An Interview with Our Student Designers

JOIN was fortunate to be able to partner with an amazing program at the PSU School of Graphic Design called Studio 5.  Studio 5 pairs graphic design students with local businesses and non-profits to provide high-quality and beautiful design at no cost to the client.  It helps the students gain experience and hone their skills.  JOIN had three great designers – Leland, Colin and Robby.  This dynamic trio was wonderful to work with, and wanted to share a little bit about themselves and their process.


What’s your name and why are you pursuing graphic design?

Leland: My name’s Leland (they, them, theirs) and I’m pursuing a degree in graphic design because of an interest in representation in media and design’s ability to address/grapple with/inform various cultural and societal norms. I was originally going for a degree in sociology because of an interest in intersectional feminism and social justice but changed because I felt graphic design let me work within that frame in a more creative way.

Colin: My name is Colin (he, him, his). Design is more than simply making things pretty or functional. Design is a platform for the communication of ideas, values, emotions and stories. I’m pursuing a career in graphic design because I think (when applied appropriately) good design can be a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless and a catalyst for social change.

Robby: My name’s Robby. I’m interested in the role design plays in shaping culture at large.


What was inspiring to you about JOIN or this project?

L: I was drawn to JOIN as a client because of an interest in working with design for nonprofits, particularly nonprofits that focus on community engagement and social justice. I’m so inspired by JOIN’s approach to housing retention that focuses on empathy, humanity, and particularly their commitment to social justice.

C: JOIN’s unique approach to supporting Portlanders experiencing homelessness has proven to be really effective in helping individuals and families move off the streets and into safer more stable living situations. I was and am inspired by the personal relationships JOIN fosters, the community it builds and the positive change they bring to their community through their hard work. The work JOIN does changes lives for the better and it’s been an honor to help them tell their story.

R:  I think a lot of people who might otherwise pursue a career in design are turned off by the idea that their only contribution to the world will be the proliferation of advertising or consumerism or trash. It’s so rewarding and inspiring to be able to use our design skills for a cause we believe in and I hope to be able to keep working on projects like this.


What’s your favorite part about the new designs?

L: I think my favorite part about the new designs is the way their versatility reflects how flexible and open JOIN is as an organization. Some brands are incredibly rigid and offer very little room to grow but I think these designs reflect the myriad programs and services JOIN offers. I also like that the brand looks legitimate but isn’t taking itself too seriously.

C: My favorite part about the new design of JOIN’s brand identity is how cohesively it presents JOIN to the outside world. Our goal was to visually represent JOIN as the supportive, effective and professional organization they are, and I believe we collectively accomplished this goal with the redesign.

R: I think my favorite part of the new branding is that we were able to come up with something that both we and JOIN could believe in. The best part of the work is producing something that the organization can be confident about and in which they see their values reflected.


What did you learn?

L: So much! For one thing just working with Sydney at JOIN and my teammates Colin and Robby has been such a growing experience in terms of collaboration. It’s great to feel like you each bring something unique to the table and to inspire each other in different ways. We don’t get to design as a group very often within school so this was an awesome opportunity.

C: I learned that good design isn’t easy. That it’s most effective as a collaborative process and that teamwork really does make the dream work. None of this would have come together the way it did without everyone involved participating in the process.

R: That I actually like branding! It’s something I was a little scared of before this project. I really loved working with my teammates and JOIN  to understand how the organization sees itself and what they hope to accomplish, and then finding the language to communicate that understanding to each other.


Tell us something about yourself.

C: I’m infatuated with the city of Portland, though not blind to the fight for social justice within its limits and beyond. I hope to stay here and work with organizations like JOIN to make this city a safer and more equitable place for all of us.

R: Working in a field that’s long been oversaturated with people like me (straight white guys), it’s important for me to work in ways that don’t perpetuate the imbalance of representation. I want to continue to contribute my skills to groups that are actively working against injustice in our community.

L: My identity as a queer, trans/nonbinary person and the benefits I experience from white and socioeconomic privilege inform my work and life in big ways. I moved from southern Oregon to Portland so I could figure out a way to use that privilege in a creative way to elevate voices, perspectives, and experiences not typically represented in design.


Leland Vaughan

Robby Day

Colin Davis