Honors Thesis Student Promotes Accessibility in Visual Design

Jessica Miller Uses Past Accomplishments to Shape Her Senior Honors Thesis
Jessica miller, wearing a mask in the John Elliot Center for Architecture and Environmental Design at Kent State.
Jessica Miller has had a number of successes in her time at Kent State. From her semester studying in Italy, to her position as a designer for the honors literary and arts magazine, Brainchild, to her internship at the nonprofit organization, Understood, Jessica has taken advantage of many opportunities at Kent State. One of Jessica’s most impressive undertakings, however, has just begun in the spring of 2021. A third-year Honors College student majoring in visual communication design with minors in photography and creative writing, Jessica has decided to complete a Senior Honors Thesis as a culmination of all her successes thus far.

Completing an honors thesis is a three- to four-semester process, beginning with one semester to research possible topics and find a thesis advisor, one semester to develop a formal thesis proposal, one semester to finish researching and writing the thesis, and a final semester to orally defend the thesis to a defense committee. Jessica is in the thesis preparation semester, during which she develops a reading list, meets regularly with her thesis advisor, and ultimately submits a formal thesis proposal to the Honors College. At this time, Jessica has narrowed her topic of interest to accessibility issues within visual design. While other design fields such as UX (user experience) and web-design have clear accessibility guidelines, Jessica notes that “visual design lacks that distinction and information.” In response to the shortage of accessibility standards in the visual design industry, Jessica’s thesis will study “misconceptions and boundaries within the [visual] design industry that prevent accessibility design from being a prevalent practice.”

As she completes her preparatory research, Jessica notes that many of her past experiences have helped her decide to focus on accessibility issues within the visual design field. In her major coursework, Jessica reflects, “The more I learned about design[,] the more I wanted to study accessibility.” The lack of accessibility standards for visual design has become more and more apparent throughout Jessica’s studies. Not only does this topic relate to her major, but Jessica also notes, “I am passionate about this thesis topic because I have dyslexia.” Her personal experience with inaccessible visual design in everyday life, coupled with her study of visual communication design at Kent State, has inspired Jessica to focus her thesis on accessibility.

While her past experiences have helped Jessica select a topic for her thesis, she also points out that her current activities are also helping her prepare to write her thesis. As a current intern with Understood, Jessica has gotten hands-on experience with the nonprofit as they “prioritiz[e] accessibility design” to positively impact “one in five people with thinking and learning differences.” Her ongoing partnership with Understood has allowed Jessica to help “create a more accessible and welcoming place” and gain valuable experience with her thesis topic of accessibility.

When asked what advice she could offer fellow honors students, Jessica says, “[I]f you have the desire to write a thesis[, then] you can do it. I think many of us can experience imposter syndrome and feel that we won’t be able to take on such a task. . . [It] is so important to remember you are here at Kent and the [Honors College] for a reason. You have a unique experience and point of view that needs to be shared.”

Jessica is grateful to her thesis advisor, Professor Aoife Mooney of the School of Visual Communication Design, for her guidance and experience with inclusivity in the design field. She looks forward to completing her honors thesis with the Honors College and pursuing a career in accessibility design.

For more information about the Senior Honors Thesis/Project, please contact Lori Michael, the Honors College Thesis Coordinator.


PHOTO CAPTION 1: Jessica Miller, standing in the Schuster Center in Dayton, Ohio.

PHOTO CAPTION 2: Jessica, wearing a mask in the John Elliot Center for Architecture and Environmental Design at Kent State.

Media Contact: Stephanie Moskal, smoskal@kent.edu, 330-672-2312

POSTED: Monday, March 1, 2021 - 1:28pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - 5:05pm
Olivia Wachtel, Honors College Writing Intern