Confused Herring

Confused Herring, 2013 

Dustin Thompson, Steve Bardolph, and Lisa Fitzpatrick 

Caught lake herring
Caught lake herring

Associate professor Steve Bardolph, graphic design graduate student Dustin Thompson and their design colleagues collaborated with scientists, local fishermen, restaurateurs, chefs, grocers, Minnesota Sea Grant, and the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) Visualization and Digital Imaging Lab (Viz Lab) to explore Lake Superior herring as a sustainable local food source culminating in two promotional videos.

Confused Herring Episode 1

Confused Herring Episode 2

Environmental science, research, and statistics traditionally don’t have strong outreach and communication with the general public. We wanted to create a targeted campaign—grounded in good research—that is engaging, informative, beautiful, and inspiring. Steve Bardolph’s MFA Graduate Seminar and Studio students Chenxi Jin and Dustin Thompson aligned with AIGA, the professional association for design, to implement “Design for Good,” a movement to ignite, accelerate, and amplify designdriven social change. Stepping out of the traditional classroom setting, we began to tackle the real world problem of changing public perception of a misunderstood, poorly marketed, underused, and underappreciated local resource, the Lake Superior herring, also known as the Cisco or Inland Tullibee. We built on the research and work of Minnesota Sea Grant in promoting sustainable fisheries, but with the unique skills, processes, and perspectives of graduate level designers who specialize in crafting stories for specific target audiences. Dr. Athelstan Spilhaus, Father of NOAA Sea Grant said, “Science is intellectual entertainment. But the entertaining part has been largely overlooked.” We intended to entertain and enlighten our community, after collaborating with and being informed by solid science and rich local knowledge and understanding. 

You can visit their website for more information at

You can read the grant at

Partnerships and Collaborations 

Wild herring swimming
Wild herring swimming

Steve Bardolph, Associate Professor of Art and Design (A&D) in the School of Fine Arts (SFA) at UMD coordinated an interdisciplinary team of faculty, staff, and graduate students, partnering with community stakeholders up and down the North Shore of Lake Superior to increase awareness and consumption of lake herring in our local community. Team members included:

Chenxi Jin, UMD Master of Fine Arts Graduate Student in Graphic Design
Dustin Thompson, UMD MFA Graduate Student in Graphic Design
Lisa Fitzpatrick, Director of the UMD Viz Lab
Jordan Cataldo, UMD Master of Environmental Health and Safety Graduate Student, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Jesse Schomberg, Program Leader, Coastal Communities and Land Use Extension Educator, Minnesota Sea Grant, UMD

Sharon Moen, Science Writer and Communications Director, MN Sea Grant, UMD

Jeffrey Gunderson, Director, MN Sea Grant, UMD (added to list after project commenced).

Steve Dahl (fisherman) and Avery Cassar (chef) were invaluable with their participation, interviews, and demonstrations in our videos.