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New Media Capstone

“Imagine a world where your immediate space becomes your canvas…”

In order to receive my New Media Certificate upon graduation from the University of Georgia, myself, and three other incredibly talented seniors created an iOS and Android social media application. Our team saw the clear and unique void that exists in the social media space currently. All platforms now separate users from their reality. We wanted our app to use augmented reality to create an alternative space for interaction, bridging the gap between the digital world and the real world.

WHAT WE CREATED.

floatnote, as we branded it, when connected to a database, allows users to harness the power of augmented reality in order to leave virtual messages throughout their surroundings for other users in the app to discover. These messages are anonymous, allowing the opportunity for people to express themselves in a new way to an audience exclusive to their immediate space and free from fear of targeted judgment. These user-generated messages appear in the form of customizable balloons and are available within any physical space.

HOW IT WORKS.

The app opens with a view of the whimsical logo. The twee colored palette, featured throughout the app, adds to the fantastical feel of the user’s experience. The app moves into a camera view of the user’s location. Then, the user is prompted to place a balloon on any area of the screen and a keyboard is revealed in order to write a message. The user can choose a unique color for their balloon depending on their mood or preference. Once the balloon is placed, it lands approximately 50 centimeters in front of the user’s device at a height of 5’ 8’’. The floatnote is now public for the world to experience.

Unity game engine and Vuforia were used to build the app and Xcode was used to deploy it to a mobile device. The balloon image itself was created in Blender.

WHAT I DID.

I served as the head graphic designer and presentation specialist for our team. I designed the app’s logo, slogan, color scheme, screen presentation, wireframe, poster, one-pager and the majority of our in-class presentations. I had assistance with the some of the copy, but the creative elements were primarily me. I also delivered the final presentation for our class.

Examples of my work can be found below or on the team website: floatnote.mynmi.net.

WHAT I LEARNED.

Throughout the project, I increased my understanding of uniform brand development and management. It is more difficult than often appears to maintain a consistent brand identity. It requires proof-reading all materials not only for copy errors, but also brand errors such as letting and color inconsistencies.

I also learned that flexibility is something one must weave into any plan. This could take the form of allotting more time for what appears to be a routine procedure or in making designs more easily adaptable to last-minute changes. Because, even the best-laid plans of mice and men, fall through from time to time.

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New Church Communication Plan

For my final project in my Public Relations Communication Class, I worked with Revs. Anjie and Andy Woodworth from New Church United Methodist to create a complete communication plan and a plethora of materials to get their beloved church-plant off the ground.

New Church is an authentic, artistic and adventurous congregation of the United Methodist Church located on 1561 McLendon Ave., near Little Five Points. Pairing an intellectual faith with warm hearts, New Church UMC seeks to build a radically inclusive, justice-driven community of Christ-followers in the heart of Atlanta. New Church was formed in the merger between the historic Epworth and Druid Hills United Methodist congregations in downtown Atlanta in January 2016. Its new congregational status and lack of communication means it has many opportunities for growth specifically in an initial campaign.

Materials created for the project included a news release, a fact sheet, a feature pitch, a feature release, interview preparation, a speech, an event plan and a social media calendar. All materials focused around opportunities of growth I discovered during a situational analysis of the organization. These opportunities included building a stronger volunteer network focused on both internal and external outreach, solidifying their unique brand identity, further developing their website, creating awareness across multiple social media platforms, and strengthening relationships with the local community while diversifying connectional opportunities for its parishioners.

The plan in its entirety can be found by clicking on the link below.

Communication Plan

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DeKalb Medical Research Report

For my final project in Public Relations Research, myself and seven other team members worked with DeKalb Medical to decern whether or not individuals are motivated to use emergency rooms because they believe they are free. Ultimately, through both qualitative and quantitative research, we concluded that our publics do not believe emergency rooms are free.

However, they also do not totally understand the relative cost implications of using the emergency room for their non-emergent needs compared to seeking care from a primary-care physician. Many choose hospital emergency rooms due to lack of awareness of other service providers that will treat their symptoms and, if applicable, take their insurance.

Our recommendations were two-fold. First, that there should be better patient-facing content commuting the relative cost associated with emergency room care as well as where they can find alternative care. Second, we feel it would be beneficial to offer a patient care locator app. This mobile app would allow individuals to type in symptoms and the best place to seek care.

Our full 138-page report can be found on the link below.

Read Full Report Here

Featured Writing

What The “Dones” Want More Than Your Skinny Jeans

New Atlanta Church
Prayer flags hung outside of “New Church” United Methodist Church were created by congregants and community members during the Candler Park Fall Festival on Oct. 1, 2016 and Oct. 2, 2016.

ATLANTA – October 19, 2016 – Why does God kill babies? Did God create dinosaurs? Why do people say bad things are part of God’s plan? Why does that corner street preacher say I’m going hell for being born gay? And is the Republican Party really the only “Christian” political party?

All these questions were overheard during a high school youth group. Although they might appear silly at first, these questions from America’s youth disclose the reason many people attend church in the first place; to seek answers to life’s hardest questions. However, churches recent failure to truthfully answer these and other tough questions effectively has caused a mass exodus of many millennials and internet natives from organized religion. These people are known to many in the religious community as the “dones,” individuals so tired or done with church that they eventually choose to leave altogether, but have yet to lose their faith entirely.

“Dones” would be considered a large subcategory of the more frequently researched and discussed “nones,” also known as the religiously non-affiliated. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center article titled, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” self-identified, religiously unaffiliated Americans saw a 6.7 percent population increase between 2007 and 2014 while Catholics and mainline Protestant denominations both saw significant decreases. This percentage was even higher when they isolated based on age. The millennial generation alone saw increases as large as 9 percent.

Since this study was published, methods of motivating “nones,” and more specifically “dones” to return to church, have become widely discussed in many religious circles. In the last several years, articles like, “5 Ways Churches Can Reach Millennials” or “10 Reasons Churches Are Not Reaching Millennials,” have become relatively commonplace. Though they lack the specific jargon, one can easily tell they are debating ways to attract and retain the “dones.”

Attention is focused on “dones” because they appear to be more easily motivated to return to church since they already understand church. For a while though, the tactics for luring millennials back were highly superficial. Award-winning Christian blogger and author, Rachel Held Evans, points out in a 2013 blog post, “Why millennials are leaving the church,” “Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates  edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving.”

Yet this has not been proven to be successful. Yes, a church that makes these changes might see an attendance increase for a few Sundays while the younger generation “checks the place out,” but as far as long-term retention, the numbers are still plummeting. This is because most churches fix the façade while never truly getting to the heart of the issue. According to studies done by the Public Religion Research Institute, many young Christians believe the church often misses the nuances and complexities of their faith.

In her most recent novel, “Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church,” blogger Evans also discusses this concept saying, “We [millennials] don’t want to choose between science and religion or between our intellectual integrity and our faith. Instead, we long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, and to tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. We want to talk about the tough stuff—biblical interpretation, religious pluralism, sexuality, racial reconciliation, and social justice—but without predetermined conclusions or simplistic answers. We want to bring our whole selves through the church doors, without leaving our hearts and minds behind, without wearing a mask.”

Though the majority of church leaders still don’t understand this opinion, a few congregations are emerging as pioneers in this new field of faith. Churches like, House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver or St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, Urban Village Church in Chicago or even closer to home “New Church” United Methodist in Atlanta, understand the importance of creating real faith communities at the intersection of an intellectual faith and warm hearts.

Take for example, “New Church” whose mission is just that, to create an authentic, artistic and adventurous Christ community at the intersection of intellectual faith and warm hearts. Like a phoenix, rising from the ashes of two dying, mainstream Methodist congregations in downtown Atlanta, “New Church” was founded at the beginning of this year and is growing its attendance by finding creative ways to have the difficult conversations about faith within their community. They do this by meeting at pizza places, pubs and parks, sharing testimonies about each other’s faith journeys, and always remembering each story is unique.

After attending a service for the first time last Sunday at their building at 1561 McLendon Ave., one congregant, Caroline Finn, 19, said she liked worship there because, “the theology is not focused on tradition, rules and being right or wrong; it is focused on finding and sharing God’s love. You don’t need to have the answers; you don’t need to follow any rules or interpret a passage [of the bible] a certain way. You just need to show up.” She continued by saying, “I think the ‘right and wrong’ rigid belief systems of other churches create in and out groups that can really intimidate and exclude people.” She loved this complete inclusion that “New Church” offered so much that she said she’d be back the next week.

When asked if this broad tone was intentional, co-pastors Anjie and Andy Woodworth, said “Very much so! It’s even in our strategic plan for the church. ‘We will be radically inclusive and will not ‘half-ass the all are welcome’ message. We will be as multi-ethnic as Atlanta, aiming for the diversity of God’s Kingdom.’” They are a come-as-you-are congregation through and through.

Adorned in a rainbow stole, Anjie preached last Sunday about this inclusivity and love to a mix-gendered, intergenerational congregation of about 100 with ethnic profiles from all over the world.

“It was amazing to see their reactions to this stunningly unique, conversational worship.” Andy reflected. “I feel parishioners like it because it’s honest. It never feels like your old dad trying to be hip by wearing skinny jeans to work. It feels like a place where everyone can relax, let their guard down and talk about life as it really is.”

If mainstream denominations really want to change the trajectory of church participation, reconnecting with the ‘dones’ and the millennial generation, research shows this is best way to do it. By hearing and validating people’s questions and understanding they don’t want off-the-cuff answers to life’s biggest questions, the church has the potential grow once again. Spaces for inclusive discernment are key, because who really knows for sure if God created dinosaurs? A discussion could be had!

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“New Church” United Methodist Church was formed in the vital merger between the historic Epworth and Druid Hills congregations in downtown Atlanta. Primarily serving the Candler Park, Druid Hills, Edgewood, Kirkwood, Lake Claire, Virginia-Highlands, and Poncey-Highlands neighborhoods, “New Church” looks to be an community dedicated to serving those who are “done” with the hurtful expressions of church. This authentic, artistic and adventurous parish aims to be radically inclusive creating a multi-ethnic congregation as diverse as God’s Kingdom. “New Church” pairs an intellectual faith with a warm heart celebrating a new way to live life with Jesus Christ. For more information check out newatlantachurch.com.

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The Main Event: Undergraduate Commencement!

Sanford Stadium will be the site of The University of Georgia’s spring undergraduate commencement ceremony on Friday, May 13. Emily Somerville, assistant director of the Office of Special Events reminds people, “To keep in mind that the stadium is a very big place and there are a lot of people coming.” She says give yourself extra time to park and get in the stadium. More commencement details can be found on the University of Georgia’s website. (Photo: Jay Horton)

The University of Georgia’s spring undergraduate commencement ceremony will take place on Friday, May 13 in Sanford Stadium with between 4,500 to 5,000 students graduating and 40,000 to 50,000 attendees. This will be the single largest event the university puts on this entire year, sporting events aside.

“The most challenging [thing] I would say is probably the, just the size of it. Second to that would be just how many people are involved, trying to coordinate with all of the parties” said Emily Somerville, assistant director of the Office of Special Events and lead on logistics for graduation.

A few of these parties including the president’s office, the Tate Student Center, the Facilities Management Division, UGA Parking Services, athletics, the music school, the police department, and vendors like Atlanta’s Classic Party Rentals and Falcon Fireworks of Savannah, Georgia, come together to make this day possible.

Chris Pou, senior coordinator of technical services and production manager for the undergraduate spring commencement said, “All of these pieces are a carefully orchestrated dance.”

Almost every hour of the week prior to graduation is organized in a detailed 17-page schedule including a primary contact, location, time and task.

“With all of these components…truly taking ownership of the phrase, the devil is in the details,” is key, Pou says.

Details make a difference to students.

“Hearing the music and watching the graduates process in. It’s really cool and it just makes you have a serious sense of pride in UGA,” said graduating senior Sarah Emmanuel, 22, of Tallahassee, Florida and chair of Arch Society. She has helped with the past four commencements and is excited to be finally graduating herself.

The Hodgson Wind Ensemble will be playing this year’s procession, but to livelier ceremonial music in an attempt to help graduates get to their seats faster than last year’s 45-minute entrance. The traditional pomp and circumstance will be saved for the faculty entry.

Another highlight for students should be hearing President Jere Morehead and this year’s guest Ryan Seacrest speak. Their speeches take preparation as well.  

Speech writing for the president’s commencement address starts formally at the beginning of April. His remarks are prepared by speech writers first and then sent to him for personal edits.

“The most challenging part is this… you have to find a way to capture the, the message of the orator, the speaker in a way that reflects his or her voice and also the expectations of the audience. What makes commencement particularly challenging is you have a broad audience,” said W. Kyle Tschepikow, assistant to the president and formally Morehead’s senior speech writer.

The speech when complete will last around five minutes, approximately four pages of copy, with each page taking three to four hours to write the first time.

When everything’s said and done and everyone’s job is complete, from setup and speeches to logistics and load-out, a successful graduation means people graduated, were safe and had a great time. Be patient and prepared for crowds, but know that people have been working for months to make this event a momentous occasion for all.

gate10

Above: Undergraduate candidates for graduation enter the stadium through gate 10, adjacent to the Tate Student Center surface parking lot. At this time, students should be dressed in appropriate graduation regalia. (Photo: Jay Horton)
Below: Family and guests to graduation can check out the interactive map below to locate gates and sections that will be open to the public for seating. (Google My Map: Jay Horton)