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Beyond the Classroom: Sowing Seeds for Life

In Spring 2018, Professor Sooyun Im's ART 352 (Graphic Design II) integrated a service project with the support of Cal Poly Pomona's Center for Community Engagement. The challenge: a branding campaign for La Verne-based nonprofit Sowing Seeds for Life, a food pantry organization that serves 6,000 people every month and annually distributes more than 1 million pounds of food.

Executive director Fran Robertson said one of the struggles faced by nonprofits is establishing its visual identity and distinguishing itself from other similar organizations. At the time of the community service project, Sowing Seeds for Life sought to re-brand itself, from updating its tagline and restructuring its marketing strategy, to creating new content.

"We believed that all of these areas were of equal importance as it is not only vital for our agency to reach individuals who are in need our food security service, it is also vital that potential donors recognize who we are, what we do and how they can be a part of the process of fighting hunger," Robertson said.

Throughout the quarter, Im's students worked closely with the organization, visiting the food pantry during operating hours to observe and hosting one of its representative of the organization to share expectations for the projects. Students presented their progress to the organization for feedback, and by the end of the term two of the students' designs -- visual communication majors Daniel Ortiz and Megan Smith -- were selected and implemented for the organization.

"The Sowing Seeds for Life service learning project not only gave me valuable service with branding, but also made me aware of the human element within design and its potential to improve our society," Ortiz said.

A CCE mini grant funded the printing costs of the final design: 1,500 new brochures, 1,000 sheets of stationary with the new letterhead, and 1,000 new business cards. Sowing Seeds for Life already had an existing partnership with Cal Poly Pomona through the university's Mobile Food Pantry program, an extension of the Basic Needs Program that addresses student food insecurity and provides for 400 students every month.

"Working with Sowing Seeds for Life was a great experience," Smith said. "It helped me better understand the design process of working with a client and it gave me valuable real-world experience that I will take with me when I graduate."

Integrating service learning into traditional course gave students the opportunity to bridge theory with the real-world implications of visual design, Im said.

"Working with such a nonprofit organization, students gained an awareness of social issues and problems in the world around them and learned to apply design for the greater good," she continued. "The service-learning project enhanced tradtional learning by linking academic content and theory to the real world."

For Robertson, Ortiz and Smith's contributions fulfilled several areas in her organization's development strategic plan.

"Having been in the non-profit field nearly 30 years, I have been a part of many community projects," she said. "I have enjoyed some of them, liked most of them and learned from all of them, however, this project and working with Cal Poly Pomona is an experience I truly loved."