As a part of the Visual Communication Design Program at Arizona State University, our senior year is heavily based on a social issue we feel connected to and is in need of advocacy. After selecting a social issue, we must dedicate ourselves to fully research our topic and identify problems and possible solutions while working on exploratory projects that helped us visualize these issues. With minimal direction from our professors, we are encouraged to try new things and develop visual design aimed to inform others and advocate for what we feel passionate about.
I had a difficult time deciding what topic I was ready to research for the entire school year, but when I first began to research “Mass Incarceration”, I felt very passionate to learn more about its' connection to racial discrimination and the ways it has impacted people of color in the United States. As a woman of color, I was drawn to advocate for the injustices seen in the U.S Criminal Justice System, specifically towards people of color to help and inform others.
A NEW WAY TO TELL TIME
The biggest project in the Fall semester is the clock project. Students are asked to think of a way to display a certain message or statistic based on their social issue, while still displaying time accurately. With this project, we come up with a new visual way to represent a specific aspect of our issues and in my case, Mass Incarceration.
I wanted to push myself and stray away from stereotypical visuals that are associated with prison or jail, such as handcuffs. I looked at using stripes to represent prison bars or the stripes in the prison uniforms or using red, white, and blue colors to represent the police force. I decided to really emphasize the racial disparity in the criminal justice system by comparing the size of the percentage of people of color in the United States to the percentage of people of color in prison. The difference being 67% of the prison population are people of color while only 37% of the U.S population is considered a POC. I represented these percentages with the size of the circles in my design and used depth to create a “wall” around the rim of the clock to represent the eerie feeling of exclusion and separation.
In the Spring semester, students work to put together a Senior Exhibit made up of individual exhibit designs based on each student's social issue. The exhibits are meant to be interactive for guests and showcase all the research we have gathered on our issue. Students collaborate to create exhibit structures, marketing for the event, and any print materials needed. Unfortunately, COVID-19 put a halt to our in-person Senior Exhibit and forced us to move into a digital setting.
The final design of my exhibit was heavily impacted by our switch to a digital as I originally planned to have guests be able to select and sign a pre-written letter urging local state politicians to vote and support prison reform. I instead focused on creating a design that highlighted that important statistics about the injustice of the criminal justice system with large and bold typography that could be easily read in digital platforms. I utilized visual graphics and icons to portray the percentage of incarcerated people of color under drug charges, the number of convicted defendants in jail, and the percentage of released prisoners that are rearrested within 5 years of release.
To complete our senior year, students put together a book where they can present the research they have on their social issues from the past year. In the book, students also add what their experience was like during their senior year and becomes a very personal way to showcase the work each student has completed in their last two semesters of the design program.
© Alexandra Estrella 2021 Graphic designer