The Town of Longboat Key (LBK), working with Mote Marine, approached the College’s Design Center during Fall 2017 about creating signs to encourage visitors to be mindful of nesting sea turtles on local beaches. What they got was an immersive awareness campaign.
Recently retired Director of Public Works Juan Florensa explained that Longboat Key has very strict beach guidelines during sea turtle nesting season. Artificial lighting prevents baby turtles from reaching the water. Instead, they go toward homes. So it’s crucial that people in beachfront homes turn off porch and other lights and remove beach furniture at night.
“For many years we enforced lighting regulations by having code enforcement officers knock on doors,” Florensa noted. “We needed a fresh way of raising awareness. Ringling College and Longboat have had a long collaborative relationship, and we thought those very gifted students can find a way to get the message out much better than we can.”
Silpa Joe, ’18, Graphic Design, and India Boeckh, ’18, Illustration, were recruited, and they threw themselves into the project with excitement.
To learn about sea turtles, Mote Marine Senior Biologist Kristen Mazzarella took Joe and Boeckh on 5:00 a.m. beach walks, to count and mark nests, and to show them how distinctive sea turtle tracks are, yet small and easy to miss.
The next step for Joe and Boeckh was to research their audience. They focused on places like restaurants, hotels, and elevators, then designed a slate of items including coasters, table tents, coloring placemats for kids, elevator notices, wall clings for light switch plates, luggage-style tags for beach furniture, posters, and rack cards—all bearing the message to turn off lights and bring in furniture, and letting people know what to do if they find a sea turtle in distress. The other piece is a rain reveal, street art sprayed on concrete that doesn’t dissolve when wet and lasts for a month or two. The graphic is the campaign logo, to be located in public places for the peak of rainy season, when turtles are out.
Once the campaign was concepted, the students delivered a formal, televised presentation to the LBK City Council to sell their ideas and get community and local government support. They learned the importance of preparation when their presentation would not work on the client’s system. Because they had arrived early and prepared so thoroughly, the team was able to create a PDF of the presentation in under an hour—and on time.
“The fact they had the skillset to recreate that so quickly said a lot,” Jennifer Mumford, Design Center Director noted.
The project was a powerful learning experience for them both. “I learned the importance of cohesiveness to a campaign; everything has to fit together, same colors, same type,” said Boeckh.
“I’ve learned about collaboration,” Joe commented. “I’ve never worked with an illustrator before, so I learned a lot from her perspective. Once, the turtle we drew wasn’t the exact turtle in our region. We had worked on what looked best, but we had to rework it. We needed to do it right.” The end result excited all involved.
“It was a good collaborative effort, between a science organization, a municipality, and an art department,” Mazzarella commented. “The students presented to Mote staff, which will help them with clients in the future, and they researched the audience that would use these products and learned how that impacted what they created. They were very professional and their artwork was cool and fun.”
“These young adults are amazing—so talented. They listen! They asked excellent questions. If we didn’t like something, they didn’t get defensive. They were pragmatic and professional,” Florensa enthused. “The students gained invaluable knowledge about how to sell ideas. And they were easy to work with—a breath of fresh air!”
By Nicole Caron
Nicole Caron’s work has appeared in numerous regional and trade publications. She coordinates the First-Year Writing & ESL Program at Ringling College.