viewers when looking at the cover. The final book page works because there is a clear visual hierarchy. Jamal likes the book cover format because it is clear and playful while complementing his brand.
Jamal did not want to include photos of the participants, so we had to find a way to represent the theme or show the activities in the workshop. This part of the project was split into two, with Jannah designing the booklet’s illustrations and Theme page and I handling the Book text layout and photomontage. This idea was because we wanted each design element to have a consistent design style.
The illustrations represent the themes; they have a youthful look as the target audience is young adults. They have the same line length as the maze design because we wanted to follow through with consistency. Adding this illustration gives the book more volume and makes the book pages more attractive. The illustration has a symbolic meaning as it represents the different activities in the workshop.
When designing the theme page, we added time and text however, this element did not work because it made the theme page complicated and was not necessary. Separating each piece on the theme page made the book bulky and showed each element on its own.
We used the image above as the final design because of the apparent visual hierarchy. The use of yellow and white shows visual hierarchy and highlights the critical word in the text. The illustration represents the theme and is connected to the next page with a yellow box. We found the connecting shape helpful in linking the two pages together.
The photo montage gave the book a personal touch and helped viewers understand what happened in the workshop. Participants can see their writing and help push further the idea that this workshop was audience led.
The body text wasn’t heavy, so it was essential not to make each body text page look empty or isolated. With this idea, each booklet element is highlighted, and the text stands out on its own, with the text box adding vibrance and giving the book format a consistent look to the theme and number page.
What is Freedom?
Jamal Harewood is an activist and supports the BLM. This idealogy was implemented in the Freedom posters designed on the last page of the booklet. The freedom poster is designed similarly to the BLM ‘I can’t breathe’ poster by Eric Garner. This would help viewers identify Jamal’s support and appreciation for design in BLM.
During our first meeting with Jamal, he stated he wanted to develop a brand mark from the client’s logo and translate this onto the opening and closing pages of the booklet. The maze design is a collage of Jamal logo design; there are two different maze designs, one that is used on the front cover and the other that is used on the inside pages. The front cover maze design lets the viewer know that this booklet is under Jamal’s brand.
The maze collage acts as a filler, for the booklet introduction and ending. it also helps us go further in the branding technique than just the front book cover. it is presented diagonally with five logo designs in a row. Jamal liked this layout because the logo design was not big and the layout was much more dynamic compared to the other maze designs.
Participants who are not able to visit the workshop would be able to look at the blog post. The blog post is designed in cohesion with a booklet layout for clients to implement onto their website. It was designed on Adobe XD with Jannah overseeing the design. The blog post design has the same design elements as the booklet, so few developments or changes were made. We did look at the consistency of spacing and how viewers would navigate through the blog post.
One of my favourite design elements on the blog is the maze background with the black box. it follows the format and layout of the front cover, which is helpful in consistent branding.
The main goal of this project was for Jamal to be able to print and redesign this booklet on his own. We informed him about printing in the department and the process of printing at home. Informing him of the cons and Pros, Jamal decided to print at home after much analysis as it is more cost-effective and personal.
Since we were designing on canvas, we learned how to create and show bleed and crop marks on the canvas. Though it was slightly more straightforward, it was not as customizable as doing it on InDesign.
The printing aspect of this project allowed us to look at flaws that we overlooked while designing on canvas, such as alignment issues, spacing issues, etc. however, such cases were few. The printing of the project was successful because the booklet looked relatively similar on the screen to the print, with the colours complementing each other, the font size being readable, and the illustrations looking presentable.
As this project progressed, I understood how vital group work is when both partners play through their strengths. As time went on, it became clear to me that working with a partner who has a different design style yet similar mindset as you is helpful. We explored different styles and illustrations while barely having conflicts because we communicated effectively and ensured that everyone’s opinions were valid as we went through the project.
Overall, the design process of this booklet was enjoyable as we made sure to include Jamal at every step after our supervisor had approved it. Each design element was explained to Jamal and why such detail works with his booklet, and if he wanted any changes, it was noted and implemented immediately. However, such changes were few because he trusted our designs and believed we understood him as a person and knew what kind of designs he wanted.
On this week's Baseline Shift, the University of Reading’s Different by Design team, currently consisting of Lamar Kaki and Minh Nguyen, joined us to give a talk about what it means to be inclusive in design.
In week 5 of the Spring term, Baseline Shift welcomed Typography & Graphic Communication graduate Seniz Husseyin who talked to the students about her experience within the Department and how it shaped her into wanting to work for social change in the third sector. In June of last year Seniz started working with a charity in Reading called Launchpad and she also shared some of her experiences from there.
University and beyond
Seniz started her degree in 2017 and graduated in 2020. In the beginning she was nervous and doubting her capabilities, however she decided to ignore that and not let it get in the way.
Trying to get the best out of her university experience, Seniz joined the Department’s diversity team in her first year when it was first proposed and each year, along with the increasing opportunities from the team, her confidence and passion to continue working for good social causes grew. That really changed her perspective as a designer and shaped her future career choices. It was no surprise for her when she found out that the designer industry is mostly populated by white males and a lot of the history that is taught reflects the same. Learning about the cultures and ideas within design outside of the western canon was an opportunity she couldn’t miss.
For the years she was part of the diversity team, the team was able to help change the curriculum by incorporating more opportunities for diversity and inclusion to be taught such as the Design for Change module. The diversity team has since given presentations at the RUSU Partnership in Teaching and Learning Showcase and Baseline Shift. Being part of the team also allowed Seniz to meet people from all year groups and other departments, conduct two workshops at Tate Modern and create an annual diversity zine.
Seniz believes that these major parts of her university experience have shaped her into the designer she is today and built up her desire to work on projects for good causes or that will help bring change.
‘I am now more conscious of the companies I want to work for or who I apply for.’
The inclusive experience Seniz had at university and her newly formed mindset towards work led her to apply for a marketing internship for the homeless charity at Launchpad Reading.
Seniz describes Launchpad as Reading’s leading homeless prevention charity. She said they provide information and support for individuals, couples and families who don’t have a stable place to live or are at risk of losing their home. They also provide temporary and permanent homes and rebuild lives through activities, supportive education, training and employment. Seniz was also pleased to find out that it was actually founded as a soup kitchen in 1979 by students at the University of Reading.
Wanting to be involved working for a charity, she thought that having new marketing experience would be really beneficial for her design work. Seniz found the internship through the Reading Internship Scheme, which she highly recommends for finding internships or even voluntary work since experience is extremely beneficial and can set one apart, especially at a time when employers are looking for staff with experience.
In the beginning of her career at Launchpad, she also completed a digital marketing and advertising online course because she wanted to make sure she had basic training while working with the Marketing Team.
Seniz initially started at Launchpad as a marketing intern through the Reading Internship Scheme but after three months of working with them she was offered a Marketing Assistant role.
Even though it was marketing, she was hired because of her design background which provided a huge overlap between both industries. Being able to get this marketing experience really helped Seniz improve as a designer too. Seniz was the first designer employed at the small charity and working with them she helped with their website, fundraising campaigns, social media, email newsletters, video editing and other tasks. Even though her title was Marketing Assistant, she did feel more like an in-house designer. If you are a designer, looking to become more business savvy, Seniz suggests learning some marketing knowledge.
‘Design and Marketing are two sides of the same coin, and what binds them together is the primary focus of understanding and appreciating the user or target consumer.’ Design So Journ, ‘The relationship between design and marketing‘ in designsojourn.com, 2010.
Big Sleep Out
The Big Sleep Out is Launchpad’s annual fundraising event and one of the major projects Seniz has worked on within the charity.
The event takes place on world homeless day – 7 October and 2020 was the fifteenth year the charity was running the event. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the event was made virtual but this was a daunting new challenge for everyone in the team to adapt to a virtual event.
However, because of that, Seniz felt that she was learning and contributing as much as everyone else on the team and created new digital materials that were specific to what people could use in their homes and plan new strategies. The 2020 event saw a big turnout of people from Berkshire which raised a total of over £50,000 that would go towards preventing homelessness in Reading. The sum was actually double their initial target. When creating the items for the event, Seniz worked with a logo created by an external designer to create all other materials for the event. Part of the promotion for the event was getting the word out to the public, so Seniz had to create large scale work with a visible call to action.
Other materials she designed include the event programme booklet, flyer design and social media banners, all of which were vital. She made sure the text in these was easy and visible to read while keeping engagement throughout.
Seniz aimed to make all of these consistent whilst also adjusting to the specifications. She also designed downloadable content that participants could use to create more recognition and support for the charity, such as the event pack.
Working through a pandemic
A big part for Seniz within this role was working through a pandemic. While new, it did come with some advantages. Knowing that everyone is going through it together for the first time actually made staff grow as a team. They learned new skills such as how to adapt in constant changing circumstances and within unknown times. Working from home also meant she had to do less travelling.
Some challenges included having most of the charity’s events cancelled, and when adapting to the new online way of doing things, there wasn’t enough time to plan it out properly. Starting a new job this way did feel overwhelming but Seniz never felt left out.
Seniz is no longer working for Launchpad but some of her last projects for the charity included designing some of the external and internal signage at a new Life and Skill centre called Launchpad 135.
Another thing she was also working on was the charity’s brand refresh which included all publication materials. Overall she hopes to continue her career in the sector.
Seniz said if there is anything she would want us to take away from her presentation it would be to make use of everything the Department offers and pursue our interests in designing for good causes. Being able to see first hand how her work helped people through feedback and client stories was so motivating and she certainly didn’t have this mindset in first year but the Department really did help introduce her into this lane through certain modules and projects. Her advice is to grab all the different opportunities we have because they can open many doors and she definitely recommends being a part of these even if it is out of our comfort zone.
‘It was nice to see how someone with a similar path and experience to me has gone on to do cool stuff and make a career. Very comforting especially that she managed it in this current chaos – shows how far hard work actually gets you!’ – Part 3 student
‘I always value the talks from past students because I feel like there’s a bit of a gap between uni and working in my head so it’s valuable to learn what others did afterwards to make that step.’ – Part 1 student
This week’s Baseline Shift welcomed our student-led diversity team – I am, we are… different by design – to organise a workshop and a talk about inclusivity and diversity in design and how we can encourage it more within the graphic design, communication and the arts. Diversity and inclusion has been more so than ever a burning issue for all of us this year, and staying aware is crucial for all of us to change our systems for a more overall inclusive society. The I am, we are… different by design team help us all to understand how as a designer you can make a change, and start discussions with the right tools.
The meaning of ‘inclusive design’
‘Having the conversation is a huge step towards inclusion in our field.’
In order to first do so, the team discussed the meaning of the term ‘inclusive design’ with students. Some students said:
‘Designing for everyone by everyone’
‘Acknowledging and being interested in difference’
The team picked up on the word ‘culture’, and explained that it is a common misconception to think that everything to do with inclusivity in the industry ties itself to culture. In fact, they explained that the term grouped much bigger aspects of design that, in daily life we don’t necessarily pay attention to.
The team presented ‘inclusive design’ as a wide circle of possibilities. Extending beyond culture, inclusivity begins with considering the disabilities people may have, their gender, sexuality, age and more. For your design to truly cater to everyone’s needs, it is important to understand where the definition of inclusivity lies.
Designing for everyone
By understanding what inclusive design is, you automatically set yourself up to design for a wide audience. This entails a careful consideration of the spectrum of your user’s expectations and needs when handling or seeing your product. A good example of this was American artist and graphic designer Susan Kare’s creation of the mailbox icon.
Kare’s first proposal for the email icon was refused (see second icon in the image above). The reason why was because mail boxes like this one are a common way for Americans to receive mail. An American user would know what the icon meant but for a non-American user, the icon would’ve been unrelatable and seem foreign. Conclusively, Kare’s envelope icon was a success in terms of making it relatable on a global and worldwide scale.
Learning how to be more inclusive is an increasingly prevalent concept throughout the duration of the course. In Part 2 you take on app design, and you are encouraged to consider how to tailor your app to a target user, carefully considering their needs and the problems they may encounter.
Understanding your user
Understanding your user is the first step to creating a product that feels relatable and personal. In order to successfully achieve that in your designs, doing some research into your target audience is a great place to start. As we have seen previously with Kare’s icon proposals, gaining knowledge from the people you are designing for is essential. If you are creating an app for a certain age, say seniors, you would have to consider any disabilities they may have, such as vision problems or arthritis, and how they would interact with your app. The use of a light and dark mode for people with visual impairments is a great example of an inclusive feature of an app or a website for people with astigmatism. It is about adapting your designs to a more diverse audience.
‘It all comes back to the user.’
The next step to understanding your user is to create user personas. They help you with empathising with your target audience by outlining specific problems that users may encounter with your product. The more you define clear problems or inconveniences your users may have, the more precise your solutions will be in satisfying your user’s needs.
An example of a successful understanding of your user needs, would be in the designing of a label on a product. Say your product contains certain allergens that could be lethal to anyone who is allergic; if your user has a learning difficulty, such as dyslexia, you would want to make sure your use of typography, contrast and size is suitable for your user’s needs.
The main point we can take from this session is that learning about each other is crucial. Understanding your users comes first through doing a sufficient amount of research about them. This research doesn’t only just come from using the internet, but also through talking to your peers, whether they be of a different nationality, speak a different language and people who may be of a different age than yourself who may have a different way of perceiving and experiencing our society. Listening is the key component of learning from each other.
You will not only be building strong links with people who know your field, but also be broadening your mind and knowledge about how different people would use your product and resonate with it.
The course offers lots of opportunities for you to get involved with actively making design and the arts more inclusive. You can join the diversity team. Doing so offers a great deal of discussion about diversity within the arts and provides you with a set of valuable skills that you would benefit from after graduating. In previous years, the team have helped organise the Tate Exchange, where they get to host a workshop at the Tate Museum in London for people from all walks of life, and creatively think about a common topic.
The team also published a zine fr the past three years in which they cover various topics regarding diversity in design, and interview people that are embracing it and celebrating differences. Issue 3 is now out, in which the team interviewed Greg Bunbury. You can pick up a copy in the department.
The diversity team is a splendid example of the freedom you get as a student here in the department, to use design to make your voice heard. When the team was formed in 2017, they worked together with our lecturers to create the Part 3 module ‘Design for change’.
By getting involved with the team and letting your voice be heard, you learn how to overcome the challenges of using design to fight for what is right to you.
‘Challenge yourself and try and be more inclusive.’
Inclusive design is at the forefront of the industry right now. Consciously looking to be more inclusive whilst also partaking in the opportunities that the Department offers is the best way to build your confidence in what you can do as a student, and to create more impactful designs on the course. Being a part of something bigger than the curriculum is beneficial not only for your career, but for your practice as a designer. In the long run, having an understanding of the power you own as a designer is the greatest tool you have to create change for the better.
If you would like to join the team, feel free to contact the team via our Instagram: @uortypography
‘I really enjoyed the subject matter that was discussed as I feel it’s something which needs to be discussed more and actions need to be taken into account especially how things are politically. What I valued most was how the team organise projects and work together and spread out the workload.’ – Part 1 student
‘Learning about the ways to become more inclusive in design was extremely useful, as graphic design is design for an audience.’ – Part 1 student
Real Job: Izzy Bahrin developed an information poster to raise awareness of issues around the prescription antipsychotic drugs for dementia patients. The project supported the work of @PDonyai at @RSofPharmacy @UniofReading