Visual communicators almost always work in the background as they employ a variety of technologies to generate awareness and interest, evoke emotion and inspire change or action. But while we see the results of their efforts almost everywhere, all the skills and labor that go into the work are rarely apparent.
Tech-savvy students in the Graphic Information Technology (GIT) program at The Polytechnic School, one of the seven Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, hone their creativity in conveying messages in impactful ways through various mediums such as photography, videography, graphic and web design, illustration, animation and user experience, to name a few.
Each semester, about 1,000 of those students — of whom a quarter study on campus and three quarters online — major in or take courses in the program. GIT majors choose two focus areas. One must be within the GIT program, which includes photo and video, print and digital design, motion graphics, front-end web development and user experience. The second focus area can be in any other ASU degree program. Recent graduates, for example, have chosen a second focus area in engineering, business and fashion.
7 years of celebrating GIT creativity
With the intention of celebrating student creativity at a culmination-style event, the GIT Creative Awards were launched in 2015 by Principal Lecturer Laurie Ralston, who is now the program chair. Since then, it has evolved into the GIT Awards, an event that has been growing in scale and quality every semester. It is sponsored by ASU’s student chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design. Known as AIGA Poly, the group is made up of dozens of on-campus and online students studying in various design disciplines.
“This event is a great example of students supporting students and industry supporting students,” says Christina Carrasquilla, a senior lecturer in the GIT program. “AIGA Poly coordinates the entire event, and the local and national AIGA chapters made up of educators and industry members from around the country are highly involved in voting and honoring our talented students.”
The event is livestreamed, allowing on-campus and online students to participate in the festivities.
“Online students are able to join us live, regardless of time zone or location,” says Lecturer Prescott Perez-Fox. “It’s great to be able to open up the event to them as well as on-campus students.”
Amy Hector recently graduated with an undergraduate degree in GIT and will pursue a graduate degree in the GIT 4+1 accelerated master’s degree program at ASU this fall. She was recognized at the spring 2022 GIT Awards and says the ceremony “allowed me to share my work and see the work of my peers. It’s a great way to celebrate the diverse creativity and ingenuity within our community.”
Faculty members encourage GIT majors and all students taking GIT courses to submit exceptional academic, professional or personal projects for the opportunity to win a GIT Award. Each semester, projects that get the highest number of votes from among faculty members, educators and industry members are awarded.
“Everyone is heads down during the last two weeks of the semester. No one really gets to see each other’s finished projects until the ceremony,” Perez-Fox says. “It’s refreshing to know the hard work was all pointing somewhere.”
Using design to reinforce a message
Submissions to the GIT Awards range from print, digital composition and branding projects to motion graphics visual effects, illustrations and composites works, among many others.
Mya Scott, a fourth-year GIT student, won the Outstanding Photo and Video Award and was an industry favorite in the video category at the spring 2022 GIT Awards for her mini-documentary titled “Our Foundation.” The video is a window into Scott’s Navajo culture and its emphasis on family and tradition. She also incorporated footage of a teepee assembly, mirroring the stability of family.
“The weekend the project was assigned to us, a lot of my family members were coming together to celebrate my aunt’s birthday, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share a little about how life is on ‘the rez,’” Scott says. “I am happy I got to share a little about my Navajo culture and the importance of family. I am truly appreciative for the feedback and recognition it has received.”
Hector, a spring 2022 Fulton Schools Outstanding Graduate, was recognized on multiple occasions for her photography, branding and print design work during her time in the program. At the GIT Awards, she was awarded Outstanding GIT Graduating Senior and was an industry favorite in the branding systems and campaigns category and the photography category, especially for her Zenith Wines & Spirits project.
“My photo series was my senior project, so it did fulfill an academic purpose, but it was inspired by my drive to work on larger-scale photography projects and develop my commercial photography portfolio,” Hector says.
Many other students were recognized at the event for their creative storytelling: Khai Nguyen, a spring 2022 GIT graduate, for a 2D motion graphic video on his immigration from Vietnam; Marissa Turnage, a spring 2022 GIT graduate, for a website design for a group of Kenyan acrobats; Andrea D’Souza, a user experience graduate student, for her mental wellness print booklet; and many more.
For the full list of awardees visit the GIT Awards website.
During the fall 2021 semester, a group of graphic information technology students worked with a local nonprofit organization to amplify its web presence. The project was for the GIT Creative Agency — a course led by lecturers Perez-Fox and Kassidy Breaux in which students take on real projects for real clients with the goal of serving the community.
It was one example of the hands-on GIT experiences provided for industry-bound students.
“A team of students is selected through an application process to run a fully operational design agency,” Perez-Fox says. “From client brief and scope to design and delivery, students gain real-world experience designing for cross-media solutions in an academic setting. Together, we aim to model the best practices of the design profession and emulate the work of our counterparts in industry.”
Hector, GIT graduate student John Blair, third-year GIT student Lauryn Armstrong and GIT alum Sarah Huffman were selected for the fall 2021 Creative Agency course and were tasked with re-strategizing branding for the Si Se Puede Foundation, a local nonprofit organization that provides STEM education in underserved communities.
Along with designing a new concept for the foundation’s website, the students developed a cohesive branding strategy for the community partner, including a new logo system, icon system, social media strategy and print design elements.
“It was, by far, the largest scope of project we’ve taken on within the GIT Creative Agency,” Perez-Fox says.
The foundation’s leaders saw value in the design concepts that the team produced and were eager to see the new site built and launched. Hector took on the development of the redesigned site while the other students focused on the brand and print aspects of the project.
“This was the first time I got to take on a large-scale web design project and see it develop from start to finish,” Hector says. “Being able to design with the user in mind, take client feedback into consideration and iterate on my designs in an efficient manner gave me a huge appreciation for the design process. It helped me feel prepared for the possibility of taking on more large-scale projects in the future.”
Participation provides platform and network for faculty to lead unique research
Throughout the year, the Interplanetary Initiative has brought together members of the Arizona State University community, as well as industry and government experts, to develop questions and solutions surrounding accessibility to space.
Through a series of “Big Questions” teaming workshops, the participants came up with ideas for new or renewed pilot projects that the Interplanetary Initiative will seed-fund for the upcoming academic year.
The Big Questions method is designed to generate new projects that aim at the most important questions arising from our human future as a spacefaring species, while working across a broad swath of disciplines and sectors.
During the workshops, participants would brainstorm questions, then break into teams to develop a plan to work toward answers.
“To reach higher research and educational goals, we need to remove the barriers between disciplines, thus enabling transformational rather than incremental improvements in knowledge,” wrote Interplanetary Initiative Vice President Lindy Elkins-Tanton in an op-ed for Issues in Science and Technology.
“To do this, we should focus on key questions, building teams of people from many disciplines to answer them.”
The Big Questions teaming method is designed to spark new projects that aim at the most important questions arising from our human future as a spacefaring species but working across a broad swath of disciplines and sectors.
This year’s projects are:
JEDI Space will seek to answer the question of what a just, equitable, diverse and inclusive space future means and how to open space access to more of humanity through surveys, conversations and events. An important goal of this project is to inspire action to create a space community that invites people to stay, going beyond metrics to understand the root cause of the metrics.
Preventing Space War will, for the first time, convene experts and stakeholders to address three topics: understanding the consequences and pathways to conflict in space; open-source intelligence for space domain awareness; and understanding how space, space ownership and space conflict are conceptualized socially, politically and culturally.
Space Activity Heat Map seeks to create a view of space activities through the lens of their key benefits, drivers and end goals, tracked at the project level over time, investment level and geographic location. By visualizing space activities and how they are globally spread across our planet, the heat map will provide a rich perspective about the diversity of space activities globally and allow stakeholders to engage with such information to help understand and drive future space-related activities.
Earth Operations Center is a renewal of an existing pilot project. While many organizations around the world are conducting vital research into understanding and modeling climate change, there remains a need for continual and integrated modeling of earth systems and the global economy visualized over decades and centuries. In collaboration with NASA and the MIT Media Lab, the Earth Operations Center is envisioned as both a physical and virtual space that communicates insights to critical stakeholders of a wide variety of backgrounds (policymakers, educators, corporate partners, the media) through an immersive, affective experience.
Space Exploration and Sustainable Development is a renewal of an existing pilot project. The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global development goals and aspirations aiming for a more just, inclusive and healthy planet by 2030. With the rapid growth of the commercial space sector, this project addresses the increasing need for a framework and practical implementation strategies for the space sector to embed corporate social responsibility into their operations. As a first step, the team conducted a systematic literature review of over 12,000 papers, identifying four areas of activity related to the space sector that impact either positively or negatively the SDGs.
SpaceHACK for Sustainability is a spinoff of the current project Space Exploration and Sustainable Development. This project will use the format of a student-led hackathon to develop novel indices that track progress toward the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Mars on the Field is a spinoff of former pilot project Five Senses in Space. The team is setting out to create a virtual reality experience that puts you on Mars on the field at Sun Devil Stadium.
Global Space Tech seeks to contribute to an increasingly important body of literature on space technologies in select developing countries. Understanding the positive and negative impacts of space technology spinoffs and transfers will serve to inform government decision-makers in these countries.
Opportunities for faculty
The projects that emerge from the process also offer an opportunity for ASU faculty to enhance their visibility and connectivity across the university and to advance their careers when they become a project lead.
“Leading the Five Senses in Space pilot project was an excellent way to gain visibility across the university,” said Robert LiKamWa, lead of a former pilot project that spawned this year’s Mars on the Field project.
“It was a great excuse to reach out to faculty and students in traditionally unrelated fields to recruit participation. Presenting our work in Interplanetary Initiative venues also gave us a tremendous platform to reach audiences in the ASU community that we would otherwise not have had access to and attention from,” he said.
Leading an Interplanetary Initiative pilot project means charting new pathways into defining our space future through collaborations within and outside of ASU, with support from the initiative.
“Having light-touch project management and support in communication, logistics and feedback is so valuable when working on big imaginative projects. It threads the perfect needle between collaborative support and trusting us to be autonomous,” said Phil Stoesz, leader of last year’s Religious Space pilot project.
Anyone who would like to get involved in any of the pilot projects can reach out to email@example.com.
Participants take part in one of the Interplanetary Initiative’s Big Questions workshops.
Photo courtesy the Interplanetary Initiative
Lindy Elkins-Tanton leads a Big Questions workshop.
Photo courtesy the Interplanetary Initiative
People participating in Big Questions workshop.
Photo courtesy the Interplanetary Initiative