UAB students, professor win $47,000 design grant for Cahaba River project

Graphic design team’s work on identity campaign earns funding for creation of a book and video about the river.

cahaba_webIt isn’t every day that graphic designers can help improve an entire ecosystem, but four UAB students and their professor have done just that for the Cahaba River.

Assistant Professor of Graphic Design Doug Barrett, M.F.A., and students Amy Clark of Mountain Brook, Daniel Twieg of Dallas, Texas, Samantha Gibbons of Hoover and Jenny Waycaster of Calera, all graphic design majors, worked together for months to create an identity campaign, logo, graphics, signage and more for the Cahaba Blueway project. Barrett and the students did the work as part of an independent study in the Department of Art and Art History’s Bloom Studio, along with Birmingham-based advertising agency Cayenne Creative and Matt Leavell of Alabama Engine, an economic-development organization.

Now their project, “Telling the Story of the Cahaba River,” has won $47,000 from Sappi Fine Papers with a 2013 Sappi Ideas that Matter grant, one of only 13 awarded across the nation. The highly respected Sappi grant program is aimed at helping designers create and implement print projects for charitable causes. The grant will allow the design and creation of a book and video about the Cahaba River that the Cahaba River Society can use to educate and inspire people and communities to enjoy and conserve this resource, Barrett says.

“Telling the Story of the Cahaba River,” has won $47,000 from Sappi Fine Papers with a 2013 Sappi Ideas that Matter grant, one of only 13 awarded across the nation. The highly respected Sappi grant program is aimed at helping designers create and implement print projects for charitable causes.

Barrett will serve as the primary investigator on the grant. He will be responsible for spending the money and doing the work to accomplish the proposal’s goals.

“Sappi is a large international paper company and they have been awarding this grant for 13 years,” Barrett says. “The grants are reviewed and awarded in the Americas, Europe and South Africa.” Since 1999, the Ideas that Matter program has awarded more than $12 million in grants to designers around the globe to support their work for nonprofit programs and organizations.

The project was especially meaningful to Gibbons, an Alabama native who grew up fly fishing, swimming and kayaking on the Cahaba River.

“I finally had the opportunity to give back to a river that has already given so much to me and my family,” Gibbons says. “Rarely do people sit back and think, ‘We really need an economic boost in this area, someone call a designer!’ or ‘It sure would be great if we could help improve and uplift the community, we need a graphic designer stat!’ We aren’t doctors or social workers, and it’s not often we get to use our skill set in this way. But maybe after this project, people will begin to realize that graphic design can contribute to the greater good.”

Working with Cayenne Creative was an eye-opening experience, Gibbons adds.

“Not that many students have an opportunity like that,” she says. “It was great to have a creative agency behind us that was so hands-on. It really helped inspire and drive us as well.”

Earlier this year, the Cahaba River Society honored UAB students as “Volunteers of the Year” for their work, which includes a series of brochures and the design of a specialty Alabama license plate.

Twieg says it was an honor and a privilege to be given the opportunity to work on a project that will have a positive impact on the community, as well as the opportunity to work with such talented students, instructors and creative professionals.

“Hopefully, with the work that we have done, the residents of Alabama will come to realize the unique treasure they have in their own backyard,” Twieg says.
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