Alumni and SoPA employees use design to defend human rights

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AJ Durand, Tulane Class of 2023

AJ Durand is an award-winning designer who wants to make a difference in society, about to graduate with a BA in Interactive UX/UI Design from the School of Professional Advancement.

Early in his research, AJ Durand learned how to use digital design to find solutions to social problems.

Durand’s trajectory from the everyday world back to school is paved with a variety of experiences. He has been teaching yoga for nearly 20 years. He works under the moniker He Precious Ephemera and now he works as a media content developer in the Learning Design & Development Department at the School of Professional Advancement (SoPA).

This year he graduated from SoPA with a BA in Interactive UX/UI Design.

“As a minority representative, I started looking at design in a human rights-centric way,” he said.

At SoPA, he was tasked with creating projects that would provide “digital solutions to analog problems.” Durand thought about the dangers gendered people face in finding public restrooms. He created a cheeky-named phone application that rates public restrooms and points out whether they are accessible and safe for people who don’t consent to their gender.

“If you’re a cis person, the question is, ‘Will I be comfortable in this bathroom?’ But for many trans people, the question is, ‘Can I live in this toilet?’ That’s it,’ he said. “I thought this was a cool way to bring awareness to this issue.”

Durand’s work has already attracted attention. He has his six Addie Awards from the New Orleans Advertising Club. This includes his Mosaic Award for 2020. This award will feature the work of artists from diverse backgrounds in the app. He is the first recipient of his SoPA’s Alpha Sigma Lambda National Scholarship, and in May he will speak at SoPA’s commencement ceremony.

Returning to school at SoPA in his mid-thirties, Durand was surrounded by peers who juggled school, family and full-time work.

Studying with them in a program almost entirely led by women provided him with a unique experience.

“I am proud that this is my alma mater. I feel that I have contributed to the program as much as I have gained from it. I was.

This summer he will collaborate with the Austin Center for Design on his finest projects in design research and strategy.


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