Changing Minds and Forging Community Through Graphic Design

Written by: Nicole Hunt

From volunteering at Art With a Heart to lending her design skills to neighbors and friends, Rachel Frizzell believes in the power of art and graphic design to bring people together. At Urban Emu, she uses visual storytelling to improve the way people live. Rachel embodies our culture of purpose and strives to understand the deeper meaning and mission surrounding each design she creates.

Q. You’re a Junior Graphic Designer at Urban Emu. Can you tell me a bit about your role?

A. I provide all kinds of design support to our clients. Some days, that means creating wireframes from scratch for a new website; other days, it means creating social media graphics to accompany an editorial calendar. I also support the team of creatives, so the work is constantly evolving, which I love because it keeps me on my toes. Some of my favorite areas to work in are UI/UX design, photography, marketing design, and art and illustration.

One project I’m working on is for our USDA MyPlate client. This project means so much to me because every graphic I create is directly fueling MyPlate’s purpose – to help make healthy eating accessible and understandable for everyone. I first started working with the MyPlate brand a little over a year ago. We worked hard to develop a social media strategy that would reach a broad audience and showcase the incredible work MyPlate is doing to alleviate nutrition insecurity and share healthy, budget-friendly eating tips.

Since then, our team has standardized the brand’s social media channels and even launched a new Instagram account! I was excited to take the lead on the design work for the Instagram channel and have really enjoyed watching the account grow in content, followers, and engagement. Every post makes a difference!

Q. How did you initially get interested in graphic design?

A. I studied three focus areas at Stevenson University – theater, graphic design, and counseling. I had envisioned myself getting into art therapy, but since I graduated during the pandemic, art therapy opportunities were in short supply, so I focused on graphic design. The more I’ve worked with design, the more I appreciate how much it can change hearts and minds for good. I find art healing, and I hope my work at Urban Emu can help create a more empathetic, happier, and healthier society.

Q. Before graduating college, you did some art therapy work, right?

A. Not quite art therapy, but I interned at Art with a Heart in Baltimore, MD, using art to strengthen my community and help neurodivergent community members, including some non-verbal children. By beautifying the city of Baltimore through public art installations, we created a feeling of ownership and community pride. This work was deeply rewarding. Among many other things, it taught me that I can use design to make communities more fruitful. After I left, I was inspired to do more volunteer work in my community.

Q. What kind of volunteer work?

A. I grew up and still live in a farming community, and like the farmers in our area, my family is self-employed. Being part of a self-employed family has shown me the fantastic opportunity self-employment creates to nurture a community. I have always worked on neighboring farms, helping plant vegetables and caring for livestock. My experience at Art with a Heart showed me how much I can give back to my community through design work, so I often volunteer my skills and know-how to my neighbors, family, and friends. For instance, I’ve designed a logo for a friend’s business and created posters and advertisements for events. I take pride in being able to help my community thrive through design.

Q. What’s your approach to design work?

A. I believe design should be collaborative because design doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If you don’t take a step back to get feedback from colleagues, you can get lost in it. I’m lucky to work with creatives from many different backgrounds, experiences, and areas of expertise. We’re able to teach one another and share our talents. I also always try to understand any previous iterations of the project and what considerations have gone into designs for the company, like logos or web design. This helps me to honor the original design while breathing new life into it.

Q. What’s your favorite thing about working at Urban Emu?

A. There is so much to love about working at Urban Emu. I am fortunate to be surrounded by such kind, hardworking, and talented people. The creatives I work with challenge me every day and push me to be a better designer and a more committed public servant. We get to work on projects that impact people. This resonates with my experience in art therapy and public art but on a broader level. Also, I appreciate the opportunity to embrace continuing education and exposure to different mediums, which are both essential to growing as a designer.

Design is a multi-sensory experience and a way to connect with people who don’t speak the same language as you – it’s universal. I love that I get to be a part of that. I am so grateful to Urban Emu for providing me with opportunities to make the world a better place.

We’re so grateful to have Rachel on our team to create impactful design work for our clients. Stay tuned for more teammate spotlights.

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Urban Emu is an experience agency with a fast growing team of experience designers, facilitators, strategists, researchers, UX/UI designers, and software engineers that create innovative experiences to improve and transform businesses.

We love to hear about ideas big or small. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us regarding your project.