Design For Equity and Resilience

Photo Credit: Thesis Work by Leslie Moore Parker, 2019 MFA in Graphic Design

Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA in Graphic Design …
Through the Eyes of Design Justice Advocate Jessica Bellamy 

When design justice advocate and researcher Jessica Bellamy visited VCFA’s MFA in Graphic Design residency as a guest designer in October 2019, she’d never heard of low-residency graduate-level graphic design education. It took less than a week on campus for Bellamy to dub VCFA The MFA Program That Graphic Designers Deserve in an article for Medium.

In a recent interview, she noted, “VCFA’s program requires that students make an intentional inventory of their passions, intentions, and practices.” This intentionality drives both VCFA’s program and Bellamy’s work as co-founder of the Root Cause Research Center (RCRC), which unites community organizing, research, and information design in the fight for equity. For Bellamy, thanks to RCRC, “Work no longer feels like work.”

Similarly, student work at VCFA often carries deep personal meaning, exploring issues of equity, inclusion, trauma, and recovery. Through these projects, students hone in on issues that drive them, building resilience to survive in the design profession. As Bellamy knows, “The design industry is highly competitive, and the designers that thrive are those that specialize and provide a unique and tailored set of skills.” Identifying projects and subjects that make work no longer feel like work, and designing in those areas, just might be the key to longevity in the field.

To that end, VCFA’s program strikes a balance between encouraging students to focus on their own passions while pushing them beyond their comfort zones. Critiques are conducted with respectful rigor, bearing in mind that “the work is in crisis, not the student,” a message that impressed Bellamy. She applauded the faculty’s “commitment to directly addressing problematic ideologies while also incorporating practices that soothe distress, which is paramount to the continuous production of conscious and responsible design professionals.”

Thanks to brilliant faculty and guest designers like Jessica Bellamy, that is exactly what VCFA’s MFA in Graphic Design continues to produce.