Students in Design Rebels, my socially conscious graphic design course at Virginia Commonwealth University, are required to create a real world project that reaches beyond the school as their final project. This year the students decided as a group to work on the issue of raising awareness about the local LGBTQ community. They chose to create a set of coffee sleeves as way to reach out to the general public in a more subtle way.
Each sleeve features the face of a local queer-identified person and a quote about their experiences dealing with a world that is not always very understanding of their sexuality. The sleeves also include an alternate version of the check boxes usually found on commercial coffee cups, but rather than types of coffee they list “Straight”, “Gay”, “Lesbian”, “Bisexual, “Trans”, and “Human” as the options. The “Human” box was pre-checked by the students to emphasize their goal of creating a greater respect for the humanity of their subjects as well as the LGBTQ community as a whole.
The students were given only 10 weeks to conceptualize, design, produce, and distribute their project and a $100 budget was provided by the Graphic Design department at VCU. Since the students wanted to reach a larger audience they solicited donations for additional cups using the local non-profit The James House as their fiscal sponsor. They ended up with enough money to print 2,000 sleeves, which were distributed at four local businesses and one event. They were also able to garner the attention of local and international press, creating a good deal of discussion around the initiative.
Two of the students have already expressed an interest in continuing the project beyond the end of the semester.
More about the project can be found on the students’ website HERE.