Sink or Safety: Still
Sink or Safety

On the first day of my senior year, in Graphic Design I, we were told that we were randomly assigned groups across two classes, and would have to set up a field trip to do some field research. After the initial shock subsided, we were left with a very unique assignment. We had to create an open-ended deliverable for the United States Coast Guard which delivered the information of our choosing based on the groups we had been divided into.

Sink or Safety: Still
Sink or Safety: Still

I was assigned to the Law Enforcement sector of the Coast Guard, and I went on location to the Gloucester Station with my partner Jeremiah to interview and shadow two officers and learn about what they did. We spent the day with them getting tours, seeing the radio control room, going on a patrol on the water, and getting some insider insight into the job of a Coast Guard officer. The field research was a little overwhelming, but between the two of us, we had some great photo documentation, videos, and interviews with our contacts.

Life Jackets Only Work if You Wear Them

The next step was to somehow sort through this overload of information, and pick a specific topic, and create some sort of product out of it. The station I visited was a fairly placid one, even though I was a member of the Law Enforcement team, and it seemed as though the only enforcing that went on there was either in violations found on commercial fishing vessels, or among private boat owners. Interestingly enough, I learned that you do not need any sort of certification or license to own or drive a boat, and therefore, many recreational boaters are reckless because they don’t know any better.

A Zone of Your Own

That tidbit from my interviews at Gloucester stuck with me, and after a few weeks of further research into all aspects of Law Enforcement in the Coast Guard, I decided that I wanted to come up with a non-abrasive, simple, and, most importantly, desirable way to obtain information about recreational boating safety. Although there is a lot of textual information about recreational boating, I don’t think anyone is interested in finding it and taking the time to read it, especially since they don’t have any obligation to do so. My solution was to create a series of short, friendly public service announcements that highlighted essentials of boating and awareness of how to be safe. I chose to execute these PSAs in a stop-motion style so that they were vivid enough to be appealing to a young viewer, but not so cutesy that they were a cartoon that an adult would find patronizing. This approach also added a bit of levity and distance from some of the serious consequences depicted in the animations if safety procedures were not followed (such as the Cynthia Z sinking in under sixty seconds, or the life expectancy duration with and without a life jacket).

Beneath the Surface

Choosing to execute this project via animation was a huge step out of my comfort zone because I had never felt as though I had been successful working in a set-time based medium and because the final animations would be delivered to an actual client (and the United States Coast Guard, of all clients!), but I am glad that I made it. The communication is clear and accessible, and the visual result paired with the music selection is very appealing.