Branded: Social Venture’s design side

Annie Cunningham/THE FALCON Social Venture participants Riley Wallace, Katie Stoppler and Amanda Buescher participate in Branded, an event where students from Social Venture and the art department create a brand.

Annie Cunningham/THE FALCON
Social Venture participants Riley Wallace, Katie Stoppler and Amanda Buescher participate in Branded, an event where students from Social Venture and the art department create a brand.

Annie Cunningham/THE FALCON Visual communication major Chris Nelson works on creating a brand for a Social Venture group.

Annie Cunningham/THE FALCON
Visual communication major Chris Nelson works on creating a brand for a Social Venture group.

For 12 hours on Saturday, 30 students from the art and design programs teamed up with six of the Social Venture teams to create brands for their companies.

The Social Venture class challenges students to develop a business based on social good.

At the end of the year, a panel of judges awards the best proposal $2,500 toward a startup.

Branded began in 2010 as the brainchild of Co-Chair of the SPU Art Department Karen Gutowski-Zimmerman and students of the design program. This year, 16 alumni returned to mentor current team members.

“It’s an opportunity for the design and art students to work together with the Social Venture teams to help tell their visual story,” Gutowski-Zimmerman said. “Typically, that’s through brand identity or graphic assets like a logo, website or brochure.”

Students hunkered behind laptops at large white tables strewn with notes, sketchpads and overturned Coke cans.  At one of the tables, a plastic foot rested amidst the jumble of supplies.  This table belonged to a Social Venture project called Sound Steps. Their company would make prosthetic limbs out of recycled materials such as tires to serve developing nations.

According to senior team member Stephanie Harold, the idea originated in the engineering department.

“There’s a huge need for prosthetics,” Harold said. “Eighty percent of the world’s amputees live in developing nations, but most prosthetics being designed are First World prosthetics, so they cost upward of $1,000 to $30,000.”

Sound Steps would attempt to provide functional yet affordable prosthetics for amputees in developing nations.

“Mobility equals life for them,” Harold said.

Production would be based in South Africa because of its consistent electrical power, yet high unemployment rate.

They were in the early stages of developing a logo to embody the up-cycle nature of the business.  Design team leader Wesley Anderson, a senior visual communication major, was tinkering with an image of two feet.  He explained that he was trying to capture an upward arrow within the outline of the footprints.

The design teams consist of art, design and illustration majors of various focuses, with students representing all grades.

Art Department Co-Chairs Laura Lasworth and Gutowski-Zimmerman, along with supervising the event, spent the day cooking for the teams.

“We cook all day,” Gutowski-Zimmerman said. “How else do you think you have these happy faces?”

Gutowski-Zimmerman also expressed her desire for fine artists to discover where they could fit into the business world.

The program emphasizes the complex legal process involved in employing designers.  The teams have to sign a contract before participating in Branded, which teaches them about copyright laws.

“It helps us to see what it’s like to work in a business environment,” Anderson said.

Many of the business students felt that Branded gave them a deeper understanding of the work of the art departments.

“I tend to think of the art departments as just painting and sculpting,” said senior Business student Kam-Hin Ho. “But it’s really amazing to learn that we can actually do business together.”

In fact, at that moment, Ho was engaged in revising some of the business strategies for his project Savor and Crave, in response to input from the design team.

Harold appreciated the opportunity to connect art students, who she felt would not come into contact with the business department organically.

“These are geniuses,” she said. “They can do some really creative stuff that you wouldn’t even think about.”

Junior global development  major Terrell Kelly also found the opportunity helpful.

“It’s a process of destroying and rebuilding,” he said. “More power to the program. It’s so helpful to have this team to work with.  I can’t imagine trying to do it alone.”