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UT Student-Designed Billboards Encouraged People to Vote

Vote billboard

Students from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, took on a special project to urge people to get out and vote in a big way.

Their messages were on billboards around the Knoxville area.

Rob Heller, a professor in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media in the College of Communication and Information, asked his media graphics students to design posters encouraging people to get out and vote in this year’s election.

"I asked them to create something non-partisan and use only three words—one of which had to be a version of the word 'vote,'" Heller said. "They could use only type. No pictures. And it had to be black and white, with no more than one color."

Among the messages the students came up with: Veni (I came), Vidi (I saw), Voti (I voted); Use Your Vote; Did You Vote? (with a yes box checked); Decide, Vote, Elect; and Exercise Voting Rights.

"I'm very proud of their creative work," Heller said. "And I wanted to give it a wider audience."

Heller contacted the local office of Lamar Advertising, the company that manages many of the billboards around Knoxville. Lamar agreed to print three vinyl signs and also include some of the students' work on digital billboards strategically placed around the city.

"When Professor Heller approached us about his public service 'Vote' project with his class, our reaction was a definitive 'Yes!'. We take pride in being loyal to the community in which we serve, and to partner with the School of Journalism & Electronic Media at UT was an honor," said Benjamin Eaton, sales manager for Lamar Advertising. "Their goal was to deliver an important message to the public, and by utilizing both static and digital billboards, the students did this with skillful creativity and simplicity. Lamar was proud to be the vehicle for their voice." 

This year's voting project was similar to one Heller gave his students during the presidential election four years ago; that year, the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy printed the best student posters and placed them around campus.

"This year, my students were extremely excited to see their work on billboards," said Heller. "I'm not sure how we can top this in 2020 but we'll give it try."

Heller has taught photojournalism and media graphics at UT for 30 years.

UPDATE: Word Spreads: UT Student-Designed Election Billboards Displayed in Arizona

Billboards designed by University of Tennessee, Knoxville students urged people to vote in Phoenix, Arizona.

The designs, created by students in Rob Heller's media graphics class, were first used on billboards around Knoxville, thanks to Lamar Advertising. Then Lamar representatives in Phoenix saw media reports about the UT students' work and asked if they could use the artwork for billboards in their area.

"I thought the campaign was great—clean, easy, readable messages that would work great on our digital format," said Christina Butler, general manager for Lamar's Phoenix operation. "As you may know, Arizona was considered a swing state in this election, so I thought it would be a great message to put out in our community."

The Phoenix billboards went up on November 3.

The billboard messages began when Heller, a professor in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media in UT's College of Communication and Information, asked his students to design billboards urging people to vote in this year’s election. The assignment was to create nonpartisan messages—type only, no pictures—using only three words, including a version of the word "vote." The students could use only black and white plus one color.

Heller was so pleased with his students' work that he contacted the local office of Lamar Advertising, the company that manages many of the billboards around Knoxville. Lamar agreed to print three vinyl signs and also included some of the students' work on digital billboards strategically placed around the city.

Also see this story by WVLT-TV in Knoxville: http://www.local8now.com/content/news/Student-designs-urge-voters-to-the-polls-399551381.html