On a foggy night in December, graduating Viscom students gathered for the first in-person Portfolio Show since the pandemic.
Students had the opportunity to network with design professionals and meet their peers face to face, many of them for the first time.
Students excitedly greeted friends as they table-hopped and gushed over each other’s work.
Alongside laptops displaying digital portfolios, tables were filled with booklets, packaging mockups, business cards, and stickers.
Guests from the professional design community, faculty, friends, and family took in a variety of design aesthetics, ranging from illustrative to minimalist to retro and everything in between.
“It was fantastic to see so many talented and wonderful designers all come together and show off their achievements! I was really blown away by the variety of styles and the level of quality in their designs, and I can’t wait to see the work they produce as they move into the professional world.”
— Josiah Spence, Department Chair
This event marks a hard-won achievement for each student who persevered through a pandemic, a historic winter storm, and multiple other challenges to grow their skills and reach graduation.
With this school year marking the 50th anniversary of ACC, this event was also a culminating moment for the Visual Communication department, which was founded in 1972.
“As an alumnus of this department, it means so much to me to be able to commemorate our 50th anniversary alongside this unique cohort of graduates who exemplify everything great designers should be: creative, flexible, and tenacious.”
The ACC Highland campus is both beautiful and functional, with state of the art facilities and plenty of gorgeous gathering spaces for students to study, hang out, and relax between classes. With so many new opportunities packed into over 200,000 square feet of the former Highland Mall, it’s no surprise that navigation on campus is a challenge, a fact not lost on visitors, faculty, and students alike.
A lost visitor identifies the problem of way-finding at Highland.
At the ACC Austin Studio Tour Viscom Design-a-Thon, three teams of student designers had four hours to prototype a potential solution to the problem of how to help people find where they are going.
Student designers get to know each other before the event kicks off.
To do this they followed a four step User Experience design process, and ACC Viscom alumni provided mentorship throughout the event.
Design-a-Thon mentors, Cameron Primm, Cimone Almestica, and Kim Aland show off their Riverbat pride.
Before students could think of a solution, they first had to empathize with the needs of the users navigating the building. With hundreds of visitors pouring in to visit ACC on the Austin Studio Tour, this was a unique opportunity for our teams of designers to get real-time user feedback about the challenges of navigating Highland. Some teams conducted interviews with Austin Studio Tour visitors and Viscom faculty, others recorded their own experience using the current way-finding tools to navigate the campus.
Team Neon Flamingos conducts a research interview with Professor Spence.
After conducting research and gathering user feedback, students defined their audience by creating an audience persona: a detailed description of someone who represents their target audience.
Team Red Pandas introduced us to “Jamie,” a shy art major attending ACC to help pivot in his career.
Team Purple Honey Badgers identified “Billie,” a 35-year old introverted first time college student who also has a full time job.
Team Neon Flamingos chose an animal persona, “Frank Flamingo” who is visiting campus for the first time to meet with their professor.
Team Red Panda’s Elizabeth Solis creates a persona.
After identifying personas, they then created a journey map: a visualization of how an audience persona might interact with the product. For example, Team Purple Honey Badgers identified that when Billie enters the building for the first time he might get lost, check his phone, and then ask another student for directions.
After the teams empathized with and defined their audience, it was time to start brainstorming ideas. Teams employed a number of strategies to do this, including white boarding, sticky matrixes, and dot voting.
Teams brainstorm potential solutions.
Teams then put their ideas to the test by either building physical representations of their product or a digital mock up.
Team Purple Honey Badgers create a physical mock up of their design.
Teams also had this time to prepare their presentations for judging. ACC alum and former Viscom staff member Kim Aland acted as a communications coach to help students prepare their pitches.
Kim Aland coaches team Purple Honey Badger’s Menwoe Gbalea and Brian Dekle.
At the end of four hours, each team pitched their ideas to a panel of judges from the Austin design community.
Judges Jeff Schanzer, UX Managing Director at Slide UX; Tina Gada, Sr UX Designer II Digital Advisor Team & Vanguard; Christopher Specht, ACC Alumnus
The judges reviewed the work based on the following criteria:
Is it a good solution? How will it make an impact?
Is it inclusive and accessible?
How feasible is it?
Does it make sense for the audience?
The judges consult on the designs.
The public also had an opportunity to weigh in on their favorite designs via online voting. The designs were posted immediately following the event for the public to view and vote on. With over 100 votes in just over two days, a clear winner emerged. Each member of the winning teams was awarded a $50 Amazon gift card.
Team Neon Flamingos shortly after being announced as winners of the Judge’s Award
View the Designs
Team Neon Flamingos Winner of the Judge’s Award
Team Neon Flamingos: Keith Charba, Josephina Shea Fredericks, Kseniia Grudkina
The Neon Flamingos suggested that adding a “Meaningful Structure of Navigation” on campus can help students and faculty find their location more easily. Their proposal consisted of several strategies:
Identify buildings with names and personas such as the “Willie Nelson” building.
Add visual markers to different areas such as color on the walls to represent different departments and 3D Landmarks to create easy reference points.
Adjust the signage so that it is more visible and functional by adding iconography and adding color to make the signs pop.
Add signage at every decision point in the building.
The judges chose the Neon Flamingos as the winning team because they appreciated the “holistic approach” of their multi-step proposal.
The Neon Flamingos designated “Frank Flamingo” as their audience persona.Add building names and personas.Add visual markersAdjust signage.
Team Purple Honey Badgers Winner of the Audience Choice
Team Purple Honey Badgers: Brian Dekle, Lauren Summerlin, and Menwoe Gbalea
The Purple Honey Badgers noticed that when students are lost, the natural reaction is to ask for help. The problem is that even if somebody knows the way, they have a hard time giving directions due to a lack of visible landmarks. The Purple Honey Badgers focused their design on giving students and faculty memorable reference points that can be used when giving directions. Their proposal consists of three parts:
Assign colors to different departments on the directory.
Match those colors to the walls for students to follow.
Engage students to create logos to further identify each department.
Add colors and icons to the walls.Match the colors to the directory.
Menwoe Gbalea and Brian Dekle act out a scene as part of their pitch
Team Red Pandas was the only team to propose a technological solution to way-finding at Highland: interactive kiosks at every entrance to welcome first time visitors and ensure they can find their way from the first moment they step in the door. The interactive kiosk would include:
A touch screen interface.
A directory selection by professor name or department.
Interactive maps that highlight your route.
QR codes which populate directions on your phone.
A slideshow of notices and other relevant information to enhance campus life.
Search options available on kiosk.Prototype of kiosk.