Students Lead UA's Version of "Extreme Makeover"

Chelsea Cota
Feb. 28, 2013

Since last October, five students and I have been working on a class project in partnership with a University organization called Cats in the Community Day, an annual community service project that sponsors a local nonprofit in “helping them accomplish the work that they otherwise could not accomplish."

The best description I’ve heard of the project is that it’s the UA’s own version of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," and it takes months of planning and is executed in just one day.

The lucky candidate for this year’s project is St. Elizabeth’s Health Center, a faith-based clinic dedicated to serving low-income families.

My fellow students and I make up the design team behind this wonderful effort in renovation and community service. Every year, the senior class in the UA Visual Communications program competes in teams for the role as designer for the Cats in the Community project, and the winning team’s design is then developed to better suit the sponsored candidate’s needs.

This experience has been a tremendous learning opportunity for the designers, largely due to the fact that this is the first major client we’ve had so far in our careers.

Within the past few months we have learned a great deal about the issues and decisions we will have to face as professionals, especially with the understanding that our designs must be fluid – the needs of the client is our top priority, so if something has to change to accommodate that need we must be able to adapt.

We’ve learned that it is important to consider the business of the client while taking the first steps towards their design; this is the first year that Cats in the Community has selected to partner with a health care facility, and we had not initially taken into account that some of our vibrant colors in our original color palette could potentially make the patients of St. Elizabeth’s Health Center uncomfortable.

As we continued to understand and implement the needs of our client, we successfully reached a design that emulates the professionalism and care that St. Elizabeth’s aims to provide for their patrons.

As an aspiring graphic designer, there is nothing more exciting and motivating than to see your designs be transformed into a reality, especially with a client whose work impacts so many other lives.

I am grateful to have been the team leader for this year’s project because one of my personal ambitions is to some become a creative director, and I’ve had the privilege of working closely with a variety of people who specialize in work that has a considerable influence on design production.

After months of preparation, it’s strange to think that this project will be coming to a close in only a few short days.

This type of work is important to our team because it allows us to both incorporate our passion for design and utilize it in a way that affects the community in a positive way. This project will continue to benefit it's patrons long after we are graduated.

I’m very excited to finally see our work come together. As I face graduation in May, I can easily say this opportunity has helped subside my post-graduate fears of where I’m headed next. I not only feel more confident in my work as a designer, but I also feel reassured that my work can actually make a difference and make a real impact on the community.

Cats in the Community Day photography by Patrick McArdle/UANews
Chelsea Cota is a UA senior studying visual communications with an emphasis in graphic design. Cats in the Community Day 2013 will be held March 2 with UA students, faculty and staff and their family members volunteering at St. Elizabeth's Health Center. The center provides quality medical and dental care for the uninsured and underserved.  The center is staffed primarily with volunteer physicians, dentists, nurses and dental hygienists.  In addition to providing primary medical services and dental care, the health center provides obstetric and newborn care. They also provide chronic disease management, integrated behavioral health and community outreach for health education and nutrition services.


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