Student Seeks to Understand the Role of Design in Increasing Awareness of Diversity in the Arts

Thesis Thursday

How can design increase the awareness of diversity in the arts?

That's the subject of the Senior Honors Thesis topic being explored by senior visual communication design student Will Scharlott.

Scharlott is completing his undergraduate thesis under the direction of Aoife Mooney, assistant professor in the School of Visual Communication Design.

"Professor Mooney has been instrumental to my success at Kent State," says Scharlott. "When I took Introduction to Typography with her my freshman year, she helped me fall in love with this craft. She encourages thinking about challenges in ways that can be out of my comfort zone and helps mold my concepts to be more engaging and profound. As an expert in type design, Professor Mooney previously worked at Hoefler & Co (an iconic typeface foundry in our industry), so her perspectives are rich and her attention to detail is magnificent. We had worked previously on an independent project, and I was eager to take advantage of her mentorship."

Scharlott's thesis is aimed at understanding if design can play a role in increasing awareness of racial representation in the creative fields.

Scharlott's thesis is one for which he has a personal investment. "As often the only minority and more frequently the only Asian American in my design classes, I was surprised of the lack of diversity throughout the Visual Communication Design program," he said.

In conducting his research, Scharlott was surprised by the number of minority professionals who work in creative industries versus those who belong to the majority. Even in fields where he had made assumptions about a larger representation of minorities, he indicates his biases were often incorrect.

"Diversity is so important. It can be easy to see it as just a number or a box to check for an HR department, but it's much more. People from different backgrounds bring different perspectives towards life and in our case as creative professionals -- our work. Diversity brings different vantages about customs, culture, traditions and beliefs. Celebrating differences is both a privilege and option of our species," Scharlott said. "These differences are not all defined by race, but race is an easy identifier to begin to understand how differences can make us more tolerant and apply new, creative thinking to our problems."

When asked about how the impact of his work, Scharlott said, "My race is identity, and I'm proud to have the opportunity to work on a project that has the potential for an important impact -- especially considering the racial tension our own country has been recently experiencing. To make impact is hugely important in anything I do, and this project is just that."

POSTED: Thursday, January 19, 2017 08:47 AM
Updated: Thursday, December 8, 2022 08:30 PM