Pittsburgh JET Alumni Association

tags: user research, logo design, illustration (digital and hand-drawn), participatory design

I'm the president and designer of the Pittsburgh JET Alumni Association. I've had the chance to do graphic design and user research activities.

About the JET Program This is a program run by the Japanese government. Through it, college graduates from 40+ countries spend 1-5 years serving as grassroots international ambassadors and English/ESL teachers in public schools across (primarily) rural and suburban Japan. I lived in Tokushima Prefecture on the island of Shikoku from 2005 to 2007, teaching elementary/junior high/adult community English classes, and it completely changed the course of my life.

About JETAA JETAA serves as a resource for returnees, aiding with readjusting after coming home, finding jobs, and maintaining a connection to Japan. There are JETAA chapters and subchapters worldwide. The Pittsburgh subchapter is small and close-knit, and we strive to use our size to our advantage as we welcome returnees, JET applicants, and those with other connections to Japan.

JETAA Pittsburgh logo image

JETAA Pittsburgh wordmark

USJETAA: facilitating a brainstorming session



As part of a mentorship program, representatives from DC came to Pittsburgh to strategize about how to jumpstart our group. I facilitated several activities to identify priorities for our group.

"Statement Starters" activity A LUMA activity: everyone wrote down actionable questions that started with, "How can we...", "In what ways might we...", etc. We had over 50 post-it-notes.

Affinity Diagramming Synthesizing the Statement Starters results. Some overarching themes:

  • Who is JETAA Pittsburgh? New JET alumni, prospective and current JETs, hard-to-reach alumni
  • Outreach and partnership: partnering with local organizations (Japanese and otherwise), helping the community
  • Branding: Logo and mission statement
  • Other JETAA chapters: Connecting with major chapters, leveraging their resources and offering our own
JETAA Pittsburgh and USJETAA members working on Statement Starters

Starting to affinitize our Statement Starters findings

Logo and identity design



This was a totally collaborative effort. I first polled the group for images related to Pittsburgh and to Japan that were meaningful to them.

Among the results for Pittsburgh:

  • three rivers
  • bridges

And for Japan:

  • hinomaru
  • torii
  • cherry blossoms
  • Mt. Fuji
  • kimono

Sketches, round 1: general investigations of pairing different elements with each other. I introduced several Pittsburgh landmarks and Japanese images as well.

Initial JETAA Pittsburgh logo concept sketches

Sketches, round 2: a revised round on several of the concepts. The JETAA Pittsburgh community voted on these.

Top to bottom, left to right:

  • three rivers and hinomaru
  • torii and Sister Bridge
  • cherry blossom branch and three rivers
  • Fort Pitt Bridge and torii (based off a Hokusai woodblock image)
  • sacred camphor tree and three rivers
  • Mt. Fuji and three rivers (based off a Hokusai woodblock image)
  • Mt. Fuji and Sister Bridge (based off a Hokusai woodblock image)
  • Mt. Fuji and Sister Bridge
Refined JETAA Pittsburgh logo sketches

Digital mockups of 4 ideas:

  • hinomaru x three rivers (2 variations on river line weight)
  • Sister Bridge x torii
  • Cherry blossom x three rivers (2 variations on branch thickness)
  • Sister Bridge x Mt. Fuji (based off a Hokusai woodblock image)
  • Mt. Fuji overlooking the three rivers
  • Mt. Fuji behind a Sister Bridge

These were done in Sketch.

Hinomaru x three rivers: 2 variants Sister Bridge x torii (sorry for the blurriness; I can't find the source file and haven't gotten to re-create it yet!) :( Cherry blossom x three rivers: 2 variants Sister Bridge x Mt. Fuji (with the PPG Building), based off a Hokusai woodblock image Mt. Fuji overlooking the three rivers, based off a Hokusai woodblock image Stylized Mt. Fuji behind a Sister Bridge

The community voted on the above. Two images came out as clear winners, but I made an executive choice to go with this one!

(Second place was the cherry blossom/3-rivers mash-up. I plan to use that as secondary imagery wherever possible.)

JETAA Pittsburgh wordmark

Ongoing lightweight user research



We're heavily Facebook-based (out of necessity). Our group has 100+ members, but only ~40 view our posts and <20 interact with them.

In lieu of doing a heavy member survey, I'm striving to get lightweight feedback via posting lightweight polls every few weeks, either via Facebook or Google Forms. So far I've asked about post content and frequency. I've used a combination of Likert scales, multiple choice, and free-text areas.

In the future I intend to get into engagement via gauging people's personal circumstances (where they live, whether they have kids, what they hope to get out of the Facebook group and of JETAA in general).

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Pittsburgh JET Alumni Association
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