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Student Design Major Puts “Mind To Work”

Ohio Northern University graphic design major Katelyn Amendolara, a sophomore from Canfield, Ohio, presented at Heidelberg’s 16th annual Minds at Work Student Research Conference on Feb. 19. A scholarly event, the conference opened its doors to students from regional colleges and universities to present research projects on a wide variety of subjects.

Katelyn’s research project, called “Design for Social Change: Can Design Improve a University’s Recycle Plan?,” addressed whether designers can create services and innovative solutions to improve Ohio Northern’s recycling plan. The research also investigated how ideas of sustainability can be applied to the university community’s interactions with its physical environment. By examining the research data, it became clear that it was possible to increase recycling participation by students and staff; to heighten awareness of the university’s recycling program; to lower waste generated on-campus by reducing, reusing and recycling; and to organize a program successfully so it can be repeated and possibly expanded each year on campus.

“I began to focus on the current state of recycling at Ohio Northern University,” said Katelyn. “I utilized different research methods to help me define the problem, to gain valuable information, and to assess the student body’s view. My research findings ultimately led me to apply design to create original solutions.”

The design research project stemmed from an introductory visual communication class taught by Prof. Brit Rowe. “Research helped us to understand and interpret our natural and human-made environment,” said Rowe. “My objective was to teach students that good design work begins with thoughtful research. By engaging students in various research methods, they learned to bring solutions to the table that reflected a commercial value beyond a well-crafted logo, brochure or product. By thoroughly researching the design problems, goals and audience, the students created stronger and more appropriate, innovative solutions that delivered true value to the campus community.”

Katelyn’s research project did produce ideas of how sustainability through design can be applied to a community’s interactions, its economics and its physical environment. Her innovative solutions and proposals have the potential to create a more sustainable environment at Ohio Northern University. It can also create more advocacies towards going green. From examining the research data, it is possible to heighten awareness by students and staff, and lower the amount of waste generated on campus. “Hopefully, my proposals and ideas,” says Katelyn, “will be repeated and installed in the community and possibly expanded each year on campus. If the student body and faculty at Ohio Northern are taking the time to recycle during their daily routine, then our home and environment in which we live can prosper.”

The Minds at Work Student Research Conference aspired to increase student interest and knowledge concerning academic research and scholarship, to recognize, honor, and reward academic excellence and to give students an opportunity to experience the conference format of academic inquiry. According to Rowe, the conference was an excellent opportunity for students “to improve their critical thinking, writing, and presentation skills in a professional setting.

“One of the underlying principles of our design program centers around design thinking,” continued Rowe. “Students graduating from our program must be able to think holistically. We teach that design is a process for practical and creative solutions that adds value.”

ONU offers both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with majors in advertising design, art education, graphic design and studio arts. The department of A&D holds memberships in national organizations such as the National Art Education Association, College Art Association, Foundations in Art: Theory and Education and the National Council on Education of Ceramic Arts. The department is recognized in the second edition of “Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers” as one of the top 200 creative programs nationwide. For additional information about the department of art & design, contact the department at 419-772-2160.