Back to all News

December 25, 2012

The month of December has brought about a mad dash to reach the completion of another rewarding academic term, but there is no question that the end of the calendar year and holiday season also always invites a heightened contemplative mood.  I tend to mark it with a wrap up post that usually provides a personal reflection of some of the highlights of the activities the department led, or participated in, throughout the past twelve months.

2012 was yet another year of momentous growth for Designmatters.  It was marked by extraordinary moments of inquiry for our students and faculty, both within the walls of our studios, and in the context of their lived experiences in the field—from the streets of Pasadena to those of Bangalore and Kampala.  During this year, the college also celebrated a decade of engagement in this “social impact” space (a forthcoming issue of DOT Magazine profiles a great timeline of milestones) and we were once again honored with a set of national and international accolades and awards that our student projects garnered.

Reflecting back, I find myself reshuffling a rich set of mental snapshots in my head that surface an abundance of moments, conversations, events, and projects—all equally compelling.

But of all the work to reflect on, Uncool: the anti-gun violence project is one that makes me particularly proud, and that has taken on more poignancy than ever in light of current events.

Illustration by Ariel Lee.

December 14, 2012, will go down in the history books as a day when America’s national fixation with firearms might finally be called into question, this time by the massacre of Newton, Connecticut. As I write this, the country recoils in horror and grieves in the aftermath of the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school.

As President Obama’s eulogy to the victims summoned, the enormity of controlling the culture of guns and the epidemic of gun violence this country suffers, “can’t be an excuse of inaction.”   Yet, it is precisely a state of inaction about the gun challenge that our country faces that has been for far too long at play.

Addressing the scourge of gun violence through compelling messaging designed to resonate with youth is at the core of the Uncool initiative.  With support from the Nathan Cummings Foundation and a number of key community partnerships, Uncool is a two-part project conceived in collaboration with the Advertising, Graphic Design and Illustration Departments.  Part one of the project is comprised of an educational campaign, Where’s Daryl? targeting middle-school children and their teachers and set to roll out next spring in a select number of schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District.   The recipient of aSappi Ideas that Matter grant award, this project emphasizes prevention and asks youth to consider the real negative impacts guns can have on their lives and goals. Part two of the project, is a series of four original illustrated story books, which were conceived for a younger audience of kids (elementary school) to raise understanding and awareness of the dangers of guns and provide a counterpoint to the drumbeat of our glamorized gun culture.

The books will be at the center of a collaboration underway with the college’s Public Programs and the Pasadena Central Library: children readings and art-making workshops will take place at the Pasadena Central library in spring 2013.  Stay tuned for dates!

And meanwhile, here’s to a course of action that can lead us to ending senseless gun violence.