Studio 165+ Design Students Hone Skills With Wide Community Impact

Identity designs for a Muncie neighborhood reflect one aspect of the studio’s collaborative, real-world problem solving across multiple media platforms.

When Assistant Professor Shantanu Suman launched an immersive studio course for Visual Communication (graphic design) students in Spring 2017, he didn’t see its purpose directly linked to the Muncie community.

Nine semesters and 63 projects later, Suman now regards the studio’s strong connection to Muncie as key to its growing success.

“It is the smallest community I have lived in, but it is also the friendliest,” said Suman, who is faculty mentor for the course, titled Studio 165+. “It’s easy to connect with people and I feel like that has been the biggest strength, because it has helped me as well as the studio.”

Studio 165+ has so far worked with 16 local and regional clients, from Yorktown Fire Department to the Muncie Maternal Mental Health Coalition—a focus that reflects the strategic plan’s third goal of community engagement and impact.

Suman worked in advertising in India before moving to the U.S., finishing his master’s and launching his own design studio before joining Ball State’s School of Art. He learned about the University’s strong relationship with Muncie and how receptive the community was about working with students.

He urges students to think of their clients as collaborators. “We are learning from each other.”

Suman Shantanu

Suman Shantanu

The name Studio 165+ reflects participants’ weekly commitment of 165 minutes to studio classes, plus the additional dedication to ensure quality results. Those results can be measured in both client satisfaction and 25 international, national, and local design awards.

Among the award-winning projects is an ongoing design and marketing campaign for Building Better Neighborhoods (BBN). The non-profit initiative connects University resources with neighborhood development efforts. Studio 165+ students are working with BBN to create identity designs for 12 different Muncie neighborhoods.

Many Studio 165+ alumni say it helped launch their careers. “It opened so many doors for me,” said Lauren Fox, ’18, a product designer in Denver. “It demonstrated that I had already worked with a variety of clients”—something most design students don’t experience.

She equally appreciates relationships she formed in the community through the studio. “I can still drive through Muncie and see the lasting results of those relationships.”

Learn more about Destination 2040: Our Flight Path and progress already being made across the University and beyond.