NORMAL — Having a real downer of a day?

Spirits need a little lift skyward?

Instead of moping and/or popping something, consider a trip to the main floor of Illinois State University's Milner Library this weekend for a close encounter with "Hear Me Out" — an interactive exhibit featuring the art of graphic design as a vehicle for uplift.

The full title of the display spells it out, literally and figuratively: "Hear Me Out: A Collaborative Installation Between Design Students & You."

"You," meaning not only other students, but also members of the community at large.

Here's how to hear:

Visitors will be met by a peg board comprised of cards sporting large letters, hanging from hooks and detachable (use main library entrance, then turn left toward library cafe).

The cards spell out the phrase "Hear Me Out," in five rows of differing fonts.

Pick a letter, any letter, just like on "Wheel of Fortune."

But instead of the bait of material reward, the payback here is more ennobling: Each letter is inscribed with words of uplift meant to get you through the day at hand, or the week in progress, or anything beyond.

The words might be in the form of a quote, a phrase or a song lyric.

Such as: "Take your time, don't live too fast. Troubles comes, they will pass," from Shinedown's "Simple Man."

Or: "Every little thing is gonna BE ALRIGHT," from an uncredited Bob Marley song.

It's not over with that lyrical vote of confidence, though; there's a quid pro quo involved.

Next to the board is a bin of detached letters.

Take one that corresponds to the one you removed from the board.

Then inscribe it with a positive phrase, quote or song lyric of your own choosing, and attach it to the board.

"The goal of this piece," says Alice J. Lee, the assistant professor of graphic design at ISU whose class created the installation, "is to engage the community with a positive message."

And more: "It not only asks for viewers to observe, but also to interact by adding their own positive message."

 "We say ... you say ... all of us listen."

Beyond generating the positive vibe, the chief goal for the 15 students in her special topics design class was "to explore, as a collaborative collective, new ways that graphic design can engage the community ... to show that it does more than make things pretty or sell things. It's not just logos and business cards."

Milner Library is an ideal location for the project, per its function as a hub for students and the community, says Lee.

The challenge posed to her students was: How could they create an interactive, typographic-based installation that would "not only look cool, but engage?"

Each student was allowed to pitch an idea, with the group voting on the best. The winner was senior Amanda Hopkins, who came up with the "Hear Me Out" concept.

"Her idea was the notion that a song lyric can get stuck in your head and be the right thing to hear for a bad moment in life," says Lee. "The idea of using music excited all the students ... that really got them started."

From that premise, "Hear Me Out" moved forward with five teams of three students handling printing, design, installation, instructions and promotion.

Lee and her class have been gratified by the response through the run of the monthlong exhibit, which continues Thursday through Monday during regular library hours.

"I think sometimes people feel a little intimidated to approach something like this ... maybe feel a little removed from touching or getting so close to an exhibit," Lee says.

Once that barrier is breached, though, full engaging contact is usually made, witness the number of letters than have been taken and replaced thus far.

"If this has brightened someone's day or let them know they are not alone during a difficult time," says Lee, "I'd be happy to hear that." 

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