UNT Research, Volume 18, 2009 Page: 40
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"You need a place to hole up and get serious work done,"
says Michael Gibson, associate professor of communication design.
"The design research center will be a place for UNT faculty and
graduate students to plan, execute, test and re-test."
The efforts of the program's faculty members are making an
impact across the globe. In June 2008, the communication design
faculty organized an international visual literacy conference that
attracted world-class speakers such as alumna Heather Amuny-
Dey, a creative director for Nike Global Brand Design.
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The faculty members' own research is touching lives inside the
classroom and around the world. Owens traveled to Haiti in the sum-
mers of 2007 and 2008 to volunteer for Partners of the Americas. In
Haiti, he helped design advertising labels for local farmers who make
jellies, peanut butter, liqueurs and bitter chocolate.
"Everyone makes a decision based on the label in Haiti,"
Owens says. "Imported produce has a slicker label, but in actuality,
local products are just as good if not better. But the local labels
often look amateurish or homemade."
To create more consumer confidence in the local products,
Owens worked with local growers to create more aesthetically
pleasing labels that can be printed at an affordable cost. In test
markets, sales immediately increased for the Haitian products.
Within a year or so, the products with the new labels are
expected to be on local shelves and possibly in other Caribbean
markets and Canada, he says. The labels are designed in such a way
that Haitians can update and print them on their own.
"The real problem isn't making a label pretty," Owens says.
"The real problem is how to design ways to empower groups of
people to become more self-sufficient - that's the ultimate goal."
Gibson recently received about $200,000 from the university
to buy equipment for a render farm - a powerful group of seven
computers working together to help UNT students and faculty
members create visual design projects that can help the community.
"We plan to facilitate projects that will instigate positive
social, cultural and economic change, particularly in North TIexa,
Labels designed by Keith Owens to increase consumer
confidence in local products in Haiti will help farmers there
compete against imported produce.
but eventually throughout the state," Gibson says.
For example, the render farm might be used in a project to
improve the self-checkout experience at a grocery store. Avatars
- or virtual people - could be created to examine how a 9-year-
old boy buying a candy bar or a 70-year-old woman doing weekly
grocery shopping would react to the proposed new design of the
From 2000 to 2004, Gibson - along with Celia William-
son, now deputy provost and dean of undergraduate studies, and
Don Louis, project director in the Department of Rehabilitation,
Social Work and Addictions - secured grant support to create a
CD, Unfiltered 2.0. It is used to teach middle school students about
the dangers of smoking.
Discussions are under way to create a Spanish-language ver-
sion for students and others in Mexico, he says, and the render
farm could be used in the development of that project. In addition,
Gibson is working on a book, Brilliant Failures and Unmerited Successes:
Design as Mediary in the Post-Industrial World.
"I'm interested in why design fails, particularly design that
was economically successful but that has had a catastrophic effect
socially or environmentally," Gibson says, citing mass-marketed
diet programs aimed at women as an example.
Michael Gibson worked with a team of UNT researchers to
create a CD that teaches middle school students about the
dangers of smoking.
40 3 SPRING 2009 UNT RESEARCH
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University of North Texas. UNT Research, Volume 18, 2009, periodical, 2009; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc115032/m1/40/: accessed June 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting University Relations, Communications & Marketing department for UNT.