Spotlight on design
May 31, 2013

Brittney Annand was awarded first honorarium for her poster, Barriers. (Mike Dembeck Photo)

When the phone rings at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (NSHRC), no doubt the call concerns one of the following topics: transgender, cyberbullying, disabilities, cultural diversity, race relations and freedom of speech.

They’re tough issues, not easily summarized or represented. So, with a spring conference on the horizon, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission turned to NSCAD University’s Design Division for assistance.

Through the winter term, 43 students in three classes (two third-year design studios and one senior illustration class) were involved in the project. The task was to use design to express one of the six complex issues in visual form and create a poster. 

And now those posters have been unveiled at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission’s Art and Design Exposition, taking place at CASHRA’s National Human Rights Conference taking place in Halifax from May 29 to 31.  The opening reception for the exposition took place Thursday, May 30 at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront.

Ann Divine, manager of Race Relations, Equity and Inclusion for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, was a frequent visitor to NSCAD through the winter months, providing guidance and answering questions. She says she feels privileged to have watched students through the process, from embryonic stage through to completion.

“It was really quite exciting to see the students listen, take it in the feedback and criticism, and come back with improvements or renewed ideas,” she says. “They are so dedicated and they work hard.”

May Chung was one of the professors involved, along with part-time faculty members Lorely Gaunt and Jeff Domm. She says the project offered learning opportunities on so many levels—for the students to learn about the issues themselves, working with clients and applying design thinking to a real project. Faculty members in the Design Division welcome projects from the community like this one for consideration.

“I feel this is a learning experience for everyone,” says Professor Chung. “I feel the students stretched themselves a great deal and had their eyes opened to issues that they may not have really considered before. Plus, I think it’s important for the outside community to understand what design students can do.”

Following the end of classes last month, the 45 posters created were judged by a panel of five people: freelance designer Paul Brunelle, designer and illustrator Clarke MacDonald, professor and social activist Max Haiven, journalist Olga Milosevich and law clerk Julie Sobowale. Three honorariums with modest cash prizes were awarded at the exposition opening.

Brittney A. Annand, an interdisciplinary design major with a minor in illustration, was awarded the first honorarium for her poster Barriers. Her poster shows a number of people—someone in a wheelchair, another with a white cane and seeing-eye dog—surrounded by barriers which prevent their mobility. She says the topic of disabilities (“differently abled”) has personal resonance for her; her mother has a degenerative disc disease and her father broke his back in a workplace accident.

“I have seen their disabilities affect and change how they interact with the world but they have never stopped them. Instead the biggest hurdles they have had to overcome are how others view them…”

From Gays River, N.S., Brittney says the project was a valuable learning experience for everyone in the class. “We learned so much from our research and from each other,” she adds.

Second honorarium goes to Stephanie L. Young for Bleeding us dry, on the topic of transgender, and third honorarium to Robert J. Ewanchuk for This is who I am, also on transgender. Both students say they hope their work will prompt others to re-examine their attitudes about transgender people and to be more accepting.

Honourable mentions went to Jessica Korderas for Monsters, Zhenshuo Anfia Lin for Words are Power, Sebastian Tory-Pratt for White Privilege and Sixue Cui for Different Cultures, Same Love.


Brittney Annand (right) with Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Leonard Preyra and David Shannon, director and CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. (Mike Dembeck Photo)