Visual Arts Collaboration Earns International Award

OGDEN, Utah – Sticks + Stones, a collaborative design project led in part by Weber State University visual arts professor Mark Biddle, was recently named winner of the international Core77 Design Education Initiatives Award for its Berlin 2010 project.

Sticks + Stones Berlin 2010 focused on culture, migration and representation. In one component of the project, students took to the streets of Berlin wearing T-shirts with the question “What would people call me behind my back?” printed on the front. They approached people randomly and asked them to write directly on their backs.

“This initiative was meant to give physicality to the way we label each other,” Biddle said. “The writers of these opinions pressed their words onto the back of the T-shirt wearer, and in turn, those students felt these labels and assumptions being forced upon their backs.”

Britni Howe was one of six WSU students who traveled to Berlin for the project.

“It was actually pretty interesting because it seemed people were much more comfortable writing more openly and honestly on the guys' shirts,” said Howe, a South Ogden, Utah resident. “All the guys who wore the shirts said that this was not something they would like to volunteer for again. I got the feeling that people were too uncomfortable to write what they may have really been thinking on my back. It was kind of an interesting twist. Our exhibit was also starting to include some gender biases which we had not anticipated originally for this particular project.”

The students reviewed their findings and presented a response exhibition for DesignTransfer, a Berlin gallery.
The exhibition also included materials from the other components of the project, such as information graphics about migration, life-sized panels about stereotypes and wall-sized maps.

The study, field research and design of the project were part of a two-week symposium in Berlin, which occurred in June 2010. More than 40 students from six different universities collaborated on the project. The students originated from China, England, Germany, Israel, Poland, Russia, Turkey and the United States.

Other WSU graphic design students who participated in the project included Crissy Barney from Springfield, Ohio; Sam DeMastrie from South Ogden, Utah; Jennifer Hadley from Roy, Utah; Chanel Licheld from North Ogden, Utah; and Jeff Madsen from Kaysville, Utah. The students began working on the project while at WSU in May 2010 with preliminary studies about American and German stereotypes. They also competed with students abroad for design of the project’s branding. DeMastrie’s design was chosen as the branding solution.

The Core77 Design Awards are a global competition recognizing excellence in all areas of design enterprise. Jury teams based around the world gathered in eight countries to judge 15 categories of design practice.

“What pushed Sticks + Stones to the top of our list was how it promoted cultural awareness by working with cultural diversity as opposed to just working on or about cultural diversity,” said Elizabeth Tunstall, jury captain of the Core77 Design Education Initiatives Award.

The Sticks + Stones Project began in 2005 as a collaborative project between WSU and three other U.S. universities. The project focused on helping design students understand the basis of stereotypes and how they influence prejudice. Sticks + Stones has now grown to international collaboration with Washington, D.C. and Australia being discussed for future action sites.

Biddle, University of Maryland professor Audra Buck-Coleman and Northeastern University professor Ann McDonald are the project’s primary investigators. Co-collaborators and onsite hosts in Germany were Charlotte Driessen and Universität der Kunste, Berlin professor Ulrich Schwarz.

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Mark Biddle, visual arts professor, Sticks + Stones Project coordinator

Sam DeMastrie, visual arts student, Sticks + Stones project participant

Britni Howe, visual arts student, Sticks + Stones project participant

Jonathan McBride, office of Media Relations
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