At Moore, our faculty inspire our students—and vice versa! That’s why Graphic Design Professor and Program Head Gigi McGee partnered with alum Annais Delgado ’22 to create a brand identity system for Kensington Clean, an initiative that supports Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood residents with trash cleanup.
McGee and Delgado discussed how they came to be involved in the project, what it was like working together and what they will take away from the experience.
Editor’s note: This conversation has been edited for length.
Gigi McGee: Impact Services, a community action organization in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, put out a request for proposals in fall 2021. After sharing it with a few graduates, I decided to submit a proposal of my own. Through the years, I have sometimes imagined a design practice comprised of Moore-educated graphic designers. With all the talent we send out into the world each year, it could be a powerhouse! With that in mind I decided to include a student on my design team, Annais Delgado.
Annais is smart, capable, efficient and reliable. I had them in several courses and we had a productive, respectful student/teacher relationship. We communicate well, we are both open to input, and, given the fact that we worked together on an identity system project in the senior level Design Systems class, we spoke the same language. The Graphic Design class of 2022 was a strong group, and several students were good candidates for this project, but Annais just seemed like a good fit.
The proposal was submitted under the studio name designMORE and I described it as a teacher/student relationship. To my delight, our proposal was accepted. We shared work via Google docs and worked both separately and together throughout the process. We agreed on conceptual directions and developed logo ideas individually, and the other person would provide input and build on the concept of the other. It was a true team effort.
Annais Delgado: Gigi reached out to me because she knew that I have always had an interest in these types of projects. We presented ourselves as a design duo, with a designer who has experience in the field and a designer who is still a student. But we were both equals throughout the entire experience, being part of the design process together, coming up with ideas and visuals as well as interacting with the clients and stakeholders. It was a huge learning experience for me, being mentored by Gigi and getting actual client experience.
GM: While Impact Services has a crew of 10 people who clean the area daily, trash is an enormous problem. The goal for the initiative, Kensington Clean, was to amplify the efforts of residents who strive to keep their blocks clean and inspire others to join their efforts. Impact Services coordinated five focus groups, which were intense. I was a bit scared that we could not meet the expectations of residents. However, through this project we learned that Impact Services and many other organizations are working in a multi-pronged approach to addressing so many serious issues, and trash was just one aspect of their work.
Respectfully considering the voice of residents, we investigated concepts that were a direct link to their input, and our Phase I presentation included our independent research, thought process and more than two dozen logo concepts, which is very unusual. From those concepts we made three recommendations and showed a poster application for each to demonstrate how the logo could be applied. Impact Services quickly zeroed in on one concept and from there we worked to build that idea out into a system.
AD: This project aligned perfectly with what I wanted out of my career at the time, and reflects what I am currently doing. I have always had a passion for advocacy and creating work that is socially impactful to underserved communities. A lot of my student work at Moore reflected that want to advocate for communities I care for and to create design work that communicates an important message. Currently I am working at a nonprofit called Taller Puertorriqueño in North Philadelphia, as their first content developer and graphic designer. It’s an organization that aligns so deeply with my personal identity as a Puerto Rican person and as a designer who wants to create space for the Latinx community. Having the opportunity to be part of the Kensington Clean project allowed me to see how this kind of work is possible in a real-world setting, which pushed me even more in the direction I wanted to go in.
The experience taught me a lot about freelancing and working with a client, but also alongside another designer—which, up to that point, I hadn’t really done before. Working with Gigi was a learning curve, but in a positive way, because I was able to have her guidance and her expertise to rely on, learn and grow from as a designer. I was also able to break the fear of not seeing myself as a valid designer who has my own opinion in this process; it allowed me to find my voice and not feel like I couldn’t use my own talent. Working with Gigi gave me confidence. I was able to have an experience with her where I wasn’t just a student and she was my professor, but instead we were both designers working on a project together.
GM: As someone who grew up in East Kensington, I felt strongly about this initiative. I applaud the efforts of Impact Services and all the organizations who work to make a difference for the people of Kensington. The relationship with Impact Services was so positive that they have recommended us for another possible project. They valued the idea of a teacher/student joint venture. We hope to continue Moore’s involvement with this terrific organization, to support their mission of serving others.
AD: I loved being able to work with Impact Services and to have so many conversations within the Kensington community. It felt like a lot of pressure, to best represent their wants and vision for this campaign, but it was a challenge that I was more than up to accomplishing. I also appreciated how much I was able to learn about a community and their struggles that I wasn’t privy to prior to this experience. It showed me the resilience within the Kensington community and how much love they have for their neighborhood. That love really fueled me to create something that I felt proud of, and most importantly, something that they felt represented their mission.
This experience gave me a glimpse into what my career could be. At the time, I was toying with the idea of freelancing full-time after graduating, and it showed me that I could do that and had the capacity for it. It also really enforced my love for what I do, which is designing for a good cause, not just for a brand or a corporation. With my current job, I think about how at the end of the day I feel good about what I do. Being part of the Kensington Clean campaign gave me strength and confidence as a designer and also as an activist and advocate.