“It’s About Helping With Design”

Digital Design grad Ileana Hierro‘s Sandbox project required many hours of research, brainstorming, and hard work. As her final project at VFS (and now her portfolio’s centrepiece), she built an in-depth branding guide from the ground up, conceptualizing a global non-profit organization that aims to strengthen communities in the process.

Ileana knew early on that she wanted her final project to not only show off her skills as a designer, but also her passion to help others.

‘I wanted to show that, as designers, we can do commercial and non-commercial work,’ Ileana says. ‘Then I wanted to show that, with design, you can help solve problems’; It’s not just about selling design; it’s about helping with design.’

She decided to focus her project on highlighting the lack of children’s playgrounds in her hometown of Mexico City, and offered her solution to the problem: convert the city’s wasted and/or unused spaces into playgrounds.

Enter Sandbox

Under the guidance of her project mentor, Perry Chua, along with former Head of Digital Design Sebastien De Castell and Branding instructor Maria Kennedy, Ileana developed the framework for a community-based business venture that would champion this cause and garner attention to the issue of publicly-accessible play spaces for kids.

That’s a lot of extra legwork for a designer, but it was all necessary in order to create the branding guide.

‘I had to understand that I was creating the brand and not the organization,” Ileana explains. “But I had to think as an owner to define the personality and the values [of Sandbox]. So I had to think as the client and the designer.’

Brand Values

With Perry’s help, Ileana defined how she wanted the Sandbox brand to be perceived. These values would dictate the messaging and appearance of all future brand applications, from font to imagery, t-shirts, buttons, stationery, and much more.

Sandbox Applications

Eventually, she whittled the list down to five values (inspiring, responsible, playful, influential, discover), along with another five words or phrases to describe the brand’s ‘voice’ (sympathetic, vital, nimble, pure, no limits).

The result is a fun-looking brand that invites community participation and places this yet-to-exist organization in the best light possible.

Raising Awareness

The final stage for Sandbox was a difficult one for Ileana. Now that she had created an organization and branded it, she had to develop a campaign that would expose Sandbox to the world. This would take the project beyond the bounds of communication design and into interactive design.

Ileana created a print and online campaign that included a website, posters, bus shelter and newspaper ads, and immersive wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling advertising for elevators.

‘My first idea was to create a video — a little PSA [public service announcement] just showing kids going to empty places around the city that are possible places to build a playground’¦ But,’ Ileana soon realized, ‘filming children is really hard.’

After almost completely losing a day’s shoot to wrangling kids who would have much preferred doing anything but star in a PSA, Ileana gave up on the idea of doing a video and began brainstorming a print campaign. She luckily had enough visual material from her one disastrous shoot.

‘I got two good shots in a whole day,’ she says. ‘It was frustrating, but I still had time to do something good.’

The campaign wrapped up two terms’ worth of research, brainstorming, and grunt work for Ileana. But in the end it was worth it — Sandbox not only shows her dedication to process and creativity, but also her vision as a designer who helps others with her craft.

Best of luck, Ileana! Congratulations on a wonderful final project.

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