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Ohio Northern Design Students Present Ideas for Recycling on Campus

graphic design researchAbout 15 Ohio Northern University undergraduate design students unveiled their solutions to a research problem posed by instructor Brit Rowe in his foundation design course: Why does or why doesn’t the Ohio Northern community recycle?

The teams of students presented their research findings and proposed plans in November to an audience of design students and faculty.

The students, a group of mostly sophomore design majors mixed with other communications and business disciplines, spent seven weeks researching, analyzing and developing solutions. The common conclusion was that while there are several stations of recycling bins around campus, the program needs a clearer and more consistent implementation across campus.

“In some cases, people need a more compelling reminder to recycle,” said Rachel Pioch, a sophomore graphic design major from Northwood, Ohio.

Students observed that bin placement was inconsistent, leaving users to wander around looking for an appropriate bin. “From building to building, department to department, the bins didn’t match, were poorly labeled and functioned poorly,” described Rachel.

Interviewees pointed out that bin slots were often the wrong size or shape, that bins were sometimes overflowing, and there was general distrust that bin content truly gets recycled.

“Our research uncovered that there isn’t support from a central office for the recycling program,” said Andrew Adams, a sophomore graphic design major from Hudson, Ohio. “There are a few organizations on campus that try to run the program,” said Andrew. “But, there is no cooperation between the groups. Even the residence life staff did away with recycling because of poor student participation.”

“Our student survey,” Rachel pointed out, “revealed that only 9% of Ohio Northern students always recycle.”

To remedy this problem, students investigated how ideas of sustainability can be applied to the university community’s interactions, its economics and its physical environment.

“The student teams were challenged with overall project goals,” explained Prof. Rowe, “such as to increase recycling participation by students and staff, heighten awareness of the university’s recycling program, expand economic opportunities while addressing environmental issues in a positive way, and lower waste generated on-campus by reducing, reusing and recycling.”

“In all of our design courses, design thinking is a fundamental philosophy,” stated Prof. Rowe. “This final team project in the foundations course engaged students in a thoughtful, community-based response to sustainability and community. Graphic design can be a powerful means of communicating civic messages and stimulating thinking about the issues that define our world.”

Students undertook research as introduced in the course and the applied their findings in a creative way to improve the ONU community.

“Solutions to design problems may seem obvious,” explained Prof. Rowe, “but good work begins with thoughtful research. That enables designers to create stronger and more innovative work that delivers true value to the client and audiences.”

Soon after the research and analysis phase, the students brainstormed with a variety of ideas to further propel the recycling program at Ohio Northern. Such solutions promoted the value of recycling on campus through visual and practical means. Most plans consisted of implementing visibly functional, attractive bins with less ambiguous markers of paper, bottles and cardboard, and promotional posters with culturally recognizable figures and themes.

“I think our solutions could be effective on this campus,” stated Rachel. “We addressed raising general awareness of recycling, but the professor also got us to think about values and ethical responsibilities as designers.”

Ohio Northern 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 best creative programs nationwide. For additional information about the department of art & design or the University’s 2009-10 Arts Exhibition Season, contact the department at 419.772.2160.