Iowa State University
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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

12-7-07

Contacts:

Troy Abel, Art and Design, (515) 294-6724, or (563) 650-7478, tabel@iastate.edu

Jacob Ahlers, Graphic Design student, (712) 540-6207, jjahlers@iastate.edu

Anders Holine, Graphic Design student, andersh@iastate.edu

Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778, tbarron@iastate.edu

Iowa State graphic design students Jacob Ahlers (left) and Anders Holine (center) won top honors in a national competition with video spots created in Troy Abel's right) class. (A print-quality image is available from Teddi Barron, (515) 294-4778, tbarron@iastate.edu)

Two Iowa State graphic design students win national competition

AMES, Iowa -- Two Iowa State University graphic design students with little or no experience in video production placed first and second in a national competition for 30-second public service announcements (PSAs).

Jacob Ahlers, Remsen, received a $1,000 cash prize for first place, and Anders Holine, Woodbury, Minn., received a $400 cash prize for second place in the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance's (DBSA) competition.

The videos are part of the non-profit organization's new Web site, http://www.FacingUs.org, which was launched Dec. 3 in conjunction with a campaign designed to reduce the stigma that surrounds mental illness. There were nearly 100 entries in three categories. The PSAs, which target the teen audience, were judged on originality and creativity.

Both students are juniors in Troy Abel's graphic design class on nonlinear editing.

Abel is a graduate teaching assistant who has worked for eight years as a designer and teacher in Chicago. He created the class, which focuses on narrative and storytelling, while at ISU. Students use their existing graphic design skills in typography, image, emotion and color, adding the element of time to form a narrative.

"The majority of them have no video experience - they don't know the software or techniques when they walk into the class," Abel said. "It's more of 'learn by fire' where I support them every step of the way. They come up with the idea, implement it and I help them execute it."

During the semester, the students complete four projects--a narrative using open-source (non-copyrighted) video, the PSA, a music video and a movie title.

"I like to find a competition each semester that allows students to tie their classroom experiences to real-world situations. I gave them 14 days to complete the project from concept to finished delivered product," Abel said.

Each student researched an aspect of depression or bipolar disorder, identifying a stigma attached to the illness and an approach for shattering it.

"They considered how to explain the disorder to others, what it means to be bipolar or depressed and why so many people don't get help," Abel said.

"I set the bar high and they all achieved amazing results. They're very dedicated to their craft and to understanding concept and narrative storytelling," he said. "I was proud of all 14 of them. They did an amazing job."

Ahlers' first-place PSA (https://www.facingus.org/media/7/video) tackles bipolar disorder. He derived inspiration from a relative's experience.

"Some days he says he feels like he's on top of the world and can do anything he wants and nothing bad will ever happen," Ahlers said. "Then the next day, he'll feel worthless, like nothing is ever good enough. I wanted to capture the balancing act. That's where I got the idea."

The PSA mixes live action and animation to show hands creating a series of simple line drawings on white paper. The pages are torn off as the narration progresses. The story is about a person on a mountaintop using a stick for balance. Birds perch on the stick, but balance is maintained. So the person thinks the stick is unnecessary and throws it away. But a gust of wind destroys the person's balance. Then the pad of paper is turned at an angle and the drawing is actually a person's face. The narrator says: "Imagine all this happens uncontrollably inside you."

Ahlers, who had no previous video experience, spent about 15 to 20 hours on the project.

Cindy Specht, DBSA director of programs, said Ahlers' use of an analogy to describe bipolar disorder was intriguing and very effective.

"The analogy engages the watcher in a 'story,' keeping them interested until the conclusion," Specht said. "It provides watchers with an understanding of how living with bipolar disorder can feel - without using shocking or extreme representations of the disorder which, unfortunately, is so often exploited in the media. It creates empathy, not fear. On top of that, we found the use of animation both creative and visually intriguing."

Anders Holine's second-place PSA (https://www.facingus.org/media/6/video) deals with depression. It shows a young man walking alone down a deserted country road, then coming to a T-intersection. The text says: "Only 20 percent of depressed people are willing to get help. Make the choice."

"I thought of the lonely walk down a road as a metaphorical journey of life," Holine said. "Then you come to a crossroads where you choose whether you get help or continue alone by yourself to get through it."

Specht said the judges felt that "mystery created by the silence of the piece was intriguing and engaging for the watcher."

"We liked the simplicity of the message, 'Make the choice, get help.' And we liked the fact that the spot put an emphasis on action rather than focusing on a series of weepy individuals without hope," she said. "We also felt the videography was very well done."

Although Anders had done short films in high school, he said doing a 30-second PSA was a challenge. "It's tough to cram your whole message into that timeframe," he said.

Ahlers and Anders plan to spend some of their cash awards on software for themselves and pizza for their classmates.

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Quick look

Two ISU graphic design students placed first and second in a national competition for 30-second video public service announcements for the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance. Jacob Ahlers, Remsen, received a $1,000 cash prize for first place and Anders Holine, Woodbury, Minn., received a $400 cash prize for second place. Both are juniors in Troy Abel's graphic design class on nonlinear editing.

Quote

"I set the bar high and they all achieved amazing results. They're very dedicated to their craft and to understanding concept and narrative storytelling. I was proud of all 14 of them. They did an amazing job."

Troy Abel, graphic design teaching assistant