Opportunity By Design: One Student’s Foray into Client-Based Work

In Fall 2016 Colby-Sawyer Students in Professor Hilary Walrod's Identity System Design class and Professor Stacey Watts' Senior Seminar in Sport Management class visited Franklin, NH to meet with their community project partners.  Photo by Jenisha Shrestha.

In Fall 2016 Colby-Sawyer Students in Professor Hilary Walrod's Identity System Design class and Professor Stacey Watts' Senior Seminar in Sport Management class visited Franklin, NH to meet with their community project partners.  Photo by Jenisha Shrestha.

by justin rand '18

Last semester, my Identity System Design class worked with the Mill City Park initiative. We spent the first half of our semester working on separate, practice systems to familiarize ourselves with the design process and then met with our community client. Mill City Park is a project under development that plans on adding a bunch of outdoor recreation features to Franklin, NH, including mountain biking trails, pump tracks (another biking thing, in case you've never heard of that like I hadn't), a whitewater park, and a community garden.  They are focused on the outdoors, being active, and participating in the community, but the project also wants to link itself to the town's storied history. And since it's an industrial town, there's not much overlap between that and the other values the park wants to embody. Reconciling that was our big design challenge.

Speaking of design challenges, working with an actual client is humbling when all your prior work has been theoretical. The goal is different — instead of optimizing for the execution of the ideas you bring to class, you have to work with what the client brings and put aside a lot of the vision you have for the project (which is the last thing an art student wants to do). After mostly bringing our own cards to the proverbial table for three plus years, it was jarring to have them dealt to us by an organization we had zero familiarity with.

Even though our client ended up picking my logo as the jumping off point for their identity system, I probably had the most trouble out of anyone in my class with that adjustment. Our client wanted to draw on Franklin's past, but I wanted to paint a picture of its future — and after spending too much time trying to reframe the project so it worked the way I wanted it to, I learned that I could fulfill our client's vision without throwing away my design-minded priorities. Compromise like that takes a different kind of creativity than schools tend to teach. Recognizing that we lacked it, and that we needed to learn it for this project, showed us right away how it's going to be an important skill for our post-graduate careers.

Each student in the class made hundreds of sketches and drafts before settling on a final design to enter in the competition. The center image is Justin Rand's winning logo that was selected by Mill City Park.

Each student in the class made hundreds of sketches and drafts before settling on a final design to enter in the competition. The center image is Justin Rand's winning logo that was selected by Mill City Park.

Realizing this was especially humbling for me: after hours of research and hundreds of sketches, I got the honor of being the only one to have every single one of my concepts rejected by the client at our mid-process meeting.  I was forced to switch gears — from trying to use good design on my own ideas to convince the client to want something they hadn't asked for, to accepting the parameters we were given and doing my best work within them. Turns out, swimming with the needs they dropped on us instead of against them makes progress a lot easier, and going all-in on what our client was asking for got my design chosen. Despite how I had to basically start over halfway through. I think everyone in the class saw that and took note of it — even though only one of us got to pat ourselves on the back for having our work chosen, we all learned the same lessons about how to apply these skills we've accumulated during our education.

Looking ahead at my own career, the Mill City Park identity project has been more than a chance to face reality and learn: I've been able to turn my success with them into freelancing and other resumé-padding opportunities with other related organizations in Franklin.

That's one of the big reasons I'd encourage Colby-Sawyer to keep scouting out opportunities like this for students — even though us art students like to think our fields are pure, sacred meritocracies, the reality is that just like other jobs, networking is a crucial part of being successful, and we should practice that skill as much as we can.

Justin Rand  
Designed by Justin Rand '18, Graphic Design Major at Colby-Sawyer College

Ninety Changemakers Hit the Field (and the Rivers)

Owen Krol '17, Nick Dibble '17 and Rayla Putnam '16 perform water quality analyses in the Winnipesaukee, Pemigewasset and Merrimack rivers for their community partner Mill City Park, as part of Professor Nick Baer's Aquatic Ecology class.  Photo by Chris Kontoes.

Owen Krol '17, Nick Dibble '17 and Rayla Putnam '16 perform water quality analyses in the Winnipesaukee, Pemigewasset and Merrimack rivers for their community partner Mill City Park, as part of Professor Nick Baer's Aquatic Ecology class.  Photo by Chris Kontoes.

At the end of last semester Colby-Sawyer College and PermaCityLife (PCL) celebrated the opening of The Hub for projects and partnerships at 357 Central Street in Franklin. This downtown space is the homebase for PCL, as well as the new field studies office for CSC's Sustainable Learning Initiative at Franklin Falls and our innovative 3-year community-based sustainability major.

In fall 2016 over 90 students hit the field (and the rivers) and joined forces with community stakeholders to support the city's revitalization efforts:

  • Professor of Fine and Performing Arts Hilary Walrod’s Identity System Design class collaborated with Professor of Exercise and Sport Sciences Stacey Watt’s class to create a comprehensive branding strategy and business plan for the emerging Mill City Park
  • Professor of Natural Sciences Nick Baer’s Aquatic Ecology students conducted analyses of aquatic life to assess water quality prior to the in-river modification and restoration for the park
  • The design for a new community garden in Franklin was developed by Professor of Environmental Studies Leon-C Malan’s Sustainable Food System class.
  • The college’s entrepreneurial business club, Enactus, authored a comprehensive business plan for the Twin Rivers Interfaith Food Pantry.
  • Two students in Professor of Business Administration Jonathan McCosh’s Advertising and Social Media class outlined a preliminary communications plan for PermaCityLife and SLI.
  • And, senior Capstone research projects included a riparian invasive species inventory for the park, social sustainability research for CATCH Housing and website graphic design for Take Root Coworking.

ENGAGED LEARNING FOR THE COMMON GOOD 

Photo by Chris Kontoes.

Photo by Chris Kontoes.

Executive Director of PermaCityLife Todd Workman, City Manager Elizabeth Dragon, Mayor Ken Merrifield, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Director of Sustainability Jen White ’90, Colby-Sawyer President Susan D. Stuebner and Community Development Coordinator of PermaCityLife Jenisha Shrestha '14 gathered to cut the ribbon to the PermaCityLife storefront. Photo by Chris Kontoes

Executive Director of PermaCityLife Todd Workman, City Manager Elizabeth Dragon, Mayor Ken Merrifield, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Director of Sustainability Jen White ’90, Colby-Sawyer President Susan D. Stuebner and Community Development Coordinator of PermaCityLife Jenisha Shrestha '14 gathered to cut the ribbon to the PermaCityLife storefront. Photo by Chris Kontoes