Blog Home
Written By
May 29, 2014

Inspiring Positive Change Through Storytelling

May 29, 2014

Let’s talk about change.

After four years of blood, sweat, and tears (literally), I graduated from the Herron School of Art and Design with a degree in Visual Communication Design. Since then, I’ve transitioned from part-time intern to full-time designer at SmallBox. While adjusting to my new role, I’ve also packed up my belongings in preparation for a big move and said goodbye to friends as they left Indianapolis to pursue their own careers.

Those are some pretty big changes.

However, I expected and planned for these changes, so I’m not afraid of them. It’s not like I’m moving to a new country, or relocating to a place where the language and customs are different than my own. It’s not like I have to struggle with the preservation of my heritage as I try to adapt to mainstream society.

Because you know what? Some kids do.

Researchers at Fairbanks School of Public Health recently identified the impact of relocation on Latino adolescents in the Indianapolis area. They noted that migration into a new culture or social network may lead to acculturative stress “a type of stress experienced by immigrants as they adjust between their native cultural values and customs and the new culture that surrounds them” (Born, 1970). Fairbanks also found that Latino adolescents who experience acculturative stress are actually 10 times more likely to experience depression and other mental health disorders. But, research also showed that adolescents with high levels of self-mastery decreased the amount of acculturative stress experienced during and after migration.

With this research in mind, the Fairbanks School of Public Health decided to conduct a summer camp for Indianapolis Latino adolescents focused on increasing self-mastery and resiliency. As part of my senior capstone project at Herron, I worked with two talented students to create a conceptual framework for the camp that would provide participants with a more cohesive and meaningful experience.

IMG_7958.jpg   IMG_3791.jpg

In order to understand the needs of our intended audience, we held a focus group session with a group of Latino adolescents between the ages of 14 and 17. To get to know them, they identified and wrote about personally significant items that were important to their lives. In addition, we also mapped out a “typical day,” identifying activities, emotions, and thoughts.

After collecting this information, we did what any design researcher loves to do: synthesize. We took the data from our focus group session and merged it with other research into a framework based on Bronfenbrenner’s Theory (used to show how an individual’s development is affected by a series of complex interactive systems).


By looking at the synthesized data and comparing it to the activity map held in the focus session, we uncovered many different lifestyle values, including family, social life, self-expression, and communication. We realized that they all circled around a central theme: storytelling.


Using the principles of storytelling, we created a conceptual framework to guide camp leaders in developing activities. The framework is modeled after the plot for a typical story, including exposition, rising action, conflict, climax, and conclusion. Ultimately, we wanted to give camp participants the opportunity to identify the different components of their own stories – building their individual identities and heightening their sense of self-mastery.

In addition to the program framework, we needed to build the identity of the camp. After going through an exhaustive list of iterations, we came up with the name Your Life. Your Story. We also developed additional brand guidelines, an instructor’s handbook, and even the “curriculum” of activities that make up the art module of the the camp.



The work above offers a glimpse into the process of creating Your Life. Your Story. So many caring individuals have conducted research, designed activities, donated funds, and volunteered their time to see this program take shape. We all go through changes in life, but some changes are difficult to face when they take us far away from what we’re used to. So for one week this summer, we’re going to focus on building the skills necessary to face these types of changes. We’re going to combat acculturative stress through storytelling.

We’re going to create positive change.

Want to know more about Your Life. Your Story? Give our new Designer Sarah Herbert a shout, or follow her on Twitter.

Born, D. (1970). Psychological adaptation and development under acculturative stress: Toward a generic model. Social Science and Medicine, 3: 529-547.

Related Posts

Jan 25, 2016