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PCU Footprints in Africa

by Larissa Petryca, on 24 June 2020 15:54:29 CEST

Graphic Design students, from the School of Art & Design, and Computing students from the School of Media & IT, together created and developed new web and visual identity proposals for Czech expatriate Petr Kočnar, who runs a non-profit organisation in Rwanda called Talking Through Art. This organisation helps disabled people, predominantly women, by training, supporting and selling their handmade arts & crafts, enabling this vulnerable group the opportunity to build an independent life with dignity.


Art Therapy

Presently, the organisation supports more than 80 people with various disabilities. This is thanks to ​Petr, who, after years of experience working in art and with disabled and disadvantaged people, decided to establish Talking Through Art. Since 2015, the organisation has been training traditional Rwandan arts and crafts skills to those with disabilities and in turn supporting their careers as artisans, creating a source of income and independence.

The resulting work is greatly appreciated by foreign tourists and is sold in hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. Talking Through Art also promotes and distributes their artist’s products all over the world. So for the organisation to thrive and support the artist’s financially, it needed a new visual identity and a clear well-displayed website to appeal to a more discerning international market.



Help from the Czech Republic

Petr addressed this request to Prague College (now PCU). Students were given the unique opportunity to design a new visual identity and website to serve this non-profit organisation and help many families in Rwanda with their future. The website needed to reflect the local cultural environment, traditions, and at the same time be visually appealing and easy to navigate for visitors.

The process of creation was to define everything, explained programme leader Ondřej Fučík:

"For both tasks, students prepared a standard creative brief, based on an interview with the client and a thorough search of the assignment. For the logo, they defined the basic values ​​of the organisation that the client wished to communicate, the target groups, the basic applications and the environment of use. For the website, we analysed the content of the existing website, user groups and how the content is consumed, and we focused primarily on the user experience. Each of the students chose a slightly different approach, but adhered to the model structure of the content,"




Team Work during Lockdown

The project was also interesting due to the way it was created. For the most part, it took place during the quarantine period, and therefore at a distance and online. Ondřej shared that:

"We still managed the initial content analysis and brainstorming at school, which was ideal. There was a rather intense debate, which would probably not take place online,"

As their lecturer, he also supervised the logo creation and added that:

"Working on the logo was a bigger challenge. Instead of sketching together, we used remote desktop and shared files. In the end, it was quite fun to fix the proposal live with the student directly on their desktop screen, with loud conflicting comments from classmates," 

Once the web designs were refined they were handed to IT students for web programming in consultation with the designers, and according to lecturer David Petryca, it had its positives:

When working with code, group remote work is more efficient than classroom work, as students can easily share their project on the screen and can consult not only with the teacher, but with all classmates in the virtual classroom.”

So it seems that even in times of pandemic isolation, a good team of students and lecturers can work together effectively.




A Website with Good Intentions

The intention when taking on another student's design into the programming phase is to focus on coding the web pages with the greatest possible regard for the design students' original designs, but of equal importance is the function of the website to adapt to browsers, which are very fluid in terms of dimensions. Student Ani Sanikidze, who developed of one of the designer's web designs, defines the situation in more detail:

“As we know, up to 60% of today's web activity comes from mobile devices. That's why I focused on programming a website that matches the behaviour of the consumer and the environment determined by the screen size, or a specific platform.”

The Talking Through Art project was Ani’s first job programming a website on her own. The charitable organisation made the job even more interesting:

"I believe that by creating this site we will raise awareness of the organisation and its members and help them live a better life."



In The Spirit of Symbols

At first glance, the eye-catching elaborate designs emphasise strongly the visual richness of the products offered by the website. This is the work of student Kateryna Sotníková. The letters of the company's name were replaced by the shapes she observed in traditional African symbols, which she subsequently transformed into a new original font. The black and white design provides the necessary contrast, but is also a more economical option for further use, such as application to promotional items.



Drawings from Rwanda

The visuals developed by student Makram Alnaber are beautifully colorful and inspiring. Alnaber adds that;

"I wanted to create a visual identity that focused all the attention on the artists represented by the organisation, so I decided to derive the whole project from a painting that everyone in the group had painted together,"

He then transformed the colour drawings into a visually uniform style.




A Better Future Thanks to Design

In the future, Talking Through Art also plans to support the education of Rwandan children with disabled parents, so that later in their adulthood, they can better help and support their parents. The proposals for the new website and visual identity have now been submitted by the students and one design will be selected at the end of June. We hope that Petr Kočnar’s non-profit will then go on to do even better!

If you would like to learn more about the work undertaken by Talking Through Art, or would like to contribute to their fundraising appeal or even purchase unique Rwandan Art, then please visit their current website here.

Translated and adapted from an original article by Petra Krochova (in Czech) published 19 June in CZECHDESIGN with permission.

Topics:School of Media & ITLiving FuturesDigital CampusSchool of Art & Design