Ferris instructor William Culpepper assigned his GRDE 414: Design Seminar class with a unique task: project images onto a forgotten building in Big Rapids to bring awareness to them.
The students in Culpepper’s class were assigned to one of three case study buildings: the Old Gary Trimarco Pontiac Buick GMC dealership located at 101 Maple Street, the old Pioneer Press Building located at 534 State Street, and the old train depot located at 910 Maple Street.
“Each of these case study buildings was carefully selected based on their notable history and location, in contrast to their current state of abandonment,” said Culpepper. “The buildings will be thoroughly researched and documented by the student groups. The information of the buildings’ historical usefulness will be projected onto the building façade creating juxtaposition thus illuminating each building’s current potential.”
The buildings themselves were the inspiration for the project.
“After moving to the area, I noticed several empty buildings around town that were either for sale, vacant, forgotten, unused or abandoned,” said Culpepper. “Throughout the semester we [GRDE 414] have been discussing, writing, and thinking about graphic design and how it can make an impact on the community.”
“We are bringing awareness to vacant buildings by projecting images that help illustrate what can be done in the space,” said Sarah Sawtell, senior in graphic design. “We are also showing people outside of our program what graphic design is and how it can impact the community.”
The students in GRDE 414 hope both Ferris students and members of the Big Rapids community get involved with their project. The event will occur simultaneously at all three locations Dec. 8 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. The images will be projected for a live audience comprised of anyone in the BR community interested in seeing them.
“By creating graphic design that is presented to a live audience and establishing routes of audience feedback (through onsite questionnaire cards), the student will garner direct audience feedback from the community in which they live,” said Culpepper. “The student will be able to analyze and evaluate the impact of their own graphic design on their extended audience while considering any improvements they may do in similar situations in the future.”
“Most people in Big Rapids wouldn’t know what graphic design is if you asked them,” said Sawtell. “It’s our jobs as future professionals to help people understand what it is we do and how we can help businesses, people, and the community.”
Students are really looking forward to seeing how people will react to their project.
“Now that we have decided what our concept will be for our projection, it is really exciting to be doing a project that is large scale,” said Dawn Brink, senior in graphic design. “Because this project is large scale and unconventional, it will have a huge impact on the community.”
“My group’s projection will show old newspaper articles about everyday life at the train depot,” said Emily Ross, a student in GRDE 414. “Researching this building has been extremely interesting because we’ve learned a lot about Big Rapids during the 1870s and forward as well.”
“It is really hard to find information on this building, and so we are collaboratively developing a concept that relates well to the fact that we can’t find any research,” said Brink. “We are still working on the details of what the images will be, but we are thinking that we are going to base the projections on mysterious unsolved crimes.”
This is Culpepper’s first semester teaching in the graphic design program at Ferris, and it is also the first time this project has been used in his classroom environment.
“I would like to work with future students and explore other forms of communication that move beyond the walls of the classroom,” said Culpepper.
To see the projections created by the students in GRDE 414, check out downtown Big Rapids Dec. 8 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. n