About the Project



With a grant from the LA County Department of Health Services, the Cedars-Sinai Research Center for Health Equity joined forces with Designmatters and the Graphic Design Department to challenge ArtCenter transdisciplinary students to develop a campaign advocating tobacco cessation for the LGBTQIA+ communities, which have some of the highest tobacco rates in the U.S. Students interacted with health and community experts as they researched reasons for high tobacco rates while learning the history of LGBTQIA+ health activism. On this foundation, they created a campaign that featured a unique visual identity and appropriate materials/systems so community organizations can help members quit their tobacco habit.


“This class was about public health and public issues; unlike many student projects which are usually hypothetical, this was the real world which is a big step for many of the students. It was interesting to have discussions with our audience, these non-designers, and learn about their needs and use their feedback in our design. Here we weren’t dealing with professional critics or professors so it was a very different conversation.”

Chang Gao, Post-Graduate Fellow, Graphic Design

Project Brief



In the Summer of 2022, ArtCenter students researched and developed a campaign advocating tobacco cessation for LGBTQIA+ communities that suffer from having the highest tobacco rates in the U.S. Working with partner Cedars-Sinai Research Center for Health Equity, the student teams uncovered reasons for the high usage rates of tobacco in addition to becoming familiar with the history of LGBTQIA+ health activism.

Informed by robust background information from experts, and drawing on inspiration from the community, students created a campaign with an inviting visual identity that delivered the message in an upbeat way. Materials, resources, and systems were also developed for community organizations to reach their members considering trying to quit their tobacco addiction.

Research and Project Development



A panel of experts joined the students at the kickoff session. Healthcare providers, researchers, and medical doctors from Cedars Sinai were joined by community organizers and stakeholders to share an overview of the LGBTQIA+ community, tobacco usage, and current data/trends. 

Anthony Ayala, a partner of Cedar-Sinai Research Center for Health Equity, directed a conversation about the LGBTQIA+ community, explaining that this target audience is not monolithic but rather one umbrella with many individual identities. He shared how gender-inclusive language spans a wide range, and that carefully chosen words can be inclusive and respectful. Finally, he discussed how nightlife and bar culture continues to influence the LGBTQIA+ communities with regard to tobacco use.

Behavioral scientist Dr. Michael Sobolev directed students to the many online resources where they could research and find data about tobacco usage. Dr. Sobolev briefly described tobacco use stats, a the new challenge of e-cigarettes and vaping, and the main reasons to quit: health, saving money, feeling/looking better, and feeling more socially acceptable. He outlined the traditional methods of quitting (patches, gum, lozenges) but stressed that the best combination involves peer support with these medications. 

Finally, Dr. Sobolev explained how the LGBTQIA+ communities present challenges to traditional methods and campaign outreach especially since smoking has been a part of its identity for many years. Big tobacco companies have marketed their products directly to this community. He stressed that innovative approaches will capture this audience and possibly encourage that all-important first step. The class heard from other experts about how health insurance often doesn’t cover cessation therapies and how addressing both physical and psychological addictions is the foundation for a long-lasting and meaningful program.

Students brainstormed the possible barriers that LGBTQIA+ communities could face if they decided to quit tobacco; they also discussed what could be considered a “successful campaign.” they asked. “How do you track and monitor if the message is being delivered and then acted upon?” In that vein, students latched onto the idea that the campaign needs to facilitate awareness and broadcast the problem and possible solutions.

Together with experts, students created a list of what the campaign…

  • Must Have (“rooted in positivity”)
  • Should Have and/or Could Have
  • Won’t Have (“seeing LGBTQIA+ as a single group”). 

At the end of the launch session, students were excited to kick start their creative talents and engage with a challenge that would stretch their thinking from classroom learning to real-world possibilities.


“The students learned they needed to present an enjoyable depiction of quitting tobacco rather than using fear tactics. That was a big component of their thinking. The ways this type of health information has been conveyed in the past was not very effective; so we went with the clean slate, a brand new way of doing.”

Monica Schlaug, Faculty

About Tobacco Usage and Risks



According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States. About 34 million U.S. adults still smoke cigarettes and 70 percent say they want to quit. Tobacco use plays into LGB

TQIA+ history considering the tobacco industry’s long history of targeting those communities which are 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to smoke cigarettes than heterosexual individuals, often choosing menthol cigarettes which are even harder to quit. The Los Angeles area has the second largest LGBTQIA+ community in the country; many members are at a higher risk for lung cancer because of their tobacco usage.

Discovery, Connection, Conception



In the first weeks of the studio, student teams participated in an active research phase, learning about their intended audiences, gaining an in-depth understanding of smoking culture and history, and discovering how past campaigns involving similar health-related goals were crafted and received. 

Teams shared initial research with each other on topics ranging from the psychology behind tobacco marketing case studies to campaign audits which analyzed components of previous campaigns noting strengths and weaknesses.

To help students as they started ideation, instructors described aspects of the human-centered design model which would be their foundation:

  • Focus on people.
  • Solve the underlying problem, not just a symptom. 
  • Consider  interconnected systems, not just isolated components.
  • Involve prototypes and multiple iterations to improve the concept.

During class time, various experts from the field addressed the students who

conducted their own field research and participated in class field trips where they met a broad range of community organizations and health advocates who offered new information to add to their growing body of research. Students then learned best practices for summarizing their research which helped craft their initial insight and problem statements

which set the stage for their conceptual ideation. “How Might We?” type questions prompted students to further expand their thinking beyond the ordinary. Students were encouraged to consult with experts from Cedars-Sinai during the course of the studio, considering them as co-creators of the campaign. 

At a Research Review, student teams shared what they have learned and how that knowledge was shaping their design thinking. Other assignments encouraged students to see the challenge and pain points from the user’s point of view. Having this empathetic eye would help student teams “walk” with users through the steps of a journey that could lead them to reflect on their tobacco use and move to action.


“The students started with the community and they ended with the community. They heard all the community voices. They ended with solutions that are so comprehensive and tangible. While I know we will need to work on how to logistically operationalize this campaign, they created the blueprint. It’s very doable.”

Zulfikarli Surani, Cedars-Sinai



At midterm presentations, students offered partners and guests a look at their research and insights along with potential approaches. Teams shared how they are envisioning the values and the campaign personality. Through mood boards, sample logos, and typography, the campaigns’ design goals were beginning to take shape. Experts provided encouraging and honest comments about what might be missing from the students’ projects while offering constructive feedback for the next steps in the creative development process.

In considering, the two teams’ directions, it became clear that there was a pathway to combine these ideas into an interconnected two-fold campaign. Students were energized about creating a campaign that would encompass a wider reach concerning health issues in the LGBTQIA+ communities.

Teams refined and honed their projects, adding depth and details to their overriding concepts. Students were reminded to follow the Human Centered Design model putting the people first in their design thinking. 

To help gain further insights into the mind of a tobacco user and the addictive quality of these products, a panel of current and former LGBTQIA+ users addressed the students and described their experiences. They discussed why they started using tobacco products and how they stopped. They shared personal stories of their biggest hurdles during the process and shared what helped them the most.

Students developed prototypes, re-designed logos that would represent the community, and created scenarios of how the campaign could be launched and disseminated. Visuals reflected a sense of hope along with positivity and support. Realizing that they are not designing in isolation, students explored how partnerships with local organizations could bring authority and familiarity to their campaigns.

At a subsequent presentation, student teams shared how their concepts were being fleshed out with specific prototypes and mock-ups, along with the next steps planned for during the final weeks of the studio. Cedars-Sinai partners reminded students they would be available for any questions or feedback as the teams put the finishing touches on their complementary concepts.


The Quit Alliance
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Ashley Aceves, Abigail Meza

The Quit Alliance is a structured collective information center about tobacco cessation for all members of the LGBTQA+ communities. The easy-to-navigate website connects users with LA organizations that can help those who want to quit tobacco, in addition to in-person health events, and online support.

The website is designed to be a reliable source of information and/or support. Homepage links include: Find Your Alliance (overview of partners), Support Your Journey (an interactive assessment of the next steps), and Learn the Facts (information tailored to specific gender identifications). Users scroll to find personal stories of how others quit tobacco, upcoming partnership events, and a portal to contact someone for help if the navigation is too overwhelming.

Icons are designed with solid colors, simple line illustrations, and short celebratory messaging; imagery can be used on swag items (buttons, key chains, etc.) that can be handed out at live in-person events. The Quit Alliance logo is inspired by the color of Pride Flags. Like the icons, photos will have solid color backgrounds and feature happy relatable faces of the community.

UpScene: Events for a Healthy LGBTQIA+ Community
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Chang Gao, Alyssa Garcia

As a hub for the LGBTQIA+ community, UpScene presents fun social events, lectures, and art workshops that encourage tobacco cessation; the event series eventually can expand into other health-related issues.

The brightly-colored logo has a companion slogan that emphasizes the word Up to create multi-use phrases, such as Journey Up, Mood Up, Team Up, etc. Using personal storytelling with community members, upcoming events will be broadcast via social media through imagery or a series of quotes/text. At in-person events, directional signage incorporates modular colored stacking boxes that can be viewed from various heights. Stamped with the UpScene logo, these boxes are decorative elements. Likewise, large billboards can dress up the event environment.

Digital and physical posters can employ the designs of local artists and other collaborative organizations. For online events, the UpScene logo can be modified into background screens for Zoom and other virtual platforms. A YouTube channel “Our Quitting Stories” can host a series of UpScene inspirational stories.

UpScene swag at in-person events includes branded wristbands, pins, stickers, temporary tattoos, t-shirts, tins of candy, water bottle wraps, and name tags in different languages. An UpScene website features an event calendar and information about resources and partners, such as the Quit Alliance