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The VCFA MFA in Graphic Design Program Blog

Litter Letter Project by Rachael Hatley

January 20, 2015

Rachael Hatley, VCFA Alumnae shares about the GD MFA thesis, The Litter Letter Project and its exponential growth after graduating.

The Litter Letter Project exists to inspire community collaboration, be used as a tool for behavioral change while addressing our global litter problem. A 3D messaging system of letters constructed from chicken wire and rebar, filled with litter collected from the roads and highways. By displaying these large scale visual messages in public places the hope is to provoke response, thought and action. The Litter Letter Project is a way to begin the conversation.

The Litter Letter Project – Rachael Hatley

I created the Litter Letter Project for my MFA thesis at Vermont College of Fine Arts with my main focus and research centered around using graphic design as a tool for behavioral change. This began as my personal response to the litter collected daily in front of my property along the highway in Louisiana. In 2012 I created a series of prototypes to test the idea of using the litter as the message. During my third semester at VCFA and following several community workshops I applied for and received a generous grant from Keep Louisiana Beautiful. (affiliated with Keep America Beautiful). Together as a community we created 6ft tall litter letter words (PRIDE, THINK, RESPECT, WHY?) that were displayed in several locations around Washington Parish, Louisiana throughout 2013.

The Litter Letter Project installed in Louisiana

The Litter Letter Project installed in Louisiana

The Litter Letter Project installed in Louisiana

The Litter Letter Project installed in Louisiana

Since graduation I have expanded The Litter Letter Project into other places across the US consulting with many organizations helping them create their own version of the project. Keep Sevier Beautiful in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee created their own 6ft tall WHY letters as part of their litter awareness month. Keep Phoenix Beautiful incorporated The Litter Letter Project into the day of action for day 3 of the Clinton Global Initiative University conference. Colorful letters filled with recycled materials were created for the PHXRENEWS site in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. 6th Avenue Corridor/Keep Iowa Beautiful created the words THINK, HOPE and CARE in Des Moines, Iowa and The Cultural Alliance of York County partnered with the community of York, Pennsylvania to create an amazing CHANGE. Most recently students from The University of Lafayette, Louisiana created the largest Litter Letters made to date. Standing at 8 feet tall and including a hashtag they became part of Project Frontyard, an initiative combining the efforts of local government and organizations to address the litter issue.


The Litter Letter Project- Rachael Hatley

Litter Letter Process in Arizona


Litter Letter Project in Phoenix, Arizona

Litter Letter Project in Arizona

The project continues to grow and I am currently consulting with people and organizations in Texas, California, New Hampshire, Romania, Philippines and Australia as they plan their own versions of the idea. This work has been and continues to be a labor of love. Collaborating with so many people locally, nationally and now internationally to address this global issue is powerful and life-changing.

What began as a conversation about typography and litter in College Hall in Montpelier, VT in 2012 has now touched the lives of hundreds of people. I continue to be grateful for the inspiration and guidance of faculty members Bethany Koby and Silas Munro, fellow alumni Leslie Tane, and the VCFA community that supported me in this endeavor.