Smile Politely

Making the case to Love Champaign

Early last week a mysterious Facebook page popped up asking everyone to Love Champaign from Feb. 7–14. Then there was a Tumblr page. Then there was a Twitter page. Then signs began popping up all over town. What’s it all about? The cynic in me immediately assumed it was some sort of weird Hallmark/Godiva takeover of Champaign in advance of Valentine’s Day. But it’s actually quite a bit more heartwarming — the campaign is the semi-spontaneous work of 17 University of Illinois graphic designers who were inspired by their social design class to do good.

Listen or download the podcast of SP Radio here
(to download right click and select save as).

One of the designers, Annaka Olsen, explains the campaign, “We’re working on a lot of small events and community activities for the week in the downtown area to get people connected and aware of our rich local businesses and communities within them. It’s all about our collective love of Champaign! I think the beauty of it is that we aren’t trying to sell anything, just get people together in support of town.”

It’s all the result of research done by the students while interacting with the citizens of Champaign. They went into the community and quizzed the locals about their community and decided to promote the city as a result. This model of graphic designers engaging in the community is part of an emerging trend, spearheaded by Bernard Canniffe from Minneapolis who recently presented his views to the students in professor Eric Benson‘s class. It’s based on Canniffe’s Blue Collar Design theory, which states, “The role of the graphic designer is that of a social responder and we must begin to effectively communicate this to both the design community and the world.”

“We’re focusing on how design can help people’s lives,” says student Brent Wagner. “Not just designing the cover of a magazine, but also impacting social and ethical issues.

“This movement came from people who were frustrated with their profession. They had a thirst that could only be quenched by actually doing good and helping people.”

To help out, they have organized a campaign that highlights many of the local businesses and people that make Champaign unique. Everybody wins. Select “more” on their Facebook info page for a list of the events they have planned so far.

Three of the students — Brent Wagner, Samantha Snyder and Kamil Kecki — were on Smile Politely Radio last Friday. They provide a lot more background on the campaign, tell us what they each love about Champaign and show some love for Urbana too. Listen or download the podcast of SP Radio here.

In addition, the podcast includes a segment previewing upcoming GLBT events by Tracy Nectoux. Theme song by Shipwreck, closing song “Lucky in Love” by Angie Heaton and the Gentle Tamers.

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