Russell Kerr is an activist and educator based in Melbourne, Australia. From 2006 until 2011 he was the Program Director at The Works, Communication Design for Social Change at RMIT University. Currently he is the Program Director of Honours Design in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University, and the research leader for the Advocacy Lab, an interdisciplinary research laboratory in the School of Media and Communications honours program. His current PhD research investigates the contested field of Social Design specifically focusing on how social practice relates to Communication Design. After his Fellowship, Russell came back to Green River, Utah, to lead a social design workshop during the 2016 Summer Summit.
G’day readers, I started to write this report from the frontier during my last day as a Frontier Fellow, I now find myself typing the final words over 4 weeks later after returning home to the wet and windy land down under. Resuming my normal job running a graphic design a program at the RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, a long-long way from the magical town of Green River.
I arrived at the frontier by train from Denver armed with a jar of vegemite and not really knowing what to expect of Green River. I was greeted by several Green River folk waving American flags, which amused the train conductor no end. He was still coming to terms with the length of time I was about to spend in Green River, ‘You have come all the way from Australia to stay here for 4 weeks’. If he only knew what amazing wonders await in the sleepy town of Green River he may not have been so surprised.
The Frontier Fellowship was an awesome experience, I spent my time moving between, Epicenter, the Boys and Girls Club and the Thrift Store. As well as joining the Epicenter crew on team building trips to Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon. We also managed a rafting trip down the mighty Colorado River.
The Green River Thrift Store needed to create an online presence to generate income for the community center and it’s related activities. I developed a communication strategy and visual identity to help the store sell interesting items online. We created an instagram profile to use the #thritfy hashtags to sell items online. This method also allows the store to show people outside of Green River cool things we found in the store. In addition to the instagram feed we started a facebook page to compliment the existing tumblr and instagram presence. The logo itself pays homage to the array of neon signs located through out the township.
I also ran a kite-making workshop for the local community as part of Epicenters arts program. It was a lot of fun the kids who participated really enjoying the process of making and decorating their kites.
I came to Green River to experience Epicenters approach to community design, wanting to experience the imbedded nature of the program and the people that are Epicenter. I have seen a lot of community focused design programs in my travels but I think Epicenter stands out as a shining example of best practice for this type of ‘social design’. Epicenter are more than just a design studio, they are deeply committed to the community of Green River engaging on all levels of the community from local government to pie making contests. This approach to be active participants in for the long hall is to real benefit for the community and also the wider design community.
My time in the desert was amazing.