West Windsor, N.J. – The themes were inspiring, the graphics engaging, the colors pleasing, and the calls to action strong. As their capstone project for the year, Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) Advertising & Graphic Design students put their considerable skill sets to work for the Burlington-Trenton-Princeton affiliate of Habitat for Humanity.
Four teams presented comprehensive campaigns before a panel of judges on May 7. Judges included Habitat CEO Lori Leonard and staff members Lex Kochmann and Annie Fox, along with MCCC faculty members Tina LaPlaca and Mauro Zamora.
According to LaPlaca, coordinator for MCCC’s Advertising & Graphic Design program, Habitat was looking for a rebrand, with elements ranging from a fresh theme, webpages, print and digital ads and posters, to brochures, social media icons and strategies, and an invitation for Habitat’s annual Rock the Block event. Students also suggested and designed promotional items.
Four themes vied for top honors: “Building Hope by Hand” (Team 1); “We Build Stories” (Team 2); “Hope, Community, Homes: What Will We Build?” (Team 3); and “Building Hope Through Building Homes” (Team 4).
Leonard was thrilled that Habitat was chosen by LaPlaca as this year’s non-profit. “We recently combined our Burlington and Trenton-Princeton affiliates. Trenton-Princeton is a newer area for us, so to rebrand our identity is great," she said. "And we love to work with students. Their ideas are cutting edge and relevant. What they are doing helps to move our program and our organization along. It helps our mission of providing more homes to the community.”
Students got just as much in return. Said Team 3’s Gabby Hill, “As I get close to graduating, this project pulled everything together. It was good to push ourselves outside our comfort zones. This is what it’s like to work with a real client. Habitat is the real deal. They do good work. We wanted to do good work for them.”
Natalie Kinnamon, of Team 1, agreed. “This experience was really beneficial. It was helpful to see how the process with a real client works, how problems are presented and how we go about conquering them.”
Elijah Clark, one of Kinnamon's team members, noted that the organization was looking for visual consistency in its materials. “We developed cohesive concepts throughout the campaign. Our ideas provided solutions,” he said.
Team 2’s Jalen Hernandez observed that the hardest part was coming together as a team. “You have to merge your styles and skills. We figured out what assets each of us had and made a grid to get the work done.” Teammate Brianna Jobst said that working with a team of designers could be “aggravating at times, but was ultimately gratifying.” Sammy Jolley added, “This is an experience we will carry with us for the rest of our careers.”
While the teams varied in size, Team 4 had seven members, making it the largest. Steven Godoy was the team leader. “All of us had specific assignments and a lot of ideas. We came together over this project.” Teammate Aidan James added, “This is a humanitarian group. It’s very different than advertising a product.” Delmi Pazoz-Vargas noted, “After doing this presentation, I will be more confident in the future.”
Team by team, students came forward to present their work in PowerPoint presentations and explain their creative decisions to the judges. The judges then deliberated in a separate room for close to 30 minutes and returned to provide feedback.
Leonard said there wasn’t one clear winner and that the scores were close. “It was very hard. It was a real battle back there.”
They commented on elements from all the presentations. They liked Team 3’s brochure, calling it “super professional,” but noted that the poster was a little too text-heavy. They loved the team’s daily countdown on the Rock the Block event webpage.
They praised Team 1 for its effective presentation and “Building Hope by Hand” theme. The judges especially liked the flow of the team’s print brochure and the hand-addressed invitations to Rock the Block.
Team 2 was a standout for its webpage, along with its simple and effective poster design and copy. The judges also noted the originality and cleverness of pastel paint splashes the team created as the background on numerous pieces. And, while other teams had recommended practical give-aways such as hats to keep the sun off, water bottles and drawstring bags, Team 2 selected a keychain with a leveler right on it. That drew high marks from the judges.
Team 2 was the ultimate winner, although every team was singled out for excellence. “There was something incredible in each campaign,” Leonard said.
LaPlaca observes that the project was of value from the first day students met with Leonard right through the final presentations. “It was a real world experience that gives students a chance to demonstrate leadership and teamwork. Then they present to the client and get lots of feedback. It's the type of project that gives them something to talk about when they go on job interviews.”
Check out the video on YouTube here.