Barrett Martin headshot

Alumni spotlight: Barrett Martin

It might not be obvious to her clients but Barrett Martin (BA International Studies ‘12/H&S) uses her minor in anthropology in every aspect of her work as a freelance design strategist and researcher. Barrett first pursued a degree in communications arts until her junior year when she realized she was craving additional skills that would give her a window into “how people think and how we collectively work together to solve problems.” Barrett’s pivoting to international studies and anthropology proved invaluable, as she frequently relies upon the fundamentals in research and theory that she developed in these disciplines, particularly her anthropological studies.

Barrett’s work experience has ranged from curriculum development and teaching soccer in South Africa to e-communications and social media for a civic tech company. That spectrum of experience helped her realize her real passions—projects that have a particular focus on “the lives of human beings and why we do certain things and how we can find the best ways to achieve our goals.” Some of her most recent clients, various health and human services organizations, give her an opportunity to give back to the community. “I enjoy the idea that my work performs a social good.”

When beginning a new project, Barrett observes, asks questions, performs research and records her findings with the end goal of finding a specific solution to the client’s challenge. She has a creative approach and commits herself to rethinking established ways of communicating. As she considers the development of an application, website or print piece, Barrett frequently finds insight from seemingly unrelated experiences. For instance, in developing a proposal for a client on health education and teens, Barrett used analogous research on individuals’ use of word-of-mouth referrals for scenarios like considering a new hair stylist to gain insight into the mindset of teens seeking out sex-health information from their peers. Using her research, observations and notes from her discussions with stakeholders in the project, Barrett and her team members offer insights and make recommendations for possible solutions or actions that will advance the mission, cause or purpose of the organization.

Whether she is working on an educational campaign for a national nonprofit or providing outreach advice to a local farmer’s market, Barrett is making change happen for those lucky enough to work with her. The information and insightful content packaged in smart design that she delivers is giving her clients a fresh perspective on their day-to-day challenges. “VCU gave me the critical skills to merge design and research.” Barrett is leveraging those skills to open channels of communication between diverse groups of people for social good.


Written by Caitlin Hanbury