Great Kids Farm is a program that provides opportunities for Baltimore City school students to participate in every aspect of food preparation – from seed to fork. The farm is an incredible place where students of all ages learn about gardening, page harvesting and food preparation. They approached us because they wanted to design a series of posters to promote the program, and the vegetables that end up in the cafeteria line at Baltimore City public schools. This project was one of our most challenging. The key here was to make sure the posters were actually relevant to the students and perceived as hip. Gulp.
We knew from the beginning that the students had to be intimately involved with the messaging process. We always start our creative process with an in depth workshop to get a sense of the client, shop the audience and identity. In this case we sat down with six high school students to talk to them about ideas for the posters. This couldn’t be a case of getting input from the students, these posters really had to be all about them and their world. We wanted the workshop to be interactive, so we brought a pile of magazines and together we created a mood board with key words and phrases they wanted to highlight. The idea surfaced of using hip hop lyrics and pop culture references, along with images of vegetables and students that would connect in some way. They all loved this idea and felt sure it would be perceived as hip and relevant for the school kids. We left with a series of phrases to explore, along with visuals, to create some initial concepts that felt funky and “cool”.
We went to work, creating sketches, exploring images and textures to find those most appropriate and fun. We came back to the group with five options pared down from the ideas generated during the workshop. Of course the challenge here was that the concepts needed to not only be relevant to the students, they also had to be tame enough to gain approval from school administrators. We decided on three concepts. The first used a play on Drake lyrics, “Started from the bottom, now we’re here” paired with an image of a little kid holding a little vegetable and a big kid holding a big vegetable. The second concept played on a phrase from comedian Kevin Hart “You gonna learn today” along with some flashy vegetable shots. The third version of the series was a play on “No child left behind” that we all thought would entertain students and teachers alike.
After fleshing out the poster designs we ran them by the students again. They were excited as they saw their concepts come to life. We decided the posters would be strongest with images of the actual students, so we scheduled a photo shoot, complete with beets freshly picked from the farm. We sat with the students that day, playing in Photoshop and showing them images of themselves placed in the posters. They were impressed by how quickly they transformed into celebrities.
We’re happy to say the posters now hang in Baltimore City public school cafeterias and they’ve been well received. It was fun, albeit a bit intimidating, to work with these creative young people and involve them in the messaging and design process.