“Designing for Social Change” — Mandy’s Reflection

By Mandy Rusch, Digital Design Project Assistant 2016-17


Photo Mandy working on pamphlet
Me hand-folding the pamphlets I designed for Renters’ Rights 101 in May.


What I’m proudest of

I am proudest of the All Home Infographic reporting on this year’s Count Us In data. When I was first brought on as the design assistant here, my supervisor, Catherine, showed me Amy Phung’s One Night Count infographic from 2016 as an example of the type of projects I would be working on. I remember how excited I was about the scope and impact of her work, especially when I heard that it had been used to advocate for policy change.

When the opportunity came up for me to make the new infographic for this year, I knew it was a great opportunity to build off Amy’s work and create another useful advocacy tool. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to work on such a large and important project, and am looking forward to seeing how it is used throughout the year.



CUI Infographic Top
An excerpt from the Count Us In Infographic that I worked on this year.



This year I had the most opportunity to develop my skills for working with data. Many of my projects were created to share information in different ways, which pushed me to find creative solutions to represent facts and numbers. Catherine shared a book with me called “Storytelling with Data” that taught me a lot about how to share information in a way that is digestible. This helped me to understand better how to balance visuals and information to create compelling stories that draw viewers in and are easy to understand.


Storytelling with Data
The author of this book, Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic, kindly sent me a signed copy because we won her Twitter promotion.


I have learned a lot about what it means to design for advocacy. Working with our clients this year really showed me how much need there is for visual content to advocate for important causes, as well as how powerful graphics are in communicating them. My experiences this year helped me to put into perspective what my role as a graphic designer is in the push for social change in our community.


A graphic I created in the fall to reflect on the SPL’s event, “Create Change,” where we learned about the importance of art-making for social change.

My favorite project

I most enjoyed working on our Renters’ Rights 101 project. It was fun to team up with Shan and Khadija and to see how our brainstorming session developed into a fully-fledged event.

I also really enjoyed designing the event branding, since I had a lot of creative free reign. I was happy with how the renters’ rights pamphlet turned out since it incorporated the colorful illustrations I designed, as well as important tips that Shan and Khadija compiled, and seemed like something that could be really useful as a starting point for renters learning about their rights.

How my view on family homelessness has changed

Living in Seattle, homelessness is an apparent issue that we can see on our daily commutes almost anywhere in the city. But outside of these examples of “literal” homelessness, I did not know very much about the effects of housing instability on families before my involvement in this project.

There are so many people experiencing homelessness who we don’t see, and I think it is important that projects such as The Moth and StoryCorps help to make these people feel empowered to tell their stories and ask for help. Everything that I learned through this project especially helped me to confront my own assumptions about homelessness and taught me more about the broad scope it plays in our society.

Improvements and Challenges

I think we could be involving students on Seattle University’s campus more in our outreach efforts. This is challenging because we are involved in so many community projects outside of just Seattle U and it is important for us to be able to focus on those efforts. However, I know that many students on campus are interested in getting involved in advocacy, and would benefit from opportunities to get involved with our partners and their events.

Looking Forward

My short-term professional goals are to develop my portfolio of freelance graphic design work and to find a role as a designer in an interdisciplinary studio. Many of the skills I learned from working with clients and planning out project scopes will be extremely useful as I start my career. I also hope that in the future, I can make working with community organizations a regular part of my design project load in order to continue to advocate.


AHW Team Outside Casey
(L-R) Khadija, Shan and me promoting Affordable Housing Week and Renters’ Rights 101 with the poster I designed.


I would recommend to the incoming team that they make an effort to create work schedules that allow them to all be in the office together as much as possible. It was fun and rewarding to collaborate with the whole project team, and it is also important to be able to talk to each other about individual projects. As a designer, it is especially important to get lots of different perspectives on my work, so I appreciated having other students around to share their input. I cannot wait to see what the team creates next year!


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