2017 BFA graduates Hannah Decker and Adam Rallison share their experiences with fundraising project Australi-Aid
In times of crisis, grief and fear, a quote by Fred Rogers tends to make the rounds on social media: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
As news of the devastating fires in Australia continued to roll in, this message resonated with BYU graphic design alum Hannah Decker — but in her apartment on the other side of the world, she wasn’t sure how to be a helper.
“I remember sitting there reading the news and feeling an overwhelming sense of loss and sadness and just wishing there was something I could do,” said Decker. “I didn’t have tons of money I could donate, and it’s not like I could just jump on a plane and go take care of all the animals like I wanted to. I remember praying, saying ‘Heavenly Father, if there’s something that I can do that would help, please guide me to that.’”
It didn’t take long for Decker to realize she had two powerful resources available to her — her own professional skills and those of her fellow designers, including a network of talented peers from her time in the BYU Department of Design. She began to reach out to designers who she knew either personally or by work she admired, planting the seeds for Australi-Aid, a fundraising project that would soon expand beyond anything Decker had planned or imagined.
“I had this idea to get a bunch of different artists to design postcards, and we could make money that way,” said Decker. “I started messaging people on Instagram, asking if they would be interested in contributing a postcard. I wasn’t expecting many people to respond, but I had to at least try. A surprising amount of people reached out — I think a lot of people had been feeling just as helpless as I did, and this was a platform for us to share how we were feeling through our artwork.”
This was certainly the case for Adam Rallison, who had kept in touch with Decker since their 2017 BYU graduation.
“I have a lot of friends in Australia, and I was heartbroken over the things they were posting online,” he said. “The pictures were just so visceral too. The fires weren’t affecting me personally in my day-to-day life, but they were really affecting me emotionally and mentally. When Hannah sent out this message to our design BFA group, I dove in with both feet. I was so taken with the idea.”
In addition to designing three postcards, Rallison stepped up to help Decker create a promotional video — along with Founder Music scriptwriter and composer Christian Pulfer and motion graphics artist Cameron Pinegar — and continue to contact artists, some of whom they had studied and aspired to emulate for many years.
“In a way, it kind of felt like sending a message to LeBron James, saying ‘hey, do you want to come play basketball with us?’” said Rallison. “These people are celebrities and legends in our field, but they were all so supportive — a lot of them even contributed a postcard. It was astounding to see the library of work that came out of this.”
As Decker’s Australi-Aid branding and website launched and postcards started to come in from designers around the country — including nearly two dozen BYU alums — she was struck by the variety in artistic approaches to the crisis.
“I used bright, happy colors on my postcards,” said Decker. “A lot of our artists put a positive spin on their designs, but others gave us more literal depictions of what’s been happening. One of them I can hardly look at, because it makes me want to cry every time I see it. It’s very moving.”
In addition to the proceeds from postcard sales, the website also allowed visitors to donate without purchasing a postcard.
“With everything else going on in the world, we don’t want people to forget about Australia,” said Rallison. “There’s still so much left to do and a lot of rebuilding that needs to happen there — the fires only recently went out.”
While a nonprofit project — especially one of this scope — was well outside of Decker’s comfort zone, she has felt continually strengthened by the efforts of those around her and their willingness to support and build upon her vision.
“The most rewarding aspect of this project has been knowing that I’ve done something as well as enabled other people to do something,” she said. “It’s really easy to feel helpless with all the troublesome things happening in our world, but every time I get a notification that someone has ordered a silly little postcard, I know that I’m helping.”
Both Decker and Rallison credit their former professors in the Department of Design with helping them develop not only the technical skills that allowed them to take on a project like this, but also the mindset that prompted them to want to help in the first place.
“All of our professors were unified in their approach to design, but the significance of what they were saying didn’t click into place until my senior year,” said Rallison. “Yes, it’s important for us to learn and master design, but at the end of the day, it’s just your living. What’s more important is how you’re living. I remember having so many talks with Adrian Pulfer about the good that people are doing in the world and how we can use our skills to contribute to that.”
Pulfer — who is from Australia — was one of the first people Decker thought of when she initially heard about the fires.
“Adrian always talked about nature and the beauty of the planet that God created for us, so I knew he must be devastated,” said Decker. “I also remembered him saying that you can go on and be some famous designer, but the things that are going to be most meaningful for you are when you can take your talents for design and use them for good. He challenged me to use design to do something that was bigger than me. This was it.”
Decker hopes that the project inspires others to not just “look for the helpers” in dark times, but to step into the role themselves.
“I hope that people find courage from this project,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who you are — you can make a difference. There are so many ways you can give that don’t include money. All you need is an idea. I hope people see that they are important and needed and that the decisions they make matter.”
“I’m a firm believer in kindness and generosity,” added Rallison. “Those are the things that anchor us to the best parts of humanity. When things start to go sideways and people start panicking, we can sometimes forget to look out for each other and think beyond ourselves — but no matter what challenge we’re up against, we can find a way through it. Humankind has been through world wars and horrible pandemics and so many awful things, but we’ve been resilient through it all. We just need to be kind, rely on each other and be generous with whatever we can offer.”
Australi-Aid Postcard and Video Contributors:
Amanda Jane Jones
Andy J. Pizza
Fanny Luor and Sean Suchara
Jane and Kolya Shukan
Jennifer Orkin Lewis