Cradlr: A Design Project for Refugee Children

Scholarship: Creative Works Award Winner

The growing global refugee crisis in the recent decade has reached a staggering height—in nearly 80 million displaced people, 26 million are registered refugees—and over half of the refugees are under the age of 18. The phenomenon of displaced people has existed since the dawn of human civilizations caused by wars, famines, mass migrations, pandemics, climate change, political persecutions, natural disasters, and more. In these calamities, children have been the first victims of conflict and displacement experiences. As of today, no digital platforms have been built for displaced children—the most vulnerable group who doesn’t have cell phones.

The Cradlr project was created in the hope of developing not only a digital tool but a vision for a global network that might help displaced children to overcome many adversities in life and receive more love and brighter futures. After examining historical evidence and current situations, this project goes beyond the realm of digital product design in an attempt to find a humanitarian solution for a complex social challenge. The final product embraces the connection and communication among the displaced children, their families and temporary guardians, education affiliations, international and regional organizations, as well as volunteers and donors. The stories and personal data of displaced children accumulated by adults are stored and protected by the Cradlr Network Database, which becomes a collective digital memory. Cradlr offers a blueprint whose purpose is to serve as a possible testing ground envisioning a digital network system that transcends political boundaries so that various parties can connect to rescue and nurture young lives collectively on a global scale.

* Cradlr is a United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) project at Monmouth University.

Rationale

The seed of this project was sown two years ago when the designer started the Jiang Jian project [www.jiangjianz.com/eng]—a research and design project that sheds light upon the forgotten stories of Jiang Jian and the Mothers’ Movement in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945)—a major achievement of the Chinese Women’s Movement in the first half of the 20th century. Supported mainly by donations, the Mothers’ Movement rescued and educated 30,000 displaced children during the war. Based on this research, the designer learned many aspects of wartime refugees—forcibly displaced people—in China and complex stories behind the scenes. She soon started to question how other countries protected and rescued children at that time and acquired historical evidence in European countries during WWII. Through her study, some social patterns gradually unveiled, from which the inception of this project began to sprout.

Furthermore, the growing global refugee crisis has reached a staggering height in the recent decade. Lining up incidences from different regions and eras, the designer recognized ineffable human suffering repeated continuously in devastating and grotesque ways, such as mass killing, abduction, raping, child trafficking, the fact that refugee parents murdered or abandoned their children due to untamable obstacles, and so on.

Although incapable of stopping wars and adversities, the designer hopes to learn from facts and history to help displaced children today. In this digital age, many refugees have access to cell phones, so creating mobile apps to assist humanitarian work is not a novel idea. However, the project presented here goes beyond the realm of digital product design in an attempt to find a humanitarian solution for a complex social challenge by connecting various parties to rescue and nurture refugee children worldwide.

Jing Zhou is an interdisciplinary artist, designer, researcher, and Associate Professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey. She works at the intersection of visual and interaction design, interactive media, animation/video, and fine arts. Her work has been shown and collected internationally including: Triennale Design Museum, Milan; British Computer Society, London; Asian Cultural Center, Manhattan; SIGGRAPH Art Gallery; ISEA; IEEE; CAA; Les Abattoirs Museum, France; Royal Institution of Australia; Danish Poster Museum; Athens Digital Art Festival, Greece; Taksim Republic Art Gallery, Istanbul; FILE, Sao Paulo; Korea Visual Information Design Assn.; Stanford University; Yale University; public collection of the WRO Media Art Center, Poland; Waikato Museum, New Zealand; Moravian Gallery in Brno, Czech Republic; and Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco. Ms. Zhou has received many awards in the U.S. and Europe.

https://www.monmouth.edu/directory/profiles/jing-zhou

Design Incubation Communication Design Awards 2020 recipient

Explorations of Data Lists: How Type, Hierarchy, and Color Reveal the Stories About the Titanic

Level one typography students think about data and typographic hierarchy.

Peggy Bloomer
Adjunct Professor
Quinnipiac University
Southern Connecticut State University

In this project I hoped to make level one typography students think about data and typographic hierarchy with. In my experience, students are not concerned about the data that is collected about them. I hoped to broaden their understanding of the power of data through their creation of a large format poster (24” x 26”) using lists about the passengers on the Titanic purchased from the “Encyclopedia Britannica.”

The textbook for the class is Ellen Lupton’s Thinking About Type. This assignment is an adaptation of Lupton’s hierarchy assignment “Long Lists.” According to Lupton, hierarchy is the organization of content using the spatial clues of indents, line spacing and placement. Other graphic elements that distinguish content include size, style and color.

Researching the list of passengers, students were asked to find human stories. The lists contained information about 1st, 2nd, 3rd class passengers and employees of the Titanic. Surnames, servants, gender, age, nationalities and origin of embarkment were provided. The poster was created in InDesign without photographic images. Students could use and InDesign tools to create color elements and many created ships, funnels, waves and other shapes.

The traditional process of information gathering, sketching and mocking up was used for designing the posters. In-class critiques of 3 smaller 11 x 17” versions helped students realize what was successful or not. Final versions were created to the larger size, printed, presented in class and hung in the department hallway for viewing.

In conclusion, most students realized the economic and gender consequences for passengers. One student used color to emphasize families and the impact was powerful: families died from infants to parents. The students gained knowledge about the power of simple data and almost all of them used size, style and color effectively. The use of indents, line spacing and style guides were not as successful. In the future, I plan to incorporate a slide show of memorials that include powerful images such as Flanders Field, The Vietnam Memorial and the Holocaust Memorial.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 6.1: Quinnipiac University on October 5, 2019.

Teaching the History of Graphic Design to Visual Learners

Solution: add a significant drawing component to the curriculum

Ingrid Hess 
Assistant Professor 
University of Massachusetts Lowell

I teach the History of Graphic Design to art and design students. Most of them are visual learners. I find it an exciting challenge to teach in a way that inspires learning among these students. Below are excerpts from an article I wrote for the international journal Visual Inquiry in 2013 entitled, “How Drawing Helps Keep History Present”.

When I was an art student, one of my favorite classes was art history. I remember my professor’s lectures to be fascinating yet I remember almost nothing about art history itself. The information she shared with the class didn’t stick with me. Two decades later I was asked to teach a History of Graphic Design class. I was thrilled and terrified. How could I teach a class as interesting as the one I took years before yet help my students retain the information they were learning? My solution was simple: add a significant drawing component to the curriculum. By having students create work based on the lectures I presented they put their knowledge into immediate use. The results were astounding. On tests throughout the semester, questions relating to the drawing assignments were much more likely to be answered correctly than other questions.

A pleasant surprise—regardless of a student’s inherent drawing skill, using drawing was an effective tool. My class consisted of both art majors and non-art majors. I graded not on the expertise of the rendering, but rather on how each student integrated new knowledge of graphic design history into the drawing assignments.

The most rewarding part of the course was seeing how much the students loved the drawing assignments. At the end of the class when I asked the students what they thought they would remember from the semester, all of them stated a lesson that went along with a drawing assignment.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 5.3: Merrimack College on March 30, 2019.

Visualizing Historical Arguments

A Hispanic identity has been part of the United States since long before the massive immigration of the last decades. I explore the process as a form of research over finished forms.

Camila Afanador-Llach
Assistant Professor, Graphic Design
Florida Atlantic University

Visual representations of arguments based on historical events have the potential to shed light on contemporary issues. The graphic formats to structure such representations can include maps, data visualizations, and interactive archives. In this presentation, I show a series of projects where I use the tools of design to explore contemporary questions about the identity of places with a historical perspective. Using datasets and existing archives I seek to make evident the argument that a Hispanic identity has been part of the United States since long before the massive immigration of the last decades. I explore the process as a form of research over finished forms. With each iteration I continue to understand how arguments developed in long narrative texts can be communicated through visual forms.

In my engagement with historical narratives, I pursue more inclusive frameworks and decentralized ways of telling stories. Representing an argument in a visual format is also an act to bridge design practices with the humanities in the hope to establish methodologies for collaborative interdisciplinary endeavors.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 4.4: Parsons Integrated Design on Thursday, June 14, 2018.

Espiritu, Texas 1886-2015: An Essential Part Of American History

Andrés Vera Martínez
Assistant Professor,  Cartooning and Illustration
Lesley University College of Art and Design
Cambridge, MA

The Spanish term Mestizos, meaning mixed, came into popular usage during the 16th century to describe the offspring of Spaniards and Native Americans. Vaqueros, or the first cowboys, were Mestizos and their cowboy culture has been mythologized and marketed; but too often stripped of the ethnic origins before presented for popular consumption. Tejanos, or the first Texans, were borne of the mix of Spaniards and Native Americans and were the original cowboys of the United States. This culture lives on today in Texas through the food, language and ranching culture.
Espiritu, Texas 1886 -2015 will tell the story of a Texas built upon the struggles and triumphs of diverse people. This presentation will focus on one chapter, Lamesa, TX 1961: Andrew Martínez.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 2.0: The City College of New York, CUNY on Wednesday, June 3, 2015.