Student Research: Even Design Majors Can Do It!

Research wasn’t something I ever considered as an Undeclared Freshman, or even as a Declared Sophomore. Who even knew that as a Graphic and Information Design Major I could do research? It might sound cheesy, but seriously- you can make anything happen at Northeastern. If you have the motivation, and are able to work with the right professors and advisors, you can truly curate your experience here.

My name is Anna Driscoll, I am in my fourth year, majoring in Graphic and Information Design with minors in Environmental Studies and Art History. I completed my first co-op at The Boston Beer Company, and am currently in the process of applying for my second one. Co-op indirectly led me into doing research during the spring of my third year. I had an absolutely amazing experience working on advertising and promotional pieces for brands such as Samuel Adams, Angry Orchard, Twisted Tea, and Curious Traveler Beer Co., but when I arrived back on campus I was ready to delve back into my environmental studies interest (as well as continue with design). Unable to take any classes for my minor because of scheduling conflicts, I started looking into directed studies options and stumbled upon Honors in the Discipline Project. Other colleges have other versions of this and different opportunities, but for the College of Arts, Media, & Design, the Honors in the Discipline Project gave me the opportunity to create a research project from scratch and spend a semester working with faculty in both CAMD and CSSH to create a prototype.

Frustrated with the current Environmental Crisis and the lack of awareness, regulation and understanding, I wanted to focus on the science behind environmental justice that directly impacts communities. Why didn’t people know what was happening in their backyard? The research is being conducted and published, but there seemed to be a missing link between the scientist and the community voice. Looking at the scientific reports, specifically environmental justice focused ones, and communities that are most likely to be heavily impacted by climate change, I created an addendum to the publications. Instead of circulating long, complicated and text-heavy publications at town hall meetings and within community centers, I developed The One Sheet that highlights information in a visual format. The One Sheet would bring graphic designers into the scientific world as well as communication majors to help bridge the gap between scientists and communities. Even if it were published in color, The One Sheet would be cheaper and more environmentally friendly to circulate. It would be comprised of visual infographics, with little reliance on text. It would also be able to bring people back to the original publication, whether that would be a simple web address one could type in or a hyperlink they could click on. I was able to present this idea at RISE 2016, and eventually led to me creating a work study position at Northeastern University’s Environmental Justice Research Collaborative (NEJRC) where I will be working on creating The One Sheet for research reports published this spring.

The takeaway from this experience for all of you Undeclared (and Declared) students would be that research is accessible to every major. Follow and combine your interests, and study what truly fascinates you!


By: Anna Driscoll