This thesis presents one idea answering the question “How can we build a socially responsible communication design practice that stimulates collaborative empowerment?” Graphic design is no longer the singular creation of the designer. There exists a shared responsibility between the message owner, the designer, and the recipient. Focusing on this dynamic, the Ignite Designers website is a platform that removes the barriers of physical location to advocate for design teams to mirror the audience of focus and invite members of the audience to become members of the team. Transparency is achieved through detailed, whole-person profiles—the heart of the platform. Efficiency is maximized with control-center style dashboards. The future of communication design needs us to envision radical possibilities so that we may evolve beyond our social limitations. Ignite Designers presents one possibility.

Jeannie Guss is a communication design researcher, strategist and designer. She has worked with companies and brands of all sizes to help them realize their vision and meet their goals. During her time at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, Jeannie explored historical moments in design within the context of the cultural events surrounding them, analog design methods to develop deeper connection to the design process, and the role of social responsibility in evolving today’s design practice so that it may better serve the clients, team members, and communities impacted by communication design.

Want to talk? Email me at jeannieguss@gmail.com.

What Might Be
by Jeannie Guss

Eden, Utopia, Valhalla—whatever you imagine is the land of what might be doesn’t exist.
It never has.
It can’t be found on any map.
There is no line leading to the land of promise.

Look at the world.

We live in a world mapped out, divided, lines on paper.
Lines that judge and incite—fire lines.

Choose a human condition and a line can be found.
Our histories are stories of division and strife—finish lines. 

Look at your own life.

How many lines have you drawn?
How many memories haunt those lines, weaving stronger bonds?
How many demarcations of insecurity, fear, and hopelessness are held in line?

A line does not hold the possibility of what might be.
It is already drawn, already history, already what might have been. 

Look closer.

See the points that create each line?
A line is only the construct of points nested side-by-side.

What points have constructed your lines?
When did you decide each point was valid, whole, worthy of you?

See the point.

Look and listen to each, and the next, and the next.|
What might be erases the points that no longer serve you, apply to you, make you whole.

We are all a solitary point standing in a line—a defense line.
Step out of the line.
Be the chaos of creation.
Surround yourself with points of   w h a t   m i g h t   b e . 


(AI song reference: “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake)



My thesis book, Unfinished: Communicating Grief and Healing Through Handmade Textiles, documents my research into the historical and contemporary work that links grief, healing, textiles, and design, and thereby emphasizes the value of sharing space for quiet creation and community among those who have experienced grief similar to my own, allowing room for the unfinished and imperfect, and expanding the materials and techniques we think of as graphic design.

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Material is ubiquitous. It’s everywhere and it’s everything, almost as if the word has become meaningless. The kind of material that I’ve explored in this thesis is the kind with a magical essence, charged with human touch, presence, and mystery—the kind that stirs curiosity, creates questions, and encourages us to keep seeking.

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Artists and designers on the introvert spectrum are often misrepresented and misunderstood. This experience begins during an introvert’s formative academic years, continues through their career journey, and is also reflected in their practice.

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This thesis has been the medicine that has broken down and will continually break down the phlegm that obstructed the life-giving oxygen needed for me to breathe. This work has stretched and pulled me in many directions. I wanted to know my roots. I wanted to know how far I could travel into the archives. I wanted to know if I could do something as simple as locate my ancestors’ names beyond the second generation. Within this wading, I have learned many things about the exploration of lineage and documentation. This synthesis has spoken to the slivers of hope and the gaping holes in the history of America’s true builders. It is a work that speaks about my experience during this discovery and expresses it through the visuals as I attempted to fill the gaps of my familial past.

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Reconsidering the designer as one among many in a creative and collaborative network of active participants full of agency and potential.

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Observations about living and designing in a world of clashing expectations.

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“This ain’t a scene, it’s a goddamn arms race.”

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