Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Ryan Lewis

Second Advisor

Jeff Spoelstra

Third Advisor

Samantha Atkins


Managed by Western Michigan University’s (WMU) Office for Sustainability, the Gibbs House has a rich history of existing as the functioning university urban farm since the late 60s. Throughout the years, the location has transformed into a learning laboratory as well as a permaculture research and demonstration site for WMU students and the Kalamazoo community. As individuals scramble to come up with solutions to combat climate change, the two-acre plot becomes a vital resource where students are able to participate in sustainable practices that are both hands-on and outdoors. It pushes forward transformative ideas like composting, food forestry, and permaculture – all of which share commonalities of being applicable, self-sustaining, and future-oriented. Thus, the Gibbs House holds a unique power in Western Michigan’s commitment towards sustainability, serving as a valuable resource that puts these real-world solutions into practice.

However, for an unfamiliar audience, many leave the site uninformed and unaware due to the lack of visual language and communication. With people faced to contextualize the site by themselves or be left completely oblivious, the Gibbs House wanes into a misunderstood and underrepresented entity. In order to bring prominence to the many resources, programs, and initiatives running year round, I seek to erect an identity presence and visual signage that will uphold the site’s fundamental value. Through the use of visual storytelling, my project explores the ways in which brand identity and placemaking can bring more attention to this under-appreciated educational space on campus.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access