Worth More Than a T-Shirt

By Alixandra Rutnik on Dec 01, 2021

Student Mara Reyes designs campaign for Free For Life International


When I think of human trafficking the horrifying images of the movie Taken flash through my mind. And even as an action thriller, it pales in comparison to the attrocities that real-life women and children are subjected to.

Free For Life International – FFLI – is an organization that helps to combat human trafficking and heal and free those who have been affected by this crime.

Nearly 90 advertising and graphic design students at Kean University were tasked with creating the concept and design for FFLI’s 2021 end-of-year fundraising materials, with the intention that one student’s work would be chosen to be actualized.

The selected concept was created by Mara Reyes, and the campaign is currently running. We caught up with Mara and her Professor Robin Landa to learn about the new campaign.


Mara, what is your current role?

I am a Kean University senior working towards a BFA degree in Graphic Design: Interactive Advertising.

Why do you love ad school?

My favorite part about ad school is that it isn’t just ad school. We’re designers, thinkers, idea generators, and most importantly humans. Being creative is one thing, but when you take time to understand people the way you process information is reflected in your work.

Since you are graduating this upcoming spring, what are your post graduation goals?

To dive straight into my field and take advantage of any opportunities that come my way. My dream has always been to work at a boutique advertising agency as part of a team that creates striking projects that have depth and resonate with people. I want to be part of something that doesn’t just sit and be pretty, I want to be part of something that creates movement and change for social good even if it expresses the truth that no one wants to face.

If you had to choose, what is your best creative talent?

I would have to say designing content for social media. Social media rose at the beginning of the 2000s, so in a way I grew with social media. I knew advertising and design were meant for me when I would stick to a post for more than a minute, and really sit there and observe the ways the post was able to keep my attention. Social media is truly fascinating. I would say the language of social media feels so natural to me. The benefits of being there from the beginning are observing the way social media shapes culture and the different ways people use it.

"I knew advertising and design were meant for me when I would stick to a post for more than a minute, and really sit there and observe the ways the post was able to keep my attention."

Congrats on your work being selected for FFLI’s fundraising materials! How does it feel to have your work selected by an organization with such an important cause?

Thank you! It truly feels great to be part of such an important organization fighting for something that can happen to anyone I know. FFLI is doing such good things and it makes me, an aspiring art director and graphic designer, think about how I can contribute my talents for good. I hope the team of FFLI knows I enjoyed working with them and that I am truly inspired by their work.

When you were handed the brief for FFLI, did any immediate campaign ideas come to mind?

There was a clear vision in my head when I approached the project– how can minimal content on a page make the loudest impression? Meaning, I felt as though making the text of the project take the spotlight was not the way to go...but making the image the focal point, the one to stand out. In this case, it was Maya and her story. I had seen images of these girls in their countries and wanted to take into consideration their backgrounds and what they encounter every day. In this case, I wanted to show that an item of clothing hanging on a clothesline right above her head was worth more in dollars than her own life.

"In this case, I wanted to show that an item of clothing hanging on a clothesline right above her head was worth more in dollars than her own life."

What did you learn about human trafficking when researching and brainstorming ideas for this project?

Human trafficking can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone. There have been many cases where desperation overpowers integrity and respect for family, and many young girls have been sold into a human trafficking ring by their own families, which I learned is Maya’s case.

The young girls and women that have been trafficked deserve to have their voices heard and given the aid they so deserve. What I appreciate the most about Free For Life International is its mission to provide mentorship and assistance far beyond a rescue. They don’t just help these young girls and leave them to fend for themselves, knowing how that can be extremely dangerous.

"Human trafficking can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone. There have been many cases where desperation overpowers integrity and respect for family, and many young girls have been sold into a human trafficking ring by their own families, which I learned is Maya’s case."

Robin, what was your role in this project?

When Olga Demeshchik, a Kean University alumna and Group Art Supervisor at McCann Health, asked me if Robert Busch School of Design (RSBD) advertising and graphic design majors would like the opportunity to create this year’s project for Free For Life International, I jumped at the opportunity.

Last year, Olga and Copywriter Olivia Santandreu created the FFLI direct mail, titled “I am Ann,” which I also featured in my forthcoming book for Routledge, Strategic Creativity (2022).

Professors Denise Anderson and Deborah Ceballos, my RBSD colleagues, and I assigned the FFLI project to our respective students– approximately 90 students in total. We welcomed the opportunity not only for our students to have an actual client, but also to serve the public good by contributing our creative services to FFLI. Their work includes outreach, raising awareness, prevention, border monitoring, providing shelters, mentorships, and scholarships for victims.

We presented the first round of creative solutions to the FFLI team. Then curated a final round to present to the client. The students’ solutions were so good that we presented many more solutions than we normally would to a client. We asked the client to narrow their selection down to two finalists so that we could work closely with those students.

Since human trafficking is an ongoing world problem, why do you think it is important to talk about and educate people on sex trafficking, human trafficking, and slavery?

Through deception or force, with the aim of exploitation for profit, people recruit, transport, harbor, transfer, and enslave others. Contrary to popular belief, human trafficking is blind to background, race, nationality, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality. People from any part of the world can fall victim to human trafficking. Some groups are more vulnerable than others—poverty and homelessness put more people at risk. According to FFLI, in the U.S., the most at-risk populations are runaway, foster and homeless youth, and the LGBTQI+ community.

Kean University students were shocked and horrified by the statistics and devastating stories of the victims. For example, poverty-stricken families sell their children into slavery for the equivalent of $29. However, our students also felt by conceiving and designing promotional solutions for FFLI, they were being proactive and contributing to a solution.

For more information, you can visit the United Nations website about this worldwide issue and the FFLI website, where you will see Mara Reyes' creative solution.

Our students are proud to have put their strategies, creative ideas, and designs to use for an important social issue.

LI: @MaraReyes

ROBINLANDA.COM


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