When considering what might help Baltimore’s homeless population, “graphic design consultations” might not be the first thing that springs to mind. But as Baltimore’s first-ever street newspaper is helping the city’s homeless population gain a voice — and some extra money — the input from Towson University’s art and design department is very welcome.
Word on the Street is a quarterly paper with a circulation of about 5,000, according to the Baltimore Sun. Launched last spring, the paper is written and edited by people who are currently or formerly homeless, as well as their advocates. The most recent edition ran to 16 pages of articles, op-eds, poems, and other contributions — which is where the graphic design students come in. Towson art and design prof Jessica Ring and her students in the school’s Graphic Design for Social Issues class work with the paper’s staff to figure out each paper’s design and layout, collaborating on major decisions like story placement. “As we are preparing the layout for the paper, students may have an idea for a photo or image for a story,” Ring told DC’s Street Sense, “so we’ll get in touch with Word on the Street and collaborate. There is a really good back and forth that goes on between us in this way,”
And while the crash course in graphic design helps the paper’s homeless and formerly-homeless staff, it also has a big impact on the Towson students as well. “The class is about connecting students to the idea their work can [serve] the greater good and make a statement,” Ring told the Sun. “The students repeatedly say, ‘This was a life-changing class.’”
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