Gail Rodriguez


Originally from New York, I started in fashion illustration at the High School of Fashion Industries — a public school focused on a range of fashion careers — and discovered the creative and challenging world of graphic design. I went on to attend the School of Visual Arts in New York. After graduation, I ventured into the world of advertising agencies and magazines. It was initially exciting working on 7th Avenue, but it slowly lost its glamour and did not fulfill the creativity I craved.

I entered the non-profit world over 20 years ago, working with hospitals like Jamaica and Brookdale, designing community programs and hospital services. When I moved to Atlanta, my clients included Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta Area School for the Deaf, and the Georgia State University School of Music. There is a considerable difference between a commercial design job and a non-profit design job; when talking to my clients in the non-profit world, there is a sense of passion for their organizations. Ultimately, we are all advocates for the common goal of improving lives and seeing a change in the communities we serve.

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.

I became involved in socially responsible communication back in New York when, right after college, I was asked to teach a graphic design class at Bronx Community College to children ages 8-12. I had to teach these young children how to analyze and solve a problem by communicating their messages visually and showing them how their visuals can impact a community. It was a concept I was slowly learning then, but I understood the importance of it.

I am the Communications Manager for the Center for Leadership in Disability (CLD) at Georgia State University. CLD is a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, one of 67 programs in the country funded by the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. CLD’s mission is to translate research into sustainable community practices that contribute to independent, inclusive, and productive lives for people with disabilities and their families. My role involves design, marketing, and public relations for the various projects within CLD and our partners.

My design and marketing projects at CLD are in the areas of Mental Health, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Autism, Advocacy, Leadership, and Early Intervention and Positive Behavior Support, along with collaborations with organizations like the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Babies Can’t Wait program, the Georgia Association for Infant Mental Health: Birth to Five, the Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD), and more.

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?

One in four Americans has a disability. Individuals with disabilities have less access to health, education, and other essential resources. Years of advocacy and awareness building have increased accessibility for people with disabilities, but we still have a long way to go. There has also been an increase in product designers improving accessibility for people with disabilities. As a socially conscious designer, you must design something that is beautiful, powerful, communicates your information, and, most importantly, is accessible.