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USM Design Student Collaborate with Local Library on Unique Project

Tue, 05/03/2022 - 09:39am | By: Van Arnold

Graphic design students at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) are gaining some hands-on, real-world experience through a collaborative project with the Library of Hattiesburg Petal & Forrest County.

The students comprise the sophomore-level course taught by USM Assistant Professor of Design Linh Nguyen. The project calls for them to design teaching materials to help educate the community, visitors, and other guests about the renowned career of Will Eisner, considered to be the father of graphic novel work.

A Mississippi Humanities Council Grant secured by the library helped pave the way for a six-week-long Graphic Novel Celebration event (Sept. 12-Oct. 22) showcasing Eisner’s career. Nguyen points out that the students were tasked to develop, design, and create a Special Event Collateral Campaign, featuring two essential components: design an Informational Poster and a 12-page Educational Booklet in a comic book format.

Nguyen explains that the project has enabled her students to learn about designing for social good through service-learning. She considers the hands-on experience invaluable.

“By collaborating on this community-based project, my design students have been introduced to what it takes to work and collaborate with a real client and how it feels; the stress, the demand, and the tight deadline for creating a real design product,” she said. “What they learn, take away, and experience from participating in this project will help them become more career-ready once they graduate from USM.”

Nguyen notes that when students are actively involved in a community-based project, they gain specific life experiences that cannot be gained through other types of projects.

“For example, they learn how to use their learned design skills as a method for giving back to their community and helping their fellow non-profit organizations bring more awareness and visibility to the group’s mission or special events,” she said. “Furthermore, it helps make them better citizens by providing an opportunity for them to perform their civic duty to help improve their community, no matter how large or small the impact may be.”

Activities associated with the library’s six-week exhibition include:

  • Movie screenings
  • An illustrator who will demonstrate and teach youth the art of comic drawing
  • A comic-themed celebration in the children’s department with cosplay characters
  • Guest speakers who will discuss the history of the genre
  • Book club events

At the end of the current spring semester, the USM students will deliver client presentations to display their work. During these presentations, the library will judge the students’ efforts and select five winning posters and booklet designs, covering Eisner’s five career stages, to be exhibited alongside his work. The presentations will be held Thursday, May 5 at 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. at the George Hurst Building, Room 110, on USM’s Hattiesburg campus.

The Art & Design and Graphic Design programs are housed within the School of Performing and Visual Arts at USM. To learn more, call 601.266.4161 or visit: