This “real world” project I assigned to my students was to design a bilingual booklet entitled Trabajadores Agricolas Conozcan Sus Derechos / Farmworkers: Know Your Rights. Collaborating with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), I got in touch with TRLA lawyer Sarah Rich who showed me that the literature currently available to area migrant workers was divided into several brochures. Given the reality of life as a migrant worker, these booklets proved to be impractical and unwieldy—not the type of format of use to those who do not have file cabinets at home in which to store important reference materials. We decided that a single, small-scale booklet that would consolidate all the information in one publication was the answer. Because farmworkers are migratory and often on the go, it was important that the booklet be small enough to fit in a jeans or shirt pocket so that they can take it with them easily. Because so many farmworkers do not read well, and are not accustomed to reading very much at all, it was important that this text convey key information in a very compelling way that is easy to read and draws the reader’s attention to key points. Prior to this, the information had not been considered or redesigned in over ten years. It also needed to have space for the workers to mark and keep track of their hours worked to better help with disputes that may arise with employers. Eleven of my intermediate-level Graphic Design 4 students were assigned this project. The student designers needed to organize the information in a logical and simple way using the skills they already learned that semester in the class, like the text layout program Adobe InDesign. This booklet nicely met the students’ learning criteria while also filling a real need in the community.

Ms. Rich met with the students in class to present the facts and answer their questions. She then provided the student designers with the materials currently available, all text files, and other information that was to be included in the new publication. The students then began their independent research of understanding what the reality of being a migrant worker means so that their design could best communicate to and meet the needs of their intended audience. This included touring The Border Farmworker Center, or El Centro De Los Trabajadores Agrícolas Fronterizos, located at Oregon Street and East 9th Avenue in downtown El Paso and speaking to Carlos Marentes, its Executive Director. Students also took it upon themselves to independently visit the actual fields in places like La Union, NM where crops were growing in season to take photos that could possibly be incorporated into the visuals of their booklets. The students had just about a month, from April 10 to May 8, 2013, to complete this project.

Finally, the students’ booklet designs were assembled as mock-ups and submitted on the due date to be judged by me and my other graphic design professor colleagues in the Department of Art. Out of the eleven, the three best designs were deemed as “finalists” and then passed along to TRLA staff to decide the single winning design. Student Jonathon Duarte’s design was ultimately selected to be the winner.

In the end, an incredible 5,000 copies of Jonathon’s booklet were initially printed, then a second run of 2,000 were printed. As of April of 2015, almost all 7,000 of those had been distributed to workers in Texas and the six southern states TRLA serves: Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. Workers have taken the booklet beyond those locations to other work destinations such as the Midwest and New Mexico, while Christmas tree harvesting in Maine, egg gathering in Iowa. Locally, TRLA attorneys and paralegals have distributed the booklet at The Border Farmworker Center and at the various international bridges during outreach programs as well as at health fairs at schools in Clint, Socorro and Fabens, Texas that have Migrant Educational Programs for school students whose parents are farmworkers so that the children can take them home to their parents. There was a third printing of the booklet in time for the new harvest in summer of 2015. This project was featured in the UTEP President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2015 by UTEP’s Center for Civic Engagement. The booklet is an ideal example of the symbiosis that can happen when a project is perfectly matched to students who have the skills to serve and fulfill a real need in their very own community and beyond.
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