PROFESSOR OF ART & DESIGN, SETON HALL UNIVERSITY
SOUTH ORANGE VILLAGE NJ
With the ambition to be a design professor, I earned my master’s degree from Pratt Institute. Operating under the adage “Those who CAN, teach,” I advanced my career to become an award-winning art director for clients including M&M Mars, Sony, Sharp, Disney, Kraft and Snapple. I switched to teaching full-time when my students’ awards were more meaningful than mine.
As an educator for twenty-three years, I balance the practical with the conceptual; experimentation with experience; research with results. My classroom mimics an agency atmosphere structured as an open forum where students are encouraged to share their opinions and ideas. Under my guidance, they search for new ways to expand the definition of design and its application in today’s society.
Upon receiving tenure, I donate my talents to nonprofit organizations such as United Way, Habitat for Humanity, the American Cancer Society and the ALS Association. My interpretive skills and passion for learning about human behavior enhance my research. With creativity as a stimulant of thought, I propose innovative and actionable solutions that yield meaningful change.
My independent research is rooted in personal experience. My sons were diagnosed with ADHD at young ages. As they struggled, I searched for a design solution to pinpoint the spikes in emotions and propose steps to improve their responses. Unlike my children, I am a product of an untreated generation of females with AD[H]D. Therefore, I hope to conceptualize a method to combat the long-term lack of self-care for individuals like me.
Tell us how and why you became involved in socially responsible communications, any thoughts on why design can be an especially effective tool for this goal, and, if you wish, give us an example of a project of which you are proud.
My contribution to design for good began as a student. My master’s thesis, environmentally conscious design, was progressive and controversial at the time. I also rebranded the Legal Aid Society of New York City pro bono. Once I entered corporate America, I donated a percentage of my workday to the nonprofit sector while teaching design courses at night. Upon achieving my vision to become a professor, I redirected my research to clients with missions aligned with my beliefs.
Design is a particularly effective tool for spreading good because its foundation is persuasion, typically to buy, but now, to believe or act. Within a nano-second of time, it connects clients with their target audiences. However, the ability to communicate visually to the masses comes with great responsibility. Therefore, each project must be approached as a platform for social, economic or environmental good.
With creativity seen as a stimulant of thought, dialog and action, my design skills make a positive impact. For example, a single project I designed for Fraxa Research Foundation, a top national nonprofit, raised $720,000 in six weeks for research for a cure for Fragile X Syndrome, the leading cause of autism. I chose this organization over ten years ago when my son first exhibited indications of ADHD. As both are spectrum disorders, the pairing was a natural fit. I completed upwards of 15 projects — the most significant to the organization, the branding of World Fragile X Day, as it united nonprofits worldwide.
Given the confluence of events and challenges our society now faces, does this moment in time present any special opportunities, urgencies, obstacles to designing for good?
We are living through history. More than ever, design is integral to the human experience. It is the responsibility of all designers to use their platform to accurately and appropriately advocate for change. As a woman with an invisible disability, I understand that people often keep what makes them diverse deep below the surface. Therefore, I design with respect, understanding, equality and, when appropriate, humor. Frequently, this process requires me to become a student. Continually learning improves my skills as a professor and designer and my overall perception of life.