TAMU-CC Graphic Design Students Partner with The Purple Door to Tackle Unhealthy Societal Norms

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – For many, art can be a non-threatening way to connect its audience with difficult emotions or controversial topics, all while encouraging the viewer to take a deeper look into their own beliefs, ideals, and perspectives.

To address the topic of hypermasculinity, which can range from rigid gender roles and sexist humor to more harmful behaviors, such as sexual harassment, domestic violence, and sexual assault, a group of graphic design majors at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has developed a visual arts campaign to spur conversation that will hopefully bring change and understanding.

Under the direction of TAMU-CC Assistant Professor of Graphic Design Andrea Hempstead and in collaboration with The Purple Door, Island University graphic design students in the Typography II class created “Out of Character,” which is on display at K Space Contemporary in downtown Corpus Christi. The exhibit runs from Nov. 18 through Dec. 18 and will be on display during the Holiday ArtWalk event on Friday, Dec. 3.

Hypermasculinity and harmful masculine norms decree that obtaining a male image means rejecting anything to be considered feminine. That attitude can make up an inaccurate notion that masculinity is superior to femininity, according to Nora Bransom, Digital Educator with The Purple Door.

“Unfortunately, our community experiences domestic violence due to these pervasive harmful norms,” Bransom said. “Our hope is that, through this exhibition, more of the community will begin to challenge their own beliefs about gender norms as well as challenge their friends and families. The more aware we become, the more change we can make.”

In preparation for this exhibit, staff from The Purple Door met virtually with the Islander student group to discuss how these detrimental norms contribute to a culture of violence; the experts combined research and personal stories to give student designers an in-depth look into how seemingly small actions can lead to violence.

Through the process, designers were encouraged to step out of their comfort zone while also prioritizing their own mental and emotional health.

The goal of my poster was to reveal that we are all human despite the labels these societal gender norms have appointed to us.

Richard Solis

“Islander students are the heart of the community, and it has been inspiring to watch them create these pieces,” Bransom said.

Along with awareness posters and messaging, students created augmented reality experiences to deepen the meaning of their posters and connect the audience to similar topics. Students also designed educational brochures that are used in the exhibition and by The Purple Door’s education team.

“I’m passionate about the idea that no one should have to suffer the effects of toxic masculinity, whether that be from a coworker, family member, or domestic partner,” graphic design major Mandy Espericueta ’23 said. “Through my art piece, I want men who have experienced this in their lives to know that there are people who can help and support them in their community. Too often, the importance of a man’s mental health is overlooked and brushed aside.”

Richard Solis ’25, a graduate student who is working on his Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, created and installed the exhibit’s typography.

“The goal of my poster was to reveal that we are all human despite the labels these societal gender norms have appointed to us,” Solis, who also works as a graphic designer in the TAMU-CC Division of Marketing and Communications, said.

Kylie Marchitello ’23, a junior graphic design major who is also pursuing a minor in public relations, said she hopes that the exhibition will lead every viewer to reflect and consider the issues presented in the images.

“I hope this exhibition communicates to people that their stories matter, whether you think someone hears you or not,” Marchitello said. “Whether you or someone you know that has been affected by harmful masculinity and social/gendered norms – it is okay to reach out for help. It is okay to feel emotions, and it is okay to break the stigma.”

The Purple Door provides free, confidential services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence in the Coastal Bend. The 24/7 hotline number is 361.881.8888.