From the classroom to the creamery: UA Little Rock students work with local business

Sally Mengel, co-owner of Loblolly takes a look at the students projects during the final critique for the Package Design class as they present their Loblolly branding project (4 ice cream pint designs, a hot cocoa package, and a macaron package) at the Green Corner Store on May 1, 2017.

University of Arkansas at Little Rock graphic design students recently flexed their creative muscles, completing a real-world, hands-on project for a local ice cream parlor.

Kevin Cates, associate professor and graphic design coordinator for the UA Little Rock Department of Art and Design, wanted to give students taking his package design course a unique experience.  

While volunteering for an event at Lost Forty Brewing in Little Rock, Cates made the acquaintance of Sally Mengel, co-founder and co-owner of Loblolly Creamery.

Loblolly, located in the South Main district, is known for its handmade ice cream and extensive community outreach. Many of the organic ingredients used to create the business’s delectable frozen treats are either grown or sold in Arkansas.  

“I started talking to Sally and I told her I loved her product,” Cates said. “I jokingly said to her, ‘Man, I’d love to work on your stuff. You guys are a local business, so I’d do it pro bono.’ She said, ‘Yeah let’s do it. You’d get free ice cream.’”

Following his conversation with Mengel, Cates wasted no time reaching out to Elizabeth Strandberg, an employee of Loblolly and former student of the UA Little Rock design program. His goal was to work with Strandberg to construct a plan that would not only benefit the business, but also the students.

After careful consideration, Cates proposed the idea of his students designing ice cream containers and packages for Loblolly.

Final critique for the Package Design class present their Loblolly branding project (4 ice cream pint designs, a hot cocoa package, and a macaron package) at the Green Corner Store on May 1, 2017.

Hoping to add some variety to  the sea of black and white that are incorporated in Loblolly’s logo and brand, Mengel was more than excited to hear of the design idea.

“Our only requirements were that we should be able to tell the flavor of the ice cream, and students should have fun doing the project,” Mengel said.

Because Loblolly was already working with a company on rebranding, Cates students could not sell their package designs to the creamery once completed. Still, they got the experience of working with a real business.

“I want to start bringing a lot of local businesses into the classroom for subject matter,” Cates said. “This way, students aren’t just creating arbitrary things, but they’re actually creating something for something that exists.”

Once Cates got the green light for the idea, he presented the project to his students. They were to design a pint for three of Loblolly’s signature flavors and one seasonal flavor. Because Loblolly had no packages for its hot cocoa mix and macarons, the students were encouraged to use their creativity to construct those package designs.

After the students received the information they needed to begin their assignment, Strandberg presented them ice cream pints that would become their canvas.

Final critique for the Package Design class present their Loblolly branding project (4 ice cream pint designs, a hot cocoa package, and a macaron package) at the Green Corner Store on May 1, 2017.With free creative reign, the design students spent three weeks going above and beyond what Mengel or Strandberg anticipated. Each completed design was unique and brought a different approach to Loblolly’s original concept.

“These are amazing,” Strandberg said after seeing the students’ finished products. “I thought it was just going to be like, ‘Oh. Play with that design and add some color in it.’ I did not expect this.”

For their final presentation, the students presented their work to Mendel and Strandberg at the Loblolly location. While there, they received free ice cream, as promised.

With the glow of a proud parent watching his students succeed, Cates said he plans to conduct similar projects in the future.

For more information, contact Cates at klcates@ualr.edu or visit Loblolly Creamery online.

 

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