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Service Learning + Outreach

The Graphic Design area offers many opportunities for students to learn. Most notably are opportunities to be involved in Undergraduate Research activities and participate in Service Learning projects in the classroom. Service-learning is a course-based experiential learning strategy that engages students in meaningful and relevant service with a community partner while employing ongoing reflection to draw connections between the service and course content, thus enhancing academic learning, promoting civic responsiveness, and strengthening communities. (Definition adapted from Learn and Serve America,

The following highlight some of the recent projects of note:

Solar Decathlon 2011 Competition / Team Living Light 


The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is an international competition held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for interdisciplinary student-led teams to design and build solar-powered, energy-efficient homes. In 2011, team Living Light of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, was one of just 20 competitors selected to participate in this prestigious event. In less than two years the team designed and built a home that was judged for its excellence in ten categories: Architecture, Market Appeal, Communications, Engineering, Affordability, Comfort Zone, Hot Water, Appliances, Home Entertainment and Energy Balance. UT’s Team Living Light involved more than 200 students and 8 faculty from departments across campus including the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Architecture and Design, the College of Engineering and the College of Business Administration. Working together, these students and faculty developed a design for an easily transportable 800 square foot house for the competition. Over the course of 2 years there were 28 Graphic Design students from 3 separate classes involved in Living Light. In addition to collaborating on the house design, graphic design students developed the brand and its many components, the website, signage and the interface for a home automation system. This project won several recognitions both locally and nationally, including an AIGA Justified award for excellence in design thinking.

UTK College of Nursing interactive debriefing application


The UTK College of Nursing recently opened a state-of-the-art research center designed to train nursing students through the engagement with simulated settings to address competencies in the cognitive, technical and behavioral skills that improve clinical judgment and patient safety. The first floor of the center contains an apartment to allow simulations in regards to hospice, home health and elderly care while the second floor contains fully functioning exam rooms, a surgical suite and a newborn nursery. Each room is outfitted with technology to allow monitoring of a scenario simulation from a control room. Students in the Intermediate Graphic Design class were brought onboard to research, ideate and present a strategy for the development of a tablet application to engage those peers watching the simulation scenarios from the control room. The graphic design students toured the facility as it was under construction, met with Nursing and Engineering faculty charged with technology implementation and presented a final strategy that addressed the key components of the student dashboard, user engagement, personal reflection and information visualization of the collected data. The project won the Interaction Award in the School of Art student competition and is for up nomination in the 2014 Undergraduate Research competition. The College of Nursing HITS Research Lab is actively pursuing funding to bring the project into development. Currently two undergraduate students in the Design Program are working closely with faculty in Industrial Engineering to develop a working prototype to take to market.

Branding a city


The city of Cleveland, Tennessee is expecting to dramatically increase its population over the next 15 years. This growth creates an interesting dynamic between Cleveland’s history as a small, quiet, southern town and its emergence as a significant economic hot spot within the state. In preparation for future expansion, the city and the UT Provost Office approached the SOA Graphic Design senior class in Fall 2014 to
articulate a Strategic Brief for the development of consistent Brand messaging for the city of Cleveland. This project explains what we discovered about Cleveland’s citizens as well as the city’s history, landmarks, and unique features. It also demonstrates how that information is synthesized into a Vision Statement, Mission Statement and Unique Value Proposition for the city. This was presented to the Cleveland City Council in january 2015. After approval of the brand brief, a smaller student research group took those verbal statements and translated them into a visual identity. This project is a part of the UT Smart Communities Initiative.

An Evening in Orange gala + benefit


An Evening in Orange is a gala and benefit auction supporting The University of Tennessee Medical Center and UT Graduate School of Medicine’s continued efforts to expand and lead the region in excellence of patient care, cutting edge research, and training and education of tomorrow’s health professionals. In 2011, graphic design students were asked to research the various aspects of cancer and create an experience to help the attendees understand the scope of the information from both a clinical and a personal perspective.


Hope for Healing

Students researched the effect of prayer on recovery for cancer patients. Prayers for healing were collected from around the world and projected on a 30-foot scale kite as a metaphor for hope.

You are the Difference

Students researched “continuers” or support words that patients reported as helpful/hopeful during the diagnosis and treatment phases. Such words were cut from reflective material and placed on a light box to reference the testing or diagnosis, reflect the individual and project hope.

100 : 1
Students discovered that 100,000 people have survived cancer since 1970. Four different panels were designed to represent the data: life before cancer, diagnosis, treatment and life after cancer. Each pin represented 100 people who have survived cancer.

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