Stevenson Visual Communication Design Majors Originate Revamped Rating System Designs for Whole Foods

July 16, 2015 7 AM

There potentially could be a brand new design for Whole Foods Market’s food rating system thanks to the creative work of three Stevenson University Visual Communication Design (VCD) majors.

Carissa Pray, Tré Seals, and Phil Iacona—all spring graduates—entered and won an international student design competition in which applicants were challenged to reimagine Whole Foods’ rating system and create a more digestible way of presenting its information.

The student competition was directed by YCN, a creative network based in England. The Stevenson students’ entry was judged by officials at Whole Foods, which tasked participants with simplifying and improving the food store’s existing rating system. The system—using “good,” “better,” and “best” rankings—displays the health benefits and environmental friendliness of a range of products from poultry and seafood to cleaning supplies.

“This particular design competition was an opportunity for students to flex their creative muscles through a very challenging design problem,” said Inna Alesina, Assistant Professor of Art and Visual Communication Design, who presented the competition to students in her Professional Studio Design course.

Pray, Seals, and Iacona’s presentation package featured silhouettes of each product coupled with a color-coded scale that reflected the product’s rating. The group recommended putting these images directly on the product packaging as opposed to Whole Foods current approach, in which the rating labels were placed on the store’s shelves. They also simplified the Whole Foods language throughout the store aimed at describing what each rating signified.

“One thing we noticed was that this rating system was not in view,” said Seals, who added that the group went to multiple Whole Foods locations as a part of their research. “There were infographics throughout the store, but they were either too high up or too far down for people to see. We wanted ours front and center on the package.”

“People have little time or the care to read when shopping,” added Pray, “So, we went for a complete re-design utilizing infographics and an icon-based rating system to effectively communicate the information quickly by having it explain itself in less than ten seconds.”

Seals, who said he was shocked when he found out the group’s presentation was named the winner, emphasized that spending four years within the University’s Visual Communication Design program taught he and his partners crucial lessons that led to the achievement.

“As I progressed through my four years, I learned that concept is everything,” Seals said. “Coming up with something simple is always the hardest, but learning how to come up with a great concept is key.”

Stevenson University, known for its distinctive career focus, is the third-largest independent university in Maryland with more than 4,400 students pursuing bachelor’s, master’s, and adult bachelor’s programs at locations in Stevenson and Owings Mills.