BA Honors | Visual Communication Design
Hi! My name is Natalie Behling, and I am a sucker for a good story. Whether I be filling the role of designer, photographer, videographer, social media content creator, or something in between, I try my best to seek out new, engaging, and possibly-overlooked perspectives that go beyond the mainstream. As a senior studying Visual Communication Design and Photography, I have had incredible opportunities through classes and extracurriculars to improve my craft as a visual storyteller. Some of my fondest memories from my time at Notre Dame include shooting student and sporting events as a yearbook photographer, collaborating with peers on a diverse range of creative projects, and pioneering and completing a design thesis. While my time as an undergraduate ended unexpectedly, my four years at Notre Dame have been integral in my development as a driven, tenacious and socially-conscious visual communicator. I cannot thank my professors, advisors, mentors, peers, and friends enough.
During the Spring of 2019, I had the opportunity to take Professor Verma’s Social Design class. The course focused on using research methods, community partnerships, and design thinking to respond to homelessness in South Bend. Students were tasked with implementing a design intervention that addressed South Bend’s homeless community. After weeks of research, community interviews, and brainstorming, Marta Brown ‘19, Lisa von Werder ‘20 and I created WeaveGiveLove.
Rooted in the power of blankets as both objects of warmth and comfort and symbols of embrace and connection, WeaveGiveLove is an event format that involves making customized fleece tie blankets alongside homelessness individuals. At WeaveGiveLove events, volunteers and homeless individuals work together to make blankets for the participating homeless individuals to keep once the event is over. With research revealing that homelessness often emerges from the lack of a supportive social network, WeaveGiveLove was designed to foster connections, community empowerment, and empathy among participants. The blankets exist as a physical reminder for those who receive them that they are valued, seen, heard, and loved.
For my thesis, I decided to scale up WeaveGiveLove in hopes that it could be embraced in communities beyond South Bend. In expanding its reach, however, I was determined to keep the core tenets of the initiative intact. With this in mind, I rebranded the initiative and designed comprehensive instructional materials that could be used to plan and run a WeaveGiveLove event. Additionally, I was able to user-test the how-to cards at a WeaveGiveLove event that I hosted at Hope Ministries, one of the original South Bend community partners that Marta, Lisa and I worked within our Social Design class. It is my hope that, through rebranding the initiative and designing instructional materials that outline its purpose and process, WeaveGiveLove becomes more equipped to become a positive force for good in other communities across the country.