In addition to coursework, an MFA in Communication Design at Texas State University requires doing a project and a written thesis. I applied levity and constructed a system of buoys that were installed in the river where viewers would see them and learn about uniqueness of the river.
In the heat of a Texas summer, the San Marcos River is a welcome haven for numerous people to float, swim, and paddle in refreshing 72-degree water. Many river-goers are unaware of their spring fed surroundings, or that it is home to protected and endangered species. My thesis sought to expand efforts of the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan (EAHCP) in San Marcos, through the application of design for social change and human-centered design.
To produce my thesis project, I started with extensive observations and talking with the river community, particularly those involved in river protection efforts. I connected with staff of the EAHCP in San Marcos; they helped me to better understand the challenges facing the river environment. I began with mapping possible opportunities for uniquely applying design to aid in the protection of the river. Working with the EAHCP, I created proposals and prototypes that evolved into a re-usable river installation.
My thesis project strengthened conservation efforts by working to protect the San Marcos River while also engaging viewers to become more closely connected to a rare, spring-fed habitat.
The project result took form as a river installation of buoys and signs, strong enough to withstand a powerful current, changing water levels, accumulations of debris, and human interactions. Content included simple messages and images to quickly convey information to river-goers, using a tone of inclusion and humor. Documented evidence shows paddlers and tubers understanding intended messages: avoiding protected areas. The installation was designed to be re-usable and scalable to increase the reach of protective efforts.
Visit the Texas State Website to view my thesis
View project details to learn more about my approach and design methods.
The story of my thesis project was presented as a large video projection for my thesis exhibition. See it below:
Some of the tools used for research, organizing findings, and illustrating outcomes:
This method helped me sort through my many observations and to see behavioral patterns of river goers.
This design approach allowed me to test ideas, experience failures, and to devise alternative approaches.
This method was used throughout my thesis project to observe people, this case without interactions, before and after project installation.
Trash sign experiment
Typical summer river traffic
Project installation in river
Texas Wild Rice (underwater)
Floating into protected area
Working to get out of protected area
Sign submerged in river
The wrong kind of paint
Improvement: two sided design
To create something useful and meaningful, I immersed in learning about the river and the people associated with it.
Simple, friendly and informative messages helped people better understand the river and how they could help protect it.