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Northwestern University

Making a Difference with Design

Students enrolled in “Design Communication and Methods” (DSGN 420) learn how to translate complex information into simple visual solutions through a strategic design process.

With guidance from their instructor, Erin Huizenga, students in “Design Communication and Methods” defined their own design preferences, voice and style while learning about storytelling, typography, color theory, layout, and pacing. Using digital aids including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, PowerPoint, SolidWorks, and Keyshot, students make their ideas visible and tangible for an audience.

An assignment for “Design Communication and Methods” was to create a poster about summer learning loss for Evanston Cradle to Career (EC2C). EC2C is a collective of schools, nonprofits, businesses, faith-based institutions, and individuals committed to the idea that every child in Evanston deserves a path to a fulfilling and productive life.

One of EC2C’s areas of focus is community-wide literacy. During the summer, disadvantaged children tend to fall behind their peers in reading skills. For every one line of print read by children from low-income families, children from middle-income families read three. This summer learning loss leads to an achievement gap when children return to school in the fall.

The objectives of this assignment were to raise awareness about summer learning loss, to promote summer programs offered by EC2C partners, and to build EC2C’s brand recognition among potential partners and community members.

After working as a design consultant for many Fortune 100 and 500 companies at gravitytank and IDEO, Huizenga founded the Till School, a two-year design-based education program for high school graduates. She co-founded the design consulting firm Borough & Block. She also founded EPIC, a nonprofit organization that provides pro-bono design services to nonprofit organizations in Chicago and Minneapolis. EPIC mobilizes thousands of top creative professionals to transform their cities into stronger communities.

DSGN 420 is open to all majors at Northwestern University with priority given to students enrolled the M.S. program in Engineering Design Innovation (EDI) at the Segal Design Institute.

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