Aerial photograph from a plane of the Brook Street campus
15 February 2019

Design For Good

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As part of our HND and BA (Hons) Graphic Design programme’s ‘Design for Good’ drive, which seeks to explore the role of design in influencing successful socially-conscious initiatives, our students set themselves the challenge of developing innovative ideas to cope with mental health issues.

As part of a charrette, all three year groups worked together in 7 teams to formulate ideas, which covered a wide range of aspects such as PTSD, eating disorders in children, general anxiety and depression and schizophrenia. Design proposals included a project called ‘Ditch the Screen’, aimed at getting teenagers off social media to improve mental health and a design concept dubbed ‘Little Steps’ which addressed post-natal depression.

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The design teams pitched their ideas to a panel of guest judges, which included our College counsellors and West Kent Mind, who were involved in the initial consultancy process. It is hoped that the concepts developed may be used or displayed elsewhere.

This workshop is part of a wider competition brief for Creative Conscience, a global movement that aims to improve the communities we live and work in, promoting socially valuable, human-centred design that enables and inspires people to change their lives and the lives of those around them for the better.

The ‘Design for Good’ drive has encouraged many other students to explore some important concepts over the last few years. One BA graduate, Sarah Killick, used the idea of conversation-starters on Instagram to get people talking last summer about her Final Major Project, Mad About Plastic. Her project aimed to raise awareness of some of the little-known research into the presence of plastic in certain packaging.

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She said: “The course offered a lot more than I expected, opening my eyes to sustainable design, a focus on making a difference rather than making a profit. It prepares you well for the industry. It gives you the right mind-set, of ‘systems thinking’, designing to solve a problem as part of a wider connected set of concerns.

“It’s taught me that the story behind the design is often as important as the design itself - and that the transparency of the process is crucial to enforcing the idea of not treating things as throwaway.”

The Design for Good initiative has also seen our Graphics students work with ‘provotypes’ (provocative prototypes) to get discussions going about change-making for a better future, and undertake voluntary freelance design with local charities as part of the Design Volunteers project. This project sees students from the second year of the University of Kent’s HND in Graphic Design paired off with local organisations to undertake all kinds of graphics work, from logos and rebranding to posters, leaflets, brochures and websites.

Tutor and organiser of Design Volunteers, Sancha de Burca, said, “Organisations benefit from the project in getting the skills of a free designer for a period of eight months, while students gain valuable experience in real-world client relationships, creativity and professionalism. The students have a socially responsible agenda and are keen to see graphic design used to help the local community and therefore they appreciate this direct way of donating their skills to the community.”

If you know of a local charity, not-for-profit organisation or community group that would like the services of an undergraduate designer, then please contact Sancha de Burca at sanchadeburca@westkent.ac.uk for more information.