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Department of Visual Communication adds its creative signature to Artivism billboard campaign

by Gerrit Bester

A digital billboard campaign, currently running in Johannesburg and Pretoria, aims to shine a light on illegal animal trading. It carries a unique TUT student signature. Five Advanced Diploma: Integrated Communication Design (ICD) students from the Department of Visual Communication (VISCOM) were involved in the campaign's development, which also has a parallel social media campaign to complement it.

The opportunity came about when Mohammed Jogie and Lila O’Donovan, ICD lecturers at the Department and social justice activists, volunteered to assist with campaigns of Ban Animal Trading (BAT).

BAT is widely considered South Africa’s foremost animal rights organisation. Its long-term vision is to end animal exploitation through facilitating positive and meaningful change, created through awareness, education and legislative enactment. It strives to raise awareness to facilitate long-term change by challenging the status quo in a legal, ethical and professional manner.

BAT challenges the status quo by questioning established norms, traditions and policies that exploit animals. The goal is to change attitudes, beliefs, policies and legislation to create social good, environmental good and protect the rights of animals. The VISCOM ICD lecturers involved built a strong relationship with BAT during the curation and creative direction of the project that neatly aligns with the Faculty of Arts and Design’s Artivism agenda.

The opportunity presented to Advanced Diploma students was met with enthusiasm. The brief had three objectives: to create educational and awareness materials about the exotic animal trade, to discourage trading in exotic animals and to raise awareness among traders that the public, activists and authorities will increase pressure on them.

After working on the project for three months, the designs of Mpho Moema, Kutloano Lebethe, Trevor Baloyi, Lesedi Motshumi and Reratilwe Malepeng were selected.

Asked what the experience was like working on a real-life campaign, Moema says: "This project taught me a variety of skills, including how to work efficiently in a team, learning to take the lead and working with clients. However, the most valuable lesson I took away from researching and working thoroughly on this campaign, was learning to have deep compassion for animals."

Lebethe agrees by saying: “This project gave me insight on the value of research, communication and, most importantly, teamwork. It was a wonderful and eye-opening experience to work with people who are so passionate about the wellbeing of animals.” 

The campaign received positive feedback from the initial focus group and the client was pleased with the students' design skills.

“The exotic pet trade causes immense pain and suffering for countless animals and, so, our intention with this campaign was to grab the public’s attention and make them take notice of this horrific trade,” says Dr Smaragda Louw and Prathna Singh, Directors of BAT.

“From the initial discussions to the final sign off we have been blown away by the creativity, enthusiasm, dedication and thought that has gone into these designs. We were hoping to breathe new life into our work and these talented students have done just that. The campaign has received positive, enthusiastic feedback thus far and we are excited to see how the delivery of this message helps us work toward our goal of bringing an end to animal exploitation,” they add.

The VISCOM lecturing staff believe that involving design students in live projects has numerous advantages, including gaining real-world experience.

“Live projects allow students to put their theoretical knowledge and skills into practice in a professional setting, experiencing the design process from conception to execution and facing real-world demands and output requirements,” says Dr Herman Botes, Head of the Department of Visual Communication. “Additionally, live projects provide an opportunity for students to build an enhanced portfolio.”

“The Department encourages working on live projects as it can produce tangible results that students are able to include in their portfolios. Real-world projects help showcase students’ problem-solving abilities, teamwork skills and adaptability to client needs. Such experience can make them more attractive to potential employers,” Dr Botes adds.

“Improved professional skills, increased confidence and motivation are additional benefits for students. This hands-on experience can solidify their passion for design and inspire them to pursue professional careers in the field,” he concludes.

The digital billboards that Integrated Communication Design students designed for Ban Animal Trading (BAT). It will run in Johannesburg and Pretoria until 15 February.


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