Design Is...
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Case Study By
Monina Velarde and Amanda Amyx
Four months
High school students in the Chicago Public School District
Project Title
Design Is...

Group leader: Monina Velarde

Group members: Amanda Amyx, Buddy Boor, Darren Gennetten, Diba Salimi, Kaity Li, Katy Dondzila, Shannon Delaney and Kelby Hawn


How can we engage and educate high school students in Chicago about the power, potential and possibilities of design? Through the AIGA Chicago Mentor Program, a group of Chicago-based graphic designers collaborated to answer this question. We designed a newsprint piece where we illustrated and visualized eleven words that we felt best communicated and exemplified the meaning of design. Our newsprint project aimed to promote design, pique curiosity and encourage high school students to get involved—whether it was considering a career in design, learning about the design community or just knowing more about the design resources available in Chicago.

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The final edition of “Design Is” (Photos by Brent Hofacker)

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Spread from “Design Is”

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Spread from “Design Is”

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Spread from “Design Is”


The total cost of our project was $554. We received $400 through an AIGA Chicago PUSH Grant, a quarterly grant awarded to a project that promotes design within Chicago.


Our AIGA Chicago Mentor group shared a common interest: we wanted to make something rooted in creating positive change. As we started thinking about how we might positively impact our local community, we first looked to our group’s strengths. We all joined the AIGA mentorship program because we are passionate about design, and we felt that we could potentially share our knowledge with those who might not be as familiar with the profession. 

The theme “Design Is” resonated with us because it demonstrates that design really affects everything around us: technically, socially and emotionally. Design is integral to the development and improvement of our environment. We hoped that if we could inspire young people about what design is and why it is exciting that maybe they would also feel inspired to use their creativity to make a positive impact.

Our AIGA Mentor Group typically met every other week. We used Google+ and Basecamp to share our ideas, inspirations and feedback during the project. 


Distributing our newspaper

Our biggest challenge was finding local high schools where we could distribute the newspaper. We also wanted to have the opportunity to directly interact and engage with the students through a design workshop. We reached out to Richard Zeid, the AIGA Chicago Education Chair, to help us get in touch with local high schools. He pointed us to the Design Youth Forum, which turned out to be the perfect venue for our project. The Forum is an all-day event that brings together 100-plus high school students from the Chicago Public School District to participate in design-focused workshops.

Funding our project

In order to meet the financial challenge of printing hundreds of newspapers, we applied for the AIGA Push Grant. Our group also used the application process to establish clear internal goals for the project. We were awarded the grant, which enabled us to print 550 newspapers. 


The “Design Is” newsprint was produced and distributed at the 2013 Chicago Design Youth Forum hosted by Project Osmosis. Our AIGA Mentor group gave a presentation to the attendees of the forum about the project. We also led a graphic design workshop where we explored how poster design can create positive change within our environment and community. The whole experience was incredibly fulfilling—we were humbled and thrilled to distribute our project to the students, share our experiences working in the creative field and connect with them one-on-one. 

An abridged version of this case study was published on our local AIGA Chicago Chapter website:

Tags Design for Good print design education Case study graphic design editorial design