One person’s trash? A designer’s treasure
A robot made of a VHS tape, an old iron and plastic piping. A chicken with a steel grater for a body and old scissors for a crest. It might sound like rubbish, but actually, it’s the new face of Reverse Garbage – a creative reuse centre that diverts around 260 tonnes of valuable resources from landfill each year.
Designed by a group of UTS Visual Communication students, these kooky characters were the central component of a brand refresh project in the Socially Responsive Design studio subject, which asks students to solve design challenges for a range of community organisations.
“It was excellent, because we got to rebrand and really improve businesses that would otherwise not have the funds to access design expertise,” says student Talia Blank, who worked on the Reverse Garbage brief along with four of her peers.
Blank’s group was tasked with delivering a refresh of the organisation’s existing branding. The work included a revamp of the Reverse Garbage logo, the creation of detailed brand guidelines, and the development of an extensive set of digital and hard-copy marketing materials that included flyers, posters and animated films, many of which featured the new mascots.
As well as putting their design skills to the test, students got to experience the client/designer relationship firsthand, learning all about the challenges and pressures involved in working on a live brief.
“We were so impressed with the students’ enthusiasm and their ability to take positive feedback. They worked really well with us to get the result we were after,” says Kirsten Junor, Creative Director at Reverse Garbage.
A process video
Reverse Garbage Choosing to Reuse since 1974
Reverse Reduce Reuse Garbage
What you will learn started by teachers for teachers running workshops
The artists educators upcyclers will discover at reverse garbage
Our initial idea was GARBAGE
We just needed more time
And more FEEDBACK
We would like to introduce
The Reverse Community
Where we started
With everyone’s support
We got to this
On behalf of hy-fen
But gaining professional experience was just one aspect of the project. The Socially Responsive Design subject – which has been running in partnership with UTS’s Shopfront Community Program for over 20 years – has a strong emphasis on the use of design as a tool for social good. These ideas are embedded in both the course content and industry partnerships, as well as in the teaching approach.
According to Brent Rice, a tutor and professional mentor for the studio, design can make a meaningful contribution to more than just the economic bottom line.
“Socially Responsive Design is all about showing students that they have the opportunity to create better outcomes for communities, rather than feel their only solution is to go and work for big, multinational and corporate companies that sell products on grocery shelves.”
As such, Rice’s instruction in the studio subject was focused on helping students see the potential of their practice, and it’s a message that seems to have resonated – students gained a new perspective on how their skills can be used beyond typical commercial contexts.
For Blank, the fact that Reverse Garbage is already using the new collateral in their marketing efforts provides a concrete example of what meaningful design really looks like out in the world.
“As designers, we’re in charge of creating people’s views and their understanding of the world,” Blank says.
“I think it’s very easy to get lost in the process of creating for the sake of making.
“From this point on, with any professional work that I do, I’d like to think, question, and challenge myself as to why I’m doing it. I want to ask myself, do I believe in the message?”
Learn more about the UTS Bachelor of Design in Visual Communication.