From Design to Installation: A Collaborative Journey with Yellowstone Schools and the University of Houston

In a heartening fusion of creativity and community service, students from the University of Houston School of Art weaved their talents into the fabric of a local school's new playground. Tasked with enhancing the aesthetics of necessary infrastructure, the students transformed a 250-foot chain-link fence at Yellowstone Schools into a vibrant canvas. 

Adry Suryadi, an adjunct professor at the University of Houston School of Art and lead graphic designer at Kirksey Architecture was approached by Yellowstone to visually enhance the security fence along their playground. To add an element of privacy, the school implemented slats in between the chains of the fence. These slats were used to incorporate engaging graphic elements and messaging—courtesy of Suryadi’s students—into an otherwise ordinary fence. 

Suryadi saw this as the perfect opportunity for students to gain real-world experience designing and producing work for an actual client. “I thought it would be a win-win proposal to present it to Yellowstone and to the students at the School of Art,” Suryadi said. “This provided students with the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a client, engage with concrete numbers, and translate their conceptualizations into tangible artwork for real-world production.” 

His students were split into three project teams, each vying for the chance to design the fence’s slats. Within each team, students assumed various design roles, each with specific responsibilities. These roles included project managers, art directors, product designers, and digital designers. 

Suryadi emphasized the significance of managing designer personalities and assigning distinct roles as a crucial aspect of the project. “Taking on a leadership role means handling additional responsibilities, such as task allocation and setting a positive example. On the flip side, as a team member, there are challenges in effectively presenting your ideas to gain buy-in for your design. Therefore, understanding the dynamics of being a good leader and a supportive team member is equally crucial.” 

Engaging in a comprehensive design experience, the students actively participated in the entire construction timeline, from initial sketches to the final installation phase. Their daily activities involved constant communication with clients, stakeholders, contractors, and fabricators.  

Each team demonstrated their design ideas through a presentation to Yellowstone stakeholders, with the winning team tasked with translating their concepts into final art for production. In addition, teams constructed intricate scale models for display at the final senior show. To provide a comprehensive overview of the project, each team undertook the creation of a 1-minute video documenting every stage—from initial research and design processes to mock-ups, fabrication, installation, and the finished product.  

The winning team’s design, entitled “Seeds of Success,” incorporated motifs reflecting Yellowstone Schools’ values and its emphasis on student development, as well as the history of Houston’s Third Ward. 

Model display at final senior show.

Model display at final senior show.

Model display at final senior show.

Model display at final senior show.

“Our vision for the fence was to focus on the growth that Yellowstone fosters in their students,” said Jakob Hoffmann, who served as the team’s project manager. “In our mural, we pay homage to the strong cultural and historical roots of the Third Ward and how they—along with Yellowstone’s Christian values—provide the basis for every child to grow and flourish.” 

Hoffmann said the team’s primary challenge was the sheer size of the fence; designing for over 250 feet was a significant undertaking. “We were able to manage the size of the fence by strategically dividing up the aspects of design. Some of us made illustrations, some of us worked on sketching the overall layout, and some worked on research. In doing so, we were able to make the workload much easier on each of us individually, while still collaborating and switching roles throughout to make sure our final piece was cohesive.” 

Vanessa Rosacina served as the team's art director, responsible for shaping the project's overall design aesthetic. "I aimed to be a guide rather than exert control, ensuring that everyone had a voice in this collaborative piece," Rosacina explained. "The goal was to blend our diverse design and illustration styles, and the outcome was fantastic. We achieved an aesthetic that each team member could authentically contribute to and feel strongly connected with." 

The fence and its customized slats were installed in August 2023. According to Suryadi, Yellowstone administrators were, “genuinely grateful and impressed by the thoughtful storytelling elements incorporated into the design.”