Comunidad La Piedra | Public Interest

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The design campaign, Comunidad La Piedra, documents a three week immersive design experience in which Metropolitan State University of Denver designers collaborated with the Dominican-Haitian community of La Piedra and the Centro Cultural Guanin organization in an effort to positively impact and empower the community youth of La Piedra.

This design-centered campaign includes a community mural and message board, road signs that legitimize the community, rebranding of the guanin.org website, and an educational toolkit that demonstrates the learning objectives voiced by the community.

The goal with Comunidad La Piedra is to empower and motivate the youth of La Piedra to experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships, and develop confidence to become community leaders. In addition, Comunidad La Piedra, encourages community members to obtain the skills they need to help them actively participate in Dominican society.

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Design Research
It was important that we fully immersed ourselves in the community of La Piedra. Staying on-site at La Piedra for consecutive days allowed us to analyze investigative research processes in the community. Designers worked side-by-side with the community to implement immersive research techniques, such as focus groups, prototyping and “fly on the wall” scenarios. Designers spent the first week focusing on research methods before design production was employed.

Over the course of several days, we gained the community’s trust and learned of their dreams, aspirations, and fears. We found many perceptible problems, both local (e.g., leadership, family structure, lack of access to running water and electricity, etc.) and  social equality and Haitian immigrant rights

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This infographic was a collaboration with Hannah Badwan who collected quantitative and qualitative data from the designers and passed it to me to illustrate. The infographic is set up in two parts. The top consists of the three areas we found to be the communities’ biggest obstacles. The bottom contains the solutions we implemented for those problem areas. Each of the three areas we focused on – resources, education, and community leadership – lead down to their respective solutions.

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Key-board Aid
After spending time with the youth of La Piedra, I found that they lacked computer knowledge. With the help of community leaders, I created a keyboard aid that translated all keys into Spanish, and also provided a color-coded system which will assist them in their typing practice. Because there were not enough computers for every young person, these guides can be reproduced and handed out so the youth can practice typing while they wait for their turn on a computer.

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Computer-Room Rules
Community leaders wanted a poster with rules to be displayed inside the newly integrated computer room in La Piedra. My goal for the poster was to create graphics that were clear and could be easily understood by all children and adults, regardless of their literacy level.

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Here are some of the other work the team achieved.

Educational Toolkit
The community of La Piedra continually spoke about how important it is that the children in the community learn to speak, read and write in English

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Road Sign
One of the first concerns the people of La Piedra expressed to the MSU Design team was the lack of visual signage within the community. Most of the existing road signs and street names were painted on wood that had dilapidated due to constant torrential rain. Road signs and way-finding systems that point to La Piedra could serve multiple functions. First off, road signs would provide a visual landmark  for other organizations interested in service learning work with Guanin and La Piedra. The second function of the signage was a way for the Dominican-Hatian town of La Piedra to legitimize and qualify the 2,000 person community to the Dominican government and neighboring towns.

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Community Mural
Community leaders and MSU Denver designers were interested in co-producing a mural with the children that would emphasize the importance of place and community in the village.  “En Comunidad somos fuertes como La Piedra” translates to “In Community we are strong like La Piedra/The Rock.”

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Message Board
“Voice of the Community” message board was developed to allow community members to easily share upcoming news and events with one another. The designated location of the message board is also meant to act as a central gathering place for people who live in La Piedra.

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Exhibition at Casa de Chavón
The design work co-produced by MSU Denver designers, Guanin Center and the community of La Piedra was exhibited at Casa de Chavón in Santo Domingo. Casa de Chavón is a satellite campus of Altos de Chavón and also affiliated with Parsons New School of Design. Around fourty community members from La Piedra, as well as Guanin leaders and volunteers travelled to the exhibition in Santo Domingo to celebrate the culmination of design work that was produced during the three week time span. This was a unique experience because it offered the children of La Piedra the opportunity to visit a design school and and art gallery in Santo Domingo.

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This is the second infographic I created with Hannah Badwan. This infographic is a visual summary of our journey to La Piedra.

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