Over the next few weeks, SVA will continue a series that began last semester highlighting outstanding projects from the 2020 Alumni Scholarship Award winners. Today's featured thesis project is by MFA Products of Design alumnus Victoria Ayo.
Ayo's scholarship-winning project, 'Birth Reborn: Using Design to Address Barriers to Equitable Maternal Care for Black Women,' aims to give voice and power back to Black women and mothers at a time when the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is soaring. Birth Reborn draws on the healing power of community connection and ancestral knowledge, made accessible through a thoughtfully designed app. "The modern clinical model of care has not shown up for Black women—pregnant and otherwise," the New York-based artist explained in an interview with us. "This is my exploration of how more traditional notions of maternal care and support can do so."
Tell us about your project. What inspired the idea?
My project was partly inspired by my own experiences with the medical system. I wanted to explore how it affected Black women. Maternal mortality consistently came up and this changed the entire course of my project.
What most surprised you once you started working on the project?
I'm not sure what surprised me most, but one of the things I learned about was the concept of social media strategy. One of my projects involved designing an interactive experience. But due to COVID, it needed to be virtual. So, my experience was a community-building Instagram account called the Healed Birth Project.
What was a highlight for you of living and studying in New York City?
I think the constant source of inspiration. I had access to so many people and sources that really made my thesis work so much richer. I was able to work with other masters students and mentors and learn from a lot of different perspectives.
What is something you learned at SVA that you'll always take with you?
Never stop asking why, and be specific about who you are designing for.
Was there a teacher or course that was essential for you?
The course that had its biggest impact on me was our thesis writing class during the second semester of our second year. I think it was the class that pushed me the most in terms of crafting the story of my design work.
What was your favorite piece of advice that a teacher or student shared with you?
No prototype. No meeting!
What advice do you have for next year's students going through your program?
Use the current situation and climate to find an opportunity to improve and innovate something. These are challenging times, and I believe the best environment for innovation. Don't be afraid to try something new or reinvent, if something you see is not working.
For last year's SVA Alumni Scholarship Awards, a record 74 students were chosen from a pool of over 212 applicants. They were granted scholarships worth more than $60,000 for projects as varied as design products, animation, painting and photography. For more information about the Alumni Scholarship Awards and to see a complete list of last year's recipients, click here. To Support the Talent this year, you can make a donation online at sva.edu/give.