“You’ve Got Options” exhibit showcases connection between self-expression, design and mental health

The relationship between college students and mental health remains important as students may experience stress and burnout due to strenuous routines and other factors. Kent State’s current mental health campaign has allowed a university-wide discussion regarding mental health and the stigmas associated with talking about it. 

Visual Communication Design students enrolled in Professor Sanda Katila’s Typography II class recently collaborated with the Wick Poetry Center to connect typographical design and creative writing with mental health. 

“It’s been a great experience working with all of them,” Professor Katila said. “I am grateful they trusted me enough to come along this journey …and found new ways for self-expression.”

The “You’ve Got Options” exhibit, led by Professor Katila and Wick Poetry Center assistant director Charlie Malone, tasked students with creating 2D and 3D posters integrating typographic self-expression and a list of poems from one of the Wick Poetry Center’s clients, the Coleman Health Center. 

Senior Carly Heller incorporated Susie S’s poem, “Bored” in her 3D design featuring bright colors, different levels of hierarchy and cutouts of key passages from the poem. 

“The poem is about a girl and her friend who meet an older woman who is bored with the world,” Heller said. “The irony is that the girl and her friend can see the world moving around them and are satisfied with everything it has to offer.” 

Heller’s project represents a display of positive mental health in her design, which she believes is just as important to showcase as negative mental health. This allowed her to see her own form of self-expression in her design. 

“Our VCD program pushes us to incorporate a clear design style of our own,” Heller said. “In the end, I was able to bring my vision to life and it was really cool to see.” 

Students sitting on steps

Enjoy a few photos of the "You've Got Options" opening night reception.

Using Antoine Williams’ “The Fruit is Me,” Gabby Lutz featured a breakdown of the poem in her 3D design to indicate the breaking down of the poet’s life experiences. 

“The poem incorporated a slow burn of some of the things he went through,” the senior said. “At the end of it, he comes to a resolution that he can still grow back to his old self despite being hurt, which I thought was powerful.”  

While analyzing the poem’s words, Lutz noted that she wanted to put herself in Williams’ position to enhance self-expression and story in her design. 

“The poem was written in the context of someone working through many problems,” Lutz said. “I wanted to get inside the poet’s head to wonder how I could break his thoughts and reflect that on my design.” 

“At the end of it, he comes to a resolution that he can still grow back to his old self despite being hurt, which I thought was powerful.”  

Another senior, Tyler Mill, selected Rick K’s poem titled, “Loneliness” and included a maze route in his design to represent escaping feelings of isolation. 

“The guy in the poem is lonely all the way until the end where he finds ways of escaping feelings of loneliness,” Mill said. “I have anxiety, so I wanted to integrate the poem’s storyline and my personal experiences within my design, which came together well.” 

Aaron Milliren’s design featured Andrew H’s poem, “I Am, You Are” representing the poem’s theme of being a spiritual being, but eventually becoming set free. 

“I used a piece of wood as a background and then included chains and nails to add to the roughness of the poem,” Milliren said. “I wanted to represent how it would feel if you were feeling locked down or trapped.” 

Kent State’s current mental health campaign and the “You’ve Got Options” exhibit emphasize the importance of open dialogue and expression regarding mental health. Milliren commented that art can serve as a means of individual self-expression for important topics such as mental health. 

“As much as it was therapeutic for the poets to write these poems, it was therapeutic for us to make our designs,” Milliren said. “It’s a project for us, but at the same time it is a lot of fun.” 

“You’ve Got Options” will run from November 13 to December 13 and all designs will be displayed in the Design Innovation Hub and Muse Lab. 

POSTED: Wednesday, November 15, 2023 12:25 PM
Updated: Wednesday, November 15, 2023 03:56 PM
Blake Serrano