Lander University visual arts major Ellen Herring of Aiken designed the logo, poster and brochure being used to promote the United Way's VITA program. From left to right are Wendi Andrews, United Way community relations coordinator; Denise Manley, United Way president and CEO; Lander assistant professor of art Dr. Jim Slagle; and Herring.
Lander University students are playing leading roles in promoting and running the United Way's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
Visual arts major Ellen Herring of Aiken designed the program's logo, poster and brochure. Business students Adam Cartee of Anderson and Doug Corn of Piedmont will serve as preparers and site coordinators.
Herring's design was the fruit of a process that began late in September, when United Way president Denise Manley and community relations coordinator Wendi Andrews met with Lander assistant professor of art Dr. Jim Slagle, who oversees the graphic design emphasis in the visual arts program.
Slagle's semester was planned, but he saw an opportunity to give his students some valuable experience. He agreed to make the production of a poster and brochure to promote the VITA program part of one of his courses. The class, Art 304 Graphic Design Studio, focuses on real life design scenarios.
The project took a month and involved several trips across town for note-taking sessions, critiques and a final presentation in which the students pitched their ideas as an ad agency would.
In a late October visit to the class, Manley named Herring's concept the winning design. "It's very clean and gets the point across," she said.
The point is that Greenwood and Abbeville County residents who make $49,000 or less can have their taxes done for free by the United Way. All preparers are IRS-certified, and the service is offered at diverse sites, at different times of the day.
The United Way is trying to make it easier for people to file returns when they get their W-2 forms, so they'll get their full refunds, rather than a reduced amount because they went to a payday lender.
It will be the third year the United Way has offered the VITA program. Thanks in part to the promotional materials designed by Herring, Andrews expects more people to take advantage of the program than ever.
"We're expecting our numbers to be in the hundreds," she said.
Herring's promotional package included not only a poster and brochure, but branded the VITA program with a new money tree logo as well. Despite its appeal, however, selecting it over the others submitted to her was "a very difficult decision," Manley said.
Asked how she would rate the experience of working with Slagle and his class, she said, "it was very professional. It went way beyond our expectations."
Slagle said his students all benefitted from Lander's partnership with the United Way, not just Herring. Referring to the designs that were not chosen, he said, "these are still strong portfolio pieces."
Those who participated learned valuable lessons, he said, in how to deal with a client. "I can't teach some of those things in a classroom setting," he added.