Design Course Takes WWU Students Beyond the Classroom, Into the Community

Reality shows have become all the rage on television, and this semester, students in William Woods University’s graphic design program are experiencing their own version of MTV’s “Real World.”


In a course called “Real World Graphic Design,” students are taking their work beyond the classroom, into the community.


Two of the students, John Hays, a senior from Independence, Mo., and Erin Cloninger, a senior from Advance, Mo., took on a special project for SERVE.


Established in 1972, SERVE is a community agency that provides a variety of services for residents of Callaway County. These services include transportation, adult education and literacy, the Clothes Cupboard thrift shop, Callaway Action Network food pantry, “Back-To-School” and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program.


In addition, SERVE administers the Adopt a Family holiday assistance program and a new program, Each One Teach One, a peer support group for individuals who have completed either short-term or long-term treatment.


Bob Elliott, assistant professor of graphic arts, who has been teaching the course for more than 10 years, said “One of the key components of this class is for students to work with real clients; to experience firsthand the give and take, and nuances of a client relationship.”


By doing a community service project, it became a “win-win situation—the students get experience and they provide a service,” Elliott said.


There are seven students in the class, which is run much like an advertising or public relations agency. Elliott is the “president” of the firm. He analyzes the work flow and makes the assignments. Seldom do all of the students work on the same project.

“It’s like a real business, with weekly staff meetings, short deadlines, and unexpected twists and turns,” Elliott explained. “The students get a lot of different things thrown at them.”


In addition to the SERVE project, students in the class took on projects for other non-profit businesses in Fulton. They did the logo and ad designs for the recent YMCA Auction, a logo for the upcoming Kingdom of Callaway Chamber of Commerce golf tournament, a logo design and branding for Dance Ovations, and an I.D. badge modification for the Callaway Community Hospital.


“Typically I initiate the contact with the businesses,” Elliott said. “I approach them and tell them what we can do for them.”


In the case of SERVE, Hays designed a website directed at donors and sponsors.


“They had a site with absolutely nothing on it,” he said. “They wanted it simple, with a page for each program. I basically took information they had available and started from scratch creating a website for them.”


Cloninger said one of her goals was to unify SERVE’s image with consistency. She designed a new logo, a newsletter template and a brochure. She did a mock up of various logo applications, such as the SERVE van, truck and signs.


“The mock up was just to jump start their thinking. . .to get them to see how the logo might be used,” Elliott explained.


“It was exciting for us to have the students come in and do a professional job for us,” Terry K. Higgins, SERVE executive director, said. “As a non-profit, we don’t have the funds to hire a professional graphic designer. We are immensely pleased with what they did for us.”


Both students said they enjoyed the SERVE project.


“We got a lot of good experience,” Hays said. “We learned a lot from going and talking with clients and designing something to fit their needs. It felt good to help them; they are very charitable.”


Cloninger agreed: “It was really nice to give back to SERVE because that’s what they do—they constantly give to the community.”


Elliott said a project like the one for SERVE has the advantage of extending beyond the students’ time at William Woods.


“Often these real world community projects become a lasting legacy,” he said.