Mira Azarm, of MICA’s Masters of Arts in Social Design (MASD) program, discovered something very early in her year-long fellowship as a Social Design Fellow: design shouldn’t be larger than the problem you’re trying to solve.
While Mira wore many hats throughout her year-long fellowship–including teaching in the Design Leadership program at MICA and the Graphic Design department at the University of Maryland, College Park–her primary work focused on the issue of food access and built on the work of Gather Baltimore.
Founded by OSI-Baltimore Community fellow Arthur Morgan, Gather Baltimore collects unsold fruits, vegetables and bread from farmers markets around town and redistributes these items at farm stands in Baltimore neighborhoods where food access is limited, specifically in Oliver in East Baltimore. Azarm worked with Morgan and his team to help expand outreach methods along with two MICA undergraduate graphic design interns. Together they improved Gather’s signage, created a fact sheet for funders and designed truck wraps for two refrigerated food trucks.
These efforts enabled Gather Baltimore to more effectively spread the word to the Baltimore community about its services. Gather distributes more than 32,000 pounds of food a week–more than a typical urban farm can produce in a year–so making themselves better known is imperative to their success and sustainability.
Azarm also developed materials and signage for the Farm Alliance on food benefit strategies prior to getting involved with Gather. “In the early stages of my fellowship I was more like a one-person communications shop,” said Azarm. “I realized that I worked better collaborating with others; the Gather Baltimore project and access to talented MICA students allowed me to do that.”
As a graphic design instructor at the University of Maryland, Azarm connected with the Neighborhood Design Center’s Prince George’s County office to find a nonprofit partner for a real-world design project. She and her students worked closely with Branch Avenue in Bloom to design signage and way-finding for their urban farm, which is due to open Spring 2015.
The key for Azarm when teaching is to illuminate the intersection of design and social issues while making a strong, personal connection–something she feels her students can benefit from in contrast to the skills they gain in other design courses.
Azarm will continue to teach in MICA’s Graphic Design department as well as the Hopkins/MICA joint Design Leadership program. She is also developing new interdisciplinary coursework for University of Maryland’s Academy for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. She is co-facilitating a webinar for the International Youth Foundation (IYF) with Jonathan Erwin, another social design fellow and will finish up her work with Gather Baltimore this summer.
Azarm’s social design work within Baltimore and the surrounding area will continue to make a positive impact on the Baltimore community.