Edition #2

2024 ++
Tasmim Index

Edition #1


  1. Kind Project
  2. Counter/Ex/Un/Edit
  3. Snap, Snap, Sizzle
  4. Hello Departures Awards
  5. I Exist in the Future
  6. Talk Series
  7. In Good Company

Hello Departures is an ever-evolving experimental program at the intersection of design pedagogy, strategy, and community that provokes uplifting possibilities.

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4. Hello Departures Awards

As a commitment to a more diverse and equitable future of design, Hello Departures distributed $6000 grants to undergraduate and graduate design students from minoritized communities who are pursuing initiatives that build an equitable design practice. 

Proposals were reviewed by Shreyas R. Krishnan (Washington University), Alan Caballero LaZare (George Mason University), Lisa Maione (Kansas City Art Institute) and Jude Agboada (Weber State University). The recipients of the Hello Departures Awards were Zee Leonard (Portland State University) and Michel Flores Tavizón (University of Texas Rio Grande Valley). 

This page will be updated with the projects that received funding.

Bienvenido a Brownsville, Texas by Michel Flores Tavizón

In recent years, the US has witnessed an influx of asylum seekers arriving at the Southern border in search of safety. The Gateway International Bridge, located at the intersection of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas, is a critical Port of Entry (POE) that serves as a pivotal milestone for asylum seekers immigrating to the US via Texas. Despite the existence of multiple POEs, the Gateway International Bridge has consistently proven to be a particularly busy crossing point for migrant individuals and families seeking legal status on humanitarian grounds. In October 2020, the US Government attempted to streamline the application process by launching CBP One, a smart phone app that would theoretically allow migrants to apply for humanitarian parole prior to arriving at a POE. The reality is that CBP One, to this day, has served as an additional barrier for migrants attempting to request asylum in the US. Migrants who are able to secure an appointment, considered the “lucky ones,” present themselves for processing at a predetermined POE, and upon passing a national security and public safety check, migrants are released to the US with only legal paperwork and luggage in hand, and sometimes, that is nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

Contrary to popular narratives, most incoming migrants are driven by violence and persecution to flee their home countries. As arduous as the journey to the US-Mexico border is, legally crossing onto US soil is only the first step for those seeking to settle within its borders. In addition to the legal challenges ahead of them, migrants must navigate yet another foreign land the moment they set foot in the US. Those crossing via the Gateway International Bridge end up in Downtown Brownsville, an area that’s home to a mixture of humble shops, dilapidated buildings, and gentrified businesses. This experience of suddenly arriving to an unknown environment with little-to-no knowledge about available local resources, coupled with the fact that most of the legal documents received are in English only, often leaves migrants with many questions and a sense of anxiety.

In response, a resource booklet was created, printed, and distributed to asylum seekers in Downtown Brownsville with generous support and funding from the University of Arkansas’s Hello Departure grant. This guide aims to welcome and assist incoming migrants as they get acquainted with the country and continue traveling to their final destinations. Currently, the booklet is available in Spanish, the primary language of most arriving migrants. Most material compiled in this booklet can be found online; however, much of it is in English, and not all migrants have reliable access to electronic devices, social media, and/or internet. While local organizations do their best to provide group orientations in Spanish, it is common for arriving migrants to experience information overload, a mental state that makes it hard to process additional information particularly due to shock and the residual effects of trauma. It was therefore vital to create a tangible object migrants can keep and refer to when they need to. The intention of this booklet is to make pivotal information accessible and easy to digest.

This project was done in collaboration with Licensed Master Social Worker Martha Lucía Mercado, former Program Director at Good Neighbor Settlement House (“Good Neighbor”). Good Neighbor is a local non-profit that has provided essential services, supplies, and street outreach to low-income and unhoused community members since 1953. Good Neighbor expanded its services to include migrant services in 2018, and eventually, the Migrant Welcome Center was opened with support from the City of Brownsville. The Welcome Center is located within walking distance from the Gateway International Bridge where hundreds of migrants cross on a daily basis. The Welcome Center welcomes incoming migrants with dignity and offers humanitarian aid in the form of food, hygiene supplies, and other basic needs.

During her time at Good Neighbor, Martha was also the facilitator of the Rio Grande Valley Welcoming Committee, a coalition of migrant-serving organizations across the Rio Grande Valley and the corresponding Mexican border cities of Matamoros and Reynosa. Given her knowledge of local resources and history working with migrants, Martha’s assistance in curating the booklet’s content was paramount.

Martha and I had been following each other on social media but have spoken in person once or twice. At the end of 2022, I received a direct message from her, asking to meet along with other artist and designer friends. She invited us to visit her workplace, the Welcome Center, after closing hours to discuss a potential project. That’s when I got educated on the situation with incoming migrants, the numbers the center received on a daily basis and the struggles they face. Martha wanted to liven up the space with art and design, whether it was painting a mural, making banners, or designing posters. She talked about lack of information accessibility and mentioned her idea of designing brochures that included a map of the downtown area. This meeting happened during a busy time for everyone involved and eventually led to nothing. A month or so went by and I saw the call for proposals for the Hello Departure grant. I immediately reached out to Martha and told her I wanted to design a booklet tailored for incoming migrants. We worked on the proposal that led to the creation of this project.

This thirteen-spread guide includes descriptions of local resources, maps, and tips to navigate the city. The cover welcomes the reader to Brownsville, Texas (Figure 1). It was originally titled “Bienvenido a los Estados Unidos” (Welcome to the United States) but it was changed as the information inside is specific to Brownsville. Additionally, it helps recently arrived migrants get familiarized with the name of the town since some of them barely know or remember the name of the city. These booklets were designed and printed in black and white, for cost efficiency, on ivory colored paper to resemble the Yellow Pages. They are meant to be passed around between migrants and, therefore, long-lasting. The back cover includes a message encouraging the reader to pass the booklet along to someone else who might need it rather than discarding it (Figure 2). These guides attempt to balance illustration and typography in order to not overwhelm the reader with pages full of text. The visuals complement the written content with selected sans serif fonts for easier readability.

Figure 1 & 2. Cover and backcover.

When you open the booklet, the first spread contains a table of contents, a short description of the project, background information on Brownsville, and a small section highlighting the creators (Figure 3). On the second spread, a map of the US can be found along with a table that alphabetically lists all fifty states with their respective capital and abbreviation (Figure 4). There’s a disclaimer for Hawaii and Alaska that informs the reader that flying is required to reach these territories. This map is convenient for migrants that plan to travel as many migrants have family members, friends, or pre-arranged accommodations waiting for them in different parts of the country. The map allows them to visualize distances between states and helps make better-informed decisions when choosing to travel via airplane or bus.

Figure 3 & 4. Spread #1 & #2.

Following the US map, the guide also includes a full spread map of Brownsville’s downtown area (Figure 5), where a sizable number of asylum seekers can be found roaming after being released from US custody. A couple of the local resources are located in this zone and marked with a numbered pin. The next spread lists these resources, as well as affordable restaurant recommendations, including brief descriptions, hours of operation, and contact information (Figure 6). Some of the relevant places highlighted are the Welcome Center, Good Neighbor’s main campus, La Plaza bus station, and a plaza with multiple casas de cambio, where people can exchange currencies such as Mexican pesos to American dollars and vice versa.

Figure 5 & 6. Spread #3 & #4.

When coming in possession of American cash, migrants regularly get overwhelmed by the change of currency. Although bills are straightforward with the value’s number printed on the corners, coins are trickier to understand. The US has one, five, ten, and twenty-five cent coins, each with a respective name: penny, nickel, dime, and quarter. In some countries cents are uncommon or obsolete, therefore migrants are often confused when coming across them. A spread with labeled illustrations of American bills and coins was added to further assist the reader identify the value of the cash they encounter (Figure 7).

As mentioned earlier, a large portion of asylum seekers already have pre-arranged accommodations waiting for them, making Brownsville just a temporary stop. The guide shares handy traveling tips and information that can assist them as they plan the journey to their final destinations. For travel by air, three airports are listed, all located within the four counties making up the South Texas region also known as the Rio Grande Valley (RGV). These counties include Cameron, Starr, Hidalgo, and Willacy. Website links where migrants can seek and purchase tickets are also provided, followed by a list of pros and cons to educate them on the advantages and disadvantages of flying. This spread also contains an explanation of the 3-1-1 Rule, which indicates the liquid restrictions when traveling on an airplane (Figure 8).

Figure 7 & 8. Spread #5 & #6.

For those who prefer taking a bus, the names and websites of the companies found in Brownsville’s La Plaza Terminal are listed followed by a breakdown of pros and cons (Figure 9). Critical travel recommendations and reminders are provided, such as insight on checkpoints and the necessary documentation they must carry at all times to validate their legal status. While some asylum seekers are ready to travel to their final destinations, many stay behind while they sort out their plans. Information on local resources such as the Good Neighbor, Team Brownsville, the Welcome Center, Iglesia Bautista West Brownsville, and more are included along with pictures for easier recognition (Figures 10 & 11). Most of these places are in the downtown area and pointed out on the map. Good Neighbor’s main campus offers access to hot meals and showers at certain times of the day. A breakdown of the available services and respective schedules are listed. Team Brownsville, another non-profit organization, operates the Welcome Center on weekends. Similar to Good Neighbor’s weekday services, Team Brownsville volunteers welcome asylum seekers with food, water, clothes, personal hygiene items, and basic legal information. Iglesia Bautista West Brownsville, a congregation led by Pastor Carlos Navarro, works alongside Good Neighbor and Team Brownsville to serve migrants. While their capacity at the Welcome Center is limited, the church is open for anyone that needs help with supplies or a place to stay. This practical list allows migrants to be informed of the local resources available and the organizations that provide basic services at no cost.

Figure 9 & 10. Spread #7 & #8.

Figure 11. Spread #9.

The guide also has a section on local options for ground transportation, highlighting three main ways to navigate the RGV: bus, taxi, and app-based services like Uber and Lyft. Available public transportation includes two bus lines, both of which depart from La Plaza Terminal. B-Metro has limited stops within the city of Brownsville, while Valley Metro extends to the larger RGV region. Information about fares, days of operation, and pros and cons are included followed by suggested routes that might be useful. Website links to both B-Metro and Valley Metro are provided to check out the rest of the routes, as well as QR codes for those who own a smartphone and wish to download the Ride Systems app that provides live bus tracking (Figure 12). The next spread contains information on reliable taxi services, a pros and cons list, and a general description of the dynamics for this mode of transportation as migrants are often targeted for scams. This section aims to make them knowledgeable of the process of requesting and paying for a cab. It’s important for migrants to know that payment is required per trip not per person in the car, and it is highly recommended to ask for a fare estimate first. Another option available to those with a smartphone is utilizing an rideshare app such as Uber and Lyft. QR codes for both iPhone and Android are included along with an explanation on how these apps work (Figure 13).

Figure 12 & 13. Spread #10 & #11.

On the second to last spread, miscellaneous information is provided, such as how to send money through companies like Western Union and MoneyGram and how to acquire a prepaid card for online purchases (Figure 14). It also includes a brief description of Counselors Without Borders, a local organization that offers emotional support to migrants. This guide wouldn’t be complete without incorporating a “Know Your Rights” section. Although this type of information is more widely available, this booklet emphasizes three main resources migrants should be familiar with. Lastly, a blank, lined spread was added to give asylum seekers a space to write down any notes on new and beneficial information they discover on their journey (Figure 15).

Figure 14 & 15. Spread #12 & #13.

Content for this guide was originally compiled and curated in English as the majority of information available was written in this language. Once the copy was finalized, it was translated to Spanish and laid out on Adobe InDesign. A mix of softwares was used for the illustrations; some were done on Procreate and later vectorized on Adobe Illustrator using the Image Trace tool. For the illustrations on the spread discussing American currency, Adobe Photoshop’s threshold tool was utilized to create a black and white image with a balanced contrast. These were also vectorized on Illustrator to allow the ability of resizing without pixelating. After months of working on the guide, a few samples were printed. For this project, the guides were printed by Staples. Since Brownsville has limited options for printing services, Staples is the go-to for local businesses, professionals, and students. The idea of printing through an online business was considered; however, printing locally made the process smoother and provided a quicker turnaround time. The first couple of samples were ordered with ivory colored paper of different weights (20 lbs and 110 lbs) to compare thickness. The booklet printed on 110 lbs paper was too thick to close properly; therefore, the 20 lbs paper was the best option as it made the guide lighter and easier to carry around. These samples were practical to review design concerns such as the quality of images and size of font, as well as finding spelling and grammar errors.

In the Spanish language, there’s a formal tone and an informal one. When revising for consistency in the tone, a mix of both were found. Some parts of the guide were translated using formal language since it’s seen as a form of respect. Ultimately, we opted to exclusively use informal language. This decision was made because most of the official paperwork migrants receive from Border Patrol and other governmental agencies utilize a formal tone that comes off as alienating. The informal tone was identified as a more welcoming and less dehumanizing approach since it is commonly applied among friends. This choice was in line with our goal of making asylum seekers feel welcomed and accepted. Once all necessary edits were made, an order for more than twelve hundred booklets was placed. After a quick visit to Staples to approve proofs (Figure 16), all the guides were printed and delivered within a couple of business days.

Figure 16. Proofs of final draft.

As soon as we picked up the finished guides, Martha and I planned our visit to the Welcome Center. We delivered three boxes full of booklets to volunteers from Team Brownsville and Iglesia Bautista West Brownsville (Figure 17). As incoming asylum seekers line up for services, volunteers review their paperwork, collect basic information, and hand back the documents with an envelope. Volunteers were instructed to include the guides in the envelopes (Figure 18) and asked to limit booklets to one per individual, family, or group. Since we visited on a weekend, Good Neighbor staff were not present; in response, Martha contacted them to advise them of our delivery and provide instructions for distribution. Before concluding our visit, Martha and I walked around the area to meet migrants and hand out some copies. Not even five minutes had passed when we met a woman who asked us for the name of the city. We asked what her final destination was, and she responded, “Louisiana.” After explaining we were in Brownsville, Texas, we showed her the spread with the map of the US and let her know of Louisiana’s proximity. Witnessing our guides being helpful was a full circle moment for us.

Figure 17. Martha Mercado during delivery of the guides.

Figure 18. Martha Mercado inserting a guide in an envelope given to incoming migrants.

The overall aim of this project was to show migrants that their struggles and efforts do not go unnoticed–to remind them there’s people out there rooting for them. These guides are a resource meant to help migrants facilitate travel to their long-awaited destinations within the US. This initiative could not have happened without the guidance and supervision of Martha, a passionate social worker dedicated to the cause of immigration. I would also like to thank my sister, Melissa Flores Tavizón, who showed her support by translating and revising early drafts. These guides are the end result of collaborative efforts, determination, and compassion for asylum seekers.

Michel Flores Tavizón is a Mexican artivist and graphic design that uses printmaking as well as her background in design to reflect her cultural-identity and promote collaborative activism along the Matamoros-Brownsville border. Living in a border town, issues like migration and the border wall are part of her everyday political environment where she explores these topics, the process of Americanization and sense of belonging. The phrase “ni de aquí ni de allá” (neither here nor there) as well as Gloria Anzaldua’s concept of “nepantla”, a Nehualtl word meaning existing in-between worlds, are graphically represented within her art. Flores Tavizón was invited and recently completed collaborations with organizations like Planned Parenthood South Texas and Trucha Rio Grade Valley (RGV), an independent multimedia platform dedicated to the movements and culture of the RGV. Flores Tavizón received her BFA in Art with a concentration on Graphic Design from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in 2021 and is currently pursuing her MFA in Design. During her undergrad, she won several student graphic design awards from organizations like the American Advertising Federation, Texas Intercollegiate Press Association and United Design Association for her client-centered design work as well as editorial work done for UTRGV’s Pulse Magazine.