JWU Students Produce Inspiring Athlete Docuseries

Imagine if your classwork was featured on an ESPN+ stream — at Johnson & Wales, these kinds of opportunities could happen. Through internships, class projects and Directed Experiential Education (DEE) courses, students are given the opportunity to collaborate with classmates and work with real-world clients. 

I’m taking a DEE course this spring that has me and a group of fellow students from different majors working with Brown University Athletics to create a docuseries about their student-athletes. We will then pitch the deliverables and strategy to Brown as content for them to feature when their games are streamed on ESPN+. The hope is that this can open the door to future DEEs where students could build out the series with other schools or even work directly with ESPN+. This is my first time participating in a DEE and it’s such an exciting opportunity!  

Building the Team

Our DEE team is creating a speculative docuseries that follows the unique stories of different student-athletes at Brown. We have two production teams and one creative marketing team. The creative marketing team works with both production teams to bring a visual identity into the documentaries. The creative marketing team is made up of two designers, two marketing specialists, and one social media consultant.

My job as a graphic designer on the creative marketing team is to create graphics, animated or still, that can be used in each documentary episode or as social media assets to promote the series. I’m excited to use my design skills to work on a project for a real client. So far, I think all of us are working well together to unite the different documentary episodes into one cohesive series. 

Associate Professor Evan Villari is the professional advisor for this DEE and helped select students to participate."This particular DEE with Brown University Athletics has partnered a select group of students, representing unique disciplines, in a manner that reflects real-world collaboration,” says Villari. “Most of the DEE team was recruited from former students, including social media managers, designers, media producers and event planners, each bringing an array of complimentary skillsets. We rounded out the team with advertising experts, nominated by College of Business faculty, who were able to provide high-level market research, which helped steer the direction of the overall campaign.” 

Students recording a student sitting down talking


Designing the Assets

I am one of two designers on the creative marketing team. Joe Faioli ’24 was also recruited to take part, and we have been working together to create the visual brand for this docuseries. We combined Brown University’s brand standards with our own elements to give a unique visual identity to our project. 

We were also in charge of creating a name for the docuseries. We landed on the name “Beyond the Bleachers” because we felt that it perfectly described what the purpose of this project was — to tell athletes’ life stories and not just focus on their athletic accomplishments. I then designed sports icons for the logo that can later be animated and put into the documentaries.

"Our goal is to give the videos a visual identity, so viewers can see how all the videos are connected through our graphic elements,” says Joe. During the recruitment process, Joe was also eager to get started on the project because of his interest in sports. Being a baseball player for most of his life, he sees the importance in what the project is trying to accomplish. He says, "I think this DEE is important because it shows that sports aren't just what you see on TV. We're showing that athletes are people, too, and they have their own lives outside of their sport."

Two students looking at a camera

Why every student at JWU should take a DEE

“Our collaboration with Brown University Athletics represents the many possible solutions that can come to fruition through partnering with external organizations,” says Villari. “We look forward to the successful completion of this project as we set our sights beyond the traditional classroom environment and continue to provide our students with high-impact experiential learning here at JWU."

Being a part of this DEE has confirmed that I chose the right career path. When deciding I wanted to pursue a design degree, I knew I wanted to use design to make a difference. I wanted my designs to send a message to people and to make them feel something. Participating in this DEE allows me to send a message to the people watching this docuseries. The message is that no matter your background or any hardships you may have had to deal with in your past, you can be successful in what you’re passionate about.

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