Brown Celebration Inspires Design Contest, Reveals Disparity
URBANA CHAMPAIGN, Ill.
As part of a yearlong celebration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to mark the 50th anniversary celebration of Brown v. Board of Education, the graphic design program in the department of art and design sponsored “The Chance Project,” a national poster design contest.
Using the prompt, “A chance to … ,” collegiate design students from across the nation were invited to submit their designs of images reflecting their perceptions regarding the historic court decision and their interpretations of issues of equality in education.
A team of professional judges selected six winners whose designs are now on display around the UI campus as well as on the Champaign-Urbana transit system to demonstrate the importance of the Brown decision.
“We sent out packets of information to some of the top design schools in the nation, as well as HBCUs, Ivy League and Big Ten universities,” says John Jennings, assistant professor of art and design in the UIUC graphic design program. Jennings created the project with fellow design professor Robb Springfield.
“We had around 80 entries,” Jennings said. “I was very disappointed that more entries were not received.” Jennings reports that only one HBCU entered the contest and entered only two pieces.
“A great deal of HBCUs do not even have a graphic design program,” he says. “This fact makes me question the equality of our educational system. As an art and design educator who has taught at an HBCU and a predominantly White university, I see a great disparity in the liberal arts (curriculum) in the Black schools.”
Jennings adds that regardless of this relatively low number, the designs submitted to the contest were strong and made an honest attempt to commemorate Brown v. Board. He notes the power of design as a communication tool, the integral nature of visual communication in U.S. consumer-based society and registers his satisfaction with the results of the students’ work.
“I found it very refreshing that these young people could come together and try to inform society about this landmark court case from the past and how it could possibly shed light on the future,” Jennings says.
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