ArtCenter students learn about fire prevention on location with a fire prevention specialist.

Featured Course

California Wildfire Prevention

Wildfires are one of the most urgent dangers facing California today. In collaboration with the American Red Cross Pacific Division, ArtCenter has received a prestigious grant from the state fire authority, CAL FIRE, to conceive a visually compelling statewide campaign to rally the public in preventing wildfires as part of our California Wildfire Prevention Campaign studio.

With guidance from high-caliber experts in science, disaster planning and firefighting, students designed dynamic, groundbreaking communication involving motion and film, social media and more to be rolled out across California.

Q&A with Instructor Guillaume Wolf

ArtCenter: What inspired the direction you took with the curriculum for this class?

Guillaume Wolf: At this point, I’m a bit of a veteran with leading Designmatters projects because I have a personal interest in social change. The focus is always to deliver a message that will be meaningful for our audience. Everything revolves around that.

For this project, we relied on our partners at the American Red Cross and Cal Fire to help us determine where our students, as designers, could make to most impact. We learned that many fire agencies, here and across the country, need messaging around wildfire preparedness. In the past, agencies mainly focused on homeowners. With its emphasis on social justice, Designmatters brought a more community-focused lens to also speak to renters and our unhoused neighbors.

Wildfire Prevention allowed us to put what we learned in the classroom to work in an actual campaign to help people.

Kalex ShenGraphic Design Student

In the Field

AC: What are some of the assignments and materials that challenge students to break new ground creatively?

GW: First off, to put together an effective campaign and a website in 14 weeks was quite a challenge in itself. Next, I feel that in today’s world we couldn’t deliver average work. The goal was to capture the attention of our audience. To do this, we challenged students to move away from the fear-based communications around disasters and to focus on humor when appropriate.

AC: What types of experts visited the class?

GW: An exciting component of this course was our access to the Pasadena Fire Department. Officials took students on a tour around ArtCenter's campus, so they could see brush management, as well as examples of good and bad wildfire preparedness of buildings. The experience made the project really tangible, and even more personal, for our students.

Additionally, seismologist Lucy Jones, known as the "Earthquake Lady," presented the class with information on the intersection of psychology, and disaster relations and communications. Essentially, she spoke about what our brains are able to handle — you can see that in how people respond to earthquakes versus climate change. Some people have a fear of earthquakes more than climate change, and part of that has to do with the messaging.

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AC: What were some of the most surprising ways students responded to assignments?

GW: The students really shined in their approach to unconventional ideas and visual narrative. The result is a never-seen-before awareness campaign that captures the spirit of California, beautifully and playfully.

AC: What are some of the most important concepts and ideas you hope students take away from the experience/classwork?

We want students to understand that as designers, they can play a vital role in preparing and supporting communities — particularly as we look to a future, which will be much different than our present. But in order to have value, a message much connect with its audience.

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