Creating common good through design

The words "West Coast COVID-19 Help" are displayed across a blue compass.

In spring 2020, life as we knew changed before our eyes due to the coronavirus. Without skipping a beat, UO School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) advertising students Nicole Krentz ’21 and Nicole Williams ’20 searched for ways to put their skills to use.

Through their work with the advertising student organization, After Hours, they discovered an opportunity to work on the West Coast COVID-19 Help Guide. Led by Bree Nicolello ‘16, a UO planning, public policy and management alum, the online archive is an accessible, user-friendly guide for people in need of coronavirus relief resources.

Krentz and Williams worked together to build the website’s brand identity by creating a logo, color, typography scheme and brand book to inform their website design process.

Roughly 100 international volunteer lawyers, policymakers and government workers combed through countless documents to share resources in nine languages. Once the website structure and look were in place, the team uploaded federal, state and county resources online and launched the site.

Working among unpredictability, Krentz and Williams devoted over 50 hours a week in the initial months to build the brand and website. This process taught them the importance of diving in and addressing a task quickly.

They credit their experience with After Hours as a leading factor in their successful development of the project.

Krentz’s love of drawing, photography and fine arts led her to the student organization. She wanted a future where she could promote social good, not just a product. After hearing about the role of art director through an After Hours workshop, a lightbulb switched on.

“After Hours changed my college experience. I didn’t know where I was going until I joined the SOJC,” Krentz said. She is pursuing a career in graphic design for an ethical corporation.

Williams began her college career as a political science and sociology double major. Drawn to design, storytelling and social justice, she decided these initial majors weren’t the right fit.

She joined the SOJC, pursued traditional journalism and advertising, and found direction with a well-rounded communication skill set. “All of the pieces fell into place. It was a moment of, ‘Yes, this is what I want to do,’” Williams said. “The more projects I’ve done and the more people I worked with have reinforced this.”

With a mentality of always saying yes, she dove into hands-on learning opportunities such as OR Magazine, producing "At the Feet of Karioi" during an SOJC December 2019 trip to New Zealand, and After Hours to continue building her portfolio and community.

“The experience has been everything. It is at the core of my feeling of belonging in the SOJC,” she said. Williams wants to pursue publication design or art direction at an advertising agency.

The website was last updated on June 30, 2020, but West Coast community members can still find resources online.

”I so love the level of investment from our students,” said Deb Morrison, Carolyn Silva Chambers Distinguished Professor of Advertising, director of the SOJC's undergraduate advertising program and faculty advisor for After Hours.

“Good and brave work like this from these students and After Hours grows from a community dedicated to solving problems responsibly for people and brands in a culture that needs their skills,” she said. “My biggest reaction: watch out world, here they come.”

—By Kyra Hanson '20

Kyra Hanson '20 is a public relations alum from the SOJC. She was an account executive for Allen Hall Public Relations and vice president of the UO chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). After graduating, she interned at The Hoffman Agency and was hired full-time as an account coordinator.