This large-scale print piece explores the story of an immigrant — it aims to use the simple tools of type, scale, and contrast to create an emotional and powerful piece about these people and their stories. The poster with the size 36″ by 72″ also created a specific layer of the design: the viewing distance. This poster explores the story of an immigrant named Brenda. It was originally told by This American Life, and it explores not only the heart-breaking story of Brenda, but also the systems in place that have affected so many immigrants like her.

Identifying Points of Importance

The beginning process consisted of finding a story to work with overall, then reading and re-reading through the story to identify the points of importance and emotion. As I began to search for a story of immigration, I was drawn to those stories that I have witnessed personally in my own and my families lives – that is the story of immigrants from Mexico to the United States.

By identifying the key points of Brenda’s story, the hierarchy of the print piece began to emerge. Using contrast, scale, and typeface, a story began to emerge. With the important storyline points identified through studying Brenda’s story along with the tools of hierarchy, began to place type on the canvas. The earliest steps consisted of relying heavily on working off-screen and using cut out pieces of text, markers, and paper to begin to convey an overall emotion and the climax of the storyline.

Learning to Narrow Down

Beginning to place the whole of Brenda’s story on the poster, I found that the many points I identified to be important to her story were competing for attention. Though, each point of Brenda’s story contributed to the message of an immigrant’s journey from Mexico to the United States, it became clear to me that I needed to employ more tools of contrast in order to help guide the readers through her story. This led me to highlighting one main quote while allowing the rest of the content to take second or third levels of hierarchy. By drastically changing the scale of the main quote to be much larger, and shrinking the size of Brenda’s personal story, the reader can focus in on one piece of the story at a time.

Tying the Pieces Together

Combining physical elements to the piece was an additional aspect of the project which added to the message and depth of the poster. Using viewing distance to create contrast and intrigue, I began to think on how to string each small piece of text together. Inspired by the immigrants journey portrayed through the story along with the concept of a string used to map out a route, I decided to use physical thread to further the message of “lost-ness” while also guiding the reader through the reading of each piece of Brenda’s story. Finally, through research and getting to know more about the issue that this poster addresses, I began to ideate on ways to add a physical artifact to the piece to enhance the overall message and make it more real to the audience. This piece of the project came in the form of an evidence bag placed at the bottom of the poster. As the string hung from the poster it connected to a “personal belongings” tag with the name “John Doe” on it. This tag along with the evidence bag portrays the deep issue happening even today: many thousands of immigrants are dying each year in the Arizona Desert. This artifact qualified the poster and gave a fuller picture of many unheard immigrant stories.

Design Approach