Katherine Mueller, Assistant Professor, Temple University
I have volunteered my time and provided pro bono creative services since 2014 to Cocktails Against Cancer, a 501(c)3 organization that raises money to benefit quality-of-life programs for people battling cancer in the region. Each year I create a unique identity and promotional campaign for the annual event. The project generates awareness of the charity event, promotes ticket sales, and otherwise supports fund raising efforts. The scope of the project includes event naming, identity design, poster, flyer, webpage, organic and paid social media, press kit, sponsorship kit, program booklet, event signage, and various event decorative elements.
The significance of my impact may be judged by the many ways the event has thrived since I became involved. Attendance has increased by 45% since I assumed my role as creative director in 2014. Alongside my fellow board members, I have helped to elevate the event from a simple community center gymnasium, to the premier Loew’s Philadelphia Hotel, where it is held today. During this period, we have raised almost $70k for our beneficiaries.
Our efforts have an impact at the individual level in our community. The mission of the organization is to support quality-of-life programs for people and families battling cancer in the region. Raised funds are donated to three beneficiaries. At Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, every $500 sends a child with cancer to camp for a week; Our funds help provide healthy living classes and counseling programs at Cancer Support Community of Greater Philadelphia; And through Breathing Room Foundation, our funds help families pay their everyday bills, such as groceries and utilities.
The work I’ve produced for this annual project has been repeatedly peer reviewed and recognized for its importance and excellence. This body of work has garnered 14 juried awards, including a How International Design Award and Graphis Design Awards. Posters from the campaigns have exhibited internationally in juried exhibitions, showing in Italy, Spain, Netherlands, India, China, and the U.S. Most recently a poster showed in the AIGA Philadelphia Design Awards Exhibition. Alina Wheeler wrote a 400+ word case study on Cocktails Against Cancer for the current edition of her book, Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team, a best selling global resource for branding. In 2017, the branding project was awarded a grant from Temple University.
I am incredibly proud of this body of work, and the impact it has had. I am pleased to model for my students a productive pro bono relationship that includes both creative satisfaction and social impact. I am honored that Noopur Agarwal nominated the project for a Communication Design Educator Award in the category of service. Thank you to the jury for your time and consideration.
Kathy Mueller is an Assistant Professor at Temple University Klein College of Media & Communication, where she teaches courses related to art direction. She is an active member of the design community in Philadelphia and sustains an award-winning creative practice. She has volunteered on various committees with AIGA Philadelphia, and served a two-year term on the board as Programming Chair. Most recently she was a 2019 Design Incubation Fellow. She holds a MFA graphic and interactive design from Tyler School of Art & Architecture. Kathy’s creative work has been recognized in the ADC Annual, TDC Annual, How International, Print Regional, and appeared in Harper Design, Wiley, How Books, and Rockport publications.
Jonathan Hannan, Assistant Professor, Emily Carr University of Art + Design
Perspectives brings together Communication Design students and residents of long-term care homes, creating a platform for meaningful intergenerational exchange and social interaction through the co-design and co-creation of mini-publications that express residents’ stories through writing, photography and other art media.
It’s not uncommon for residents of long-term care homes to face issues of social isolation and diminishment of personal identity, with opportunities for genuine creative and personal expression being limited. Residents can feel like they no longer have anything to contribute, that their story has closed, they’re unchallenged which often leads to cognitive decline. Design students tend to have limited life experience and are unsure about what direction they want to take in life. Perspectives explores the benefits of a reciprocal relationship between the two, engaging participants in a mutual exchange of experiences.
First, students and residents engage in “Getting to Know Me” sessions, during which they share information about themselves and learn about the other participants. Students then design activities using the limited knowledge they have about residents to uncover stories and points of interest they can explore during the Content Generation sessions that follow. This series of student-designed Content Generation sessions include creative approaches such as; storytelling, games, quizzes, drawing and collage. These activities act as creative probes to generate thematic starting points for narrative analysis and conceptual development, with emphasis placed on the mutual participation of students and residents.
A common observation is that the design students take non-linear approaches to storytelling, with content generation topics ranging from the importance of respect, to opinions on sharks to activities that focus on residents dreams and future aspirations. This leads to a diverse range of publications, with one telling the detailed story of a resident’s life as an animal trainer for 1950s TV and film, another focused on residents’ preferences for sensations such as taste and smell, and a third, comic book publication in which residents were represented as superheroes.
Students take material generated in the sessions and create initial editorial designs to be taken back for residents to review. Residents express their preferences on concept, copy, layout, typography, colors and composition. Following the review, students create multiple copies for a final sharing session. In this session all participants engage in a storytelling and sharing activity, with individual groups deciding how to share what they have made together, which often results in students and residents sharing stories together. These sessions are often highly emotional, with much laughter, and some tears, from all parties. Multiple copies are given to residents to allow them share their story with other residents, their families and care staff.
In the summer of 2018, funding was awarded from the Centre for Aging Brain and Health Innovation (CABHI) for an observational research study to investigate the impact of the project upon residents. The study concluded that the experience was an overwhelmingly positive experience for both residents and students. One resident, when asked about what they gained by participating in the program, explained, “Another look at the younger generation, what is going on with them and to see that they are with us, there is no separation between the ages, we are all the same.”
Anecdotal feedback from the care staff told of how residents would share their stories with carers and physicians who were able to gain a better sense of the resident, which could ultimately inform their care. A concern when starting the project was the lasting impact on the residents once students had left. We discovered that the project connected residents in new ways, forming new connections and friendships, while many residents began to engage with other programs in the home, becoming more social. When interviewed following the completion of the project, one member of staff said, “it brought some of the residents more social engagement. There were a few residents that stay in the room all the time. So, one particular resident was coming to see you guys in the group and they love telling their story.”
The benefits of the project extended beyond just residents, with the benefits for students also visible. Students participating in the project are in their third year of a four-year degree program, possessing strong design skills, but lacking experience of using those skills beyond a classroom environment. In a post-project survey one student noted, “It was really incredible to be able to spend time with seniors in the way that we did. I think there’s something really special about the bond between elders/youth.”
It’s not uncommon for many students approaching their final year of university to have something of an existential crisis, trying to find where they fit in the world as a designer. Perspectives engages the students in designing for an aging population for the first time, with many expressing an interest in revisiting that problem space in the future, something that is especially timely as the Canadian government recently announced its first Dementia Strategy. One student observed, “Western care homes are more often than not very cold and clinical, and in general not a very comfortable place to live. Designers have the skill set creativity and knowledge to help rectify this.”
Following three successful incarnations of Perspectives, in two different care homes, a “How to Guide” is being developed for other schools and care homes to run the project. A new application for funding has been made to CABHI to fund the publication of the How to Guide and I am currently in discussions with academic institutions, both national and international, about implementing the project and piloting the guide. The project has been presented at DementiaLab 2018 (United Kingdom), Design4Health 2018 (United Kingdom), the Canadian Gerontological Nursing Association 2019 and the Canadian Therapeutic Recreation Association Conference 2019, with papers currently being finalized for DementiaLab 2019 (the Netherlands), International MinD Conference 2019 (Germany) and the Canadian Frailty Network conference 2019. In April 2019 an article on Perspectives was published in the journal Design for Health (Volume 3, 2019).
Jon Hannan is Assistant Professor of Communication Design, having previously held the positions of Senior Lecturer of Graphic Design at Manchester School of Art and Senior Lecturer of Fashion Communication and Promotion at Nottingham Trent University. He holds an MA and a BA (Hons) in Design & Art Direction from Manchester School of Art, a Postgraduate Certificate in Education from Huddersfield University and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK). Alongside teaching, Jon founded and ran Manchester-based design studio, OWT, for six years. OWT started as an experimental and collaborative publication before growing into a fully-practicing design studio. His research has been featured in international design publications, journals and online platforms such as Design for Health Journal, IdN, Computer Arts, the Guardian and CNN.
Dori Griffin, Assistant Professor, University of Florida (Editor)
The history of graphic design as expressed in survey texts is well-known for being overpopulated by white Euro-American men. I believe that escaping this disciplinary echo chamber requires active, intentional effort from scholar-practitioners within the discipline. My own position as a design scholar and educator is one I’m determined to operationalize for inclusion. Therefore I was excited when Mike Zender, editor of Visible Language, invited me to guest-edit a special issue devoted to the history of visual communication design. As the longest-running peer reviewed journal of visual communication design research in the United States, Visible Language has played a significant role in both constructing and deconstructing a canonical notion of graphic design history, a subject I examined in the journal’s fiftieth anniversary issue (Griffin 2016). In cultivating submissions for the history issue, I was determined to facilitate as global and diverse a range as possible. It was vital for the issue to contribute to the ongoing work of building a more inclusive history of graphic design. Part of this work relies on an active critique of the power structures which have led to a canonical history based on exclusions around race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality, class, professional identity, and geography. And part of the work requires intentionally and explicitly inviting as-yet unheard voices to contribute to the disciplinary dialogue. Though the term “decolonization” is often used to describe such efforts, I’m cautious about its application. In the words of Tuck and Yang (2012), “Decolonization brings about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life; it is not a metaphor for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools.” Instead, I’d describe my editorial goal as recuperative, opening up the dialogic spaces of design-historical discourse to include individuals, ideas, and practices too long excluded from that narrative.
It’s a truism that graphic design history is predicated on a shallow understanding of stylistically conceptualized movements and that the discipline lacks an evidence-based, critically-informed history (e.g. Blauvelt 1994-5; Woodham 1995; Triggs 2009, 2011). Yet as I worked on this editorial project, I became convinced that this conceptualization is invalid. As I noted in the introduction to the special issue, it is not the case that histories of visual communication design, beyond style or connoisseurship or visual data, do not exist. Rather, they inhabit spaces conceptualized as external to the core of our discipline. There are scholars and practitioners already at work conducting historical research which significantly expands familiar, survey-text style notions of graphic design history. Their work may be published in adjacent fields in the humanities and social sciences, rendering it less familiar to design educators. Or historical research might undergird a contemporary studio design practice rather than a scholarly publishing practice, and thus it escapes representation in the formal literature of design history. It is vital to make room for these voices within our field. As I shaped the history-themed issue of Visible Language, I actively cultivated participation from both kinds of researchers. Including their voices within graphic design’s established communities of dialogue greatly enriches the conversations which can take place in these spaces.
The four authors whose articles were selected for publication through the journal’s double-blind peer review process expand the narrative of graphic design history through specific case studies. Each illustrates the complexity of our discipline’s historical narratives. Collectively, the authors’ research speaks to the intersections between canonized Euro-American design conventions and the diverse ways design practice occurs and is understood in a wide range of local and global contexts. The authors’ contributions to the dialogic disciplinary narratives of graphic design history are the most important outcome of this project. In “The Implications of Media,” Islamic art historian Hala Auji undertakes a close contextual and material reading of the Nafir Suriya, a series of Arabic-language broadsides originally printed in Beirut in 1860 and re-issued in 1990. In “Ismar David’s Quest for Original Hebrew Typographic Signs,” practicing designer Shani Avni contextualizes David’s design process for the David Hebrew type family (1954), documenting David’s negotiation of the tension between tradition and innovation through a research-based design process. In “Mana Mātātuhi,” practicing designer Johnson Witehira documents Māori visual culture’s incorporation of Latin-alphabet lettering and typography into culturally specific ways of seeing, knowing, and expressing. In “Lower Case in the Flatlands,” design historian Trond Klevgaard explores the adaptation and application of Avant Garde Modernist strategies in locations traditionally defined as “peripheral.” The abstracts for all four articles are included in the “evidence of outcome” section.
Serving as guest editor for this special issue of Visible Language led to an invitation to join the editorial team as the associate editor for statements of practice at Design & Culture, the journal of the Design Studies Forum. The July 2019 issue is the journal’s first issue under the direction of its new editors in chief, who describe their “conscious formation of an editorial and advisory board of accomplished scholars who work beyond the silos of their disciplines and who hail from regions not always represented in design’s dominant canons and conversations.” They note that they “are also attentive to the politics of citations and are committed to broadening the scholarly dialog to include voices too frequently dismissed or engaged only at the margins” (Adams, Keshavarz and Traganou 2019, 154). Within this conceptual framework, the issue’s statement of practice is by Nadine Chahine, whose insightful essay discusses her work as a designer of Arabic typefaces and the complex role typography plays in a diverse range of Arabic cultural and political expressions. I’m honored to contribute to this ongoing work of diversification, in however small a way. It’s thrilling to collaborate with practitioners and scholars who prioritize a global, participatory, and inclusive notion of design history and praxis. Editorial work is not glamorous. But approaching it with a passion for cultivating diversity and inclusion holds the power to shape future histories of graphic design into narratives more representative of all peoples and practices within the domain of design. [989 words]
Adams, B., M. Keshavarz and J. Traganou. 2019. “Editorial.” Design and Culture 11:2, 153-6.
Blauvelt, A. 1994-5. “New Perspectives: Critical Histories of Graphic Design.” Visible Language volumes 28.3, 28.4, 29.1.
Griffin, D. 2015. “The Role of Visible Language in Building and Critiquing a Canon of Graphic Design History.” Visible Language 50:3, 6-27.
Tuck, E., and K. Yang. 2012. “Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1:1, 1-¬40.
Woodham, J. 1995. “Resisting Colonization: Design History Has Its Own Identity.” Design Issues 11 (1): 22–37. https://doi.org/10.2307/1511613.
Dori Griffin is an assistant professor of graphic design in the University of Florida’s School of Art + Art History. Her research centers around two interrelated areas of inquiry. Her historical research expands the narrative of graphic design as it has been practiced and consumed in the past, with particular focus on how popular visual artifacts and print media shape national and international dialogues about culture, politics, and identity. Her pedagogical research explores how to develop globalized curriculum and diverse, learner-centered practices for design history pedagogy, particularly in the context of studio education. She is a frequent contributor to the peer-reviewed scholarly dialogues of the discipline, with publications in Dialectic, Visible Language, Design & Culture, the Journal of Communication Design, and the Journal of Design History, among others. Currently, she serves as the associate editor for statements of practice at Design & Culture.
Rachel Beth Egenhoefer, Associate Professor, University of San Francisco (Editor)
I have taught courses in, and done research on sustainable design for over ten years. Throughout that time I was dedicated to pushing the notion of sustainable design beyond individual products to wider, systems perspectives where designers would be able to make more impactful changes in the future. While creating products from recycled materials or more “eco” options is a start, to make real change designers need to look at how to change consumption behaviors not just on individual levels, but as communities and a global society. This type of research goes beyond thinking about design as “object” to design as “experience” and requires using systems thinking, ethnography, future casting and other methods of critical inquiry. Having previously published in Routledge’s Sustainability Hub, and after serving as a peer-reviewer for the publisher, they approached me to develop a book on the topic for their handbook series on the topic of sustainable design.
The wicked problems we face in the climate crisis require more solutions than any one person can harness. Collaboration, interdisciplinary, and dialog are urgently needed. Part of my research portfolio is not just creating my own work as an individual researcher, but also working as a thought leader who organizes, curates, and facilitates the work of others working in sustainability to advance the field of sustainable design as a whole. This was my goal in deciding to edit and produce a new handbook.
In 2018, I published the Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Design, making a significant contribution to the field of sustainable design and design pedagogy. Rather than produce an anthology of previously published work or repeat static ideas on sustainability in design, I took the opportunity to push the field to include this more expansive, systems thinking approach to sustainability. My proposal went through a double blind international peer review. As editor of the book, I took special steps to broaden the topics framing, and outline a new way of considering design for sustainability. My work became somewhat curatorial in developing a group of contributors whose collective strength would be more powerful than individual ideas. I sought authors beyond the design community, and those who represented international and diverse voices, coaching each contributor on how to fit their work into the overall narrative I constructed. I made a conscious effort to have more than half of the book be made of up women and people of color – something not seen in traditional academic design publications. Given that designers need to work beyond their own discipline chapters were also included from other disciplines including Environmental Science, Politics, Philosophy, Engineering, and others. The 36 chapters in the book represent an array of powerful voices and ideas, which collectively seek to address how designers can take critically and proactively take on design for sustainable change.
In addressing issues of design for global impact, behavior change, systems and strategy, ethics and values, the Handbook of Sustainable Design presents a unique and powerful design perspective. The handbook has been well received in Europe and in the US, with testimonials from prominent researchers in the field. The book is used by students and scholars in universities around the world including Carnegie Mellon University, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), UC Berkeley, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, Oberlin College, Loughborough University UK, Cranfield University UK, University of the Arts London, University of Brighton, University of Oslo, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, TU Delft, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Queensland University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and of course the University of San Francisco.
Because of my role as editor and producer of this book, I have been asked to present and speak about the book and its concepts at conferences and events, attesting to its impact. This included: organizing and moderating Being Human in the Anthropocene: Understanding the Human in our Impact as part of Jerry Brown’s Global Climate Action Summit, organizing and producing the Compostmodern event series with AIGA SF, speaking on the panel Social Design in Tumultuous Times: Why and How to Publish About it at the AIGA MAKE Design Educators Conference, presenting Sustainability in the Visual Arts, Design, and Creative Fields at the national AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) conference.
Rachel Beth Egenhoefer is a design professor, artist and writer, whose work integrates technology, craft, and design. Her current focus is on sustainability and systems thinking as related to behavior change. Egenhoefer is currently the Chair of the Department of Art + Architecture, Program Director of the Design Program, and an Associate Professor in Design at the University of San Francisco, where she has taught since 2009. Egenhoefer is the editor of the Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Design and a contributor to Routledge’s Sustainability Hub Believing in the power of education to move sustainable action forward, she has been a part of ASHEE’s Sustainability Across the Curriculum Program, and presented her work on sustainable design education at the AIGA Design Educators Forum, PALS (Partnership for Academic Leadership), the School of Visual Arts in New York, San Francisco Art Institute, and others.
Warren Lehrer, Designer, Professor, SUNY, Purchase (visualizations)
Dennis J Bernstein, Poet, Executive Producer, Flashpoints Pacifica Radio (poems)
Five Oceans in a Teaspoon is a book and multimedia project written by journalist/poet Dennis J Bernstein, visualized and structured by designer/author Warren Lehrer. A large collection of short visual poems, Five Oceans consists of a 300 page book (Paper Crown Press), animations, a traveling exhibition (premiering at City Lore Gallery, NYC), and reading/performances. Steven Heller wrote the introduction to the book.
In 1979, Dennis J Bernstein and I began working on a book of poems, originally titled Stretch Marks. Instead of completing that book, we leapt into writing our first play together, and over the intervening years we collaborated on three books, including French Fries (1984), which has since been written about in scores of textbooks on visual literature, typography, graphic design and artists’ books. A few years ago, we began collaborating again on visual poetry, bringing together Bernstein’s words and my typographic visualizations. Forty years after our original effort we completed the project, now titled Five Oceans in a Teaspoon. Like with many of my previous works, this book sits at the center of a multibranched project.
Bernstein’s poetry, like his investigative journalism, reflects the struggle of everyday people trying to survive in the face of adversity. Structured like a work of music, the book (and exhibit) is divided into eight movements spanning a lifetime: growing up confused by dyslexia and a parental gambling addiction; graced by pogo sticks, boxing lessons and a mother’s compassion; becoming a frontline witness to war and its aftermaths, to prison, street life, love and loss, open heart surgery, caring for aging parents and visitations from them after they’re gone.
My methodology for this project: I selected the poems—out of thousands of Bernstein’s short poems written over 45 years—and arranged them into the book which can also be seen/read as a memoir in short visual poems. Each poem lead me to a composition. The ideas within the poem, its themes, metaphors, allusions, double meanings, ambiguities, subtexts, conflicts, voices, structure, rhythmic cadences, pauses and silences, underlying intent—were all grist for the mill. Many of the compositions give form to the interior, emotional underpinnings of the poem. Many compositions engage the reader to become an active participant in the discovery, navigation, puzzle, and interpretation of the poem. Some compositions allude to figuration or landscape, while others work more abstractly. At their best, the typographic compositions help create experience—within and across the pages of the book and in the animations. In a poem about Alzheimer’s, letters struggle to become words, search for memory; thoughts halt, rotate and stretch in a confusion of pleasure, frustration, habit and empathy. In a poem seen through the eyes of a child, letters and words form a colony of ants inspecting and devouring a discarded piece of candy. Other poems function diagrammatically, tracing patterns of relationships, war and peace, and struggles for human and civil rights.
Most of my previous projects embrace complexity, polyphony, and are longform works such as the 4 volume 1000+ page “Portrait Series” documenting American eccentrics, or my illuminated novel A LIFE IN BOOKS: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley, containing 101 books within it embedded within a fictionalized memoir. For Five Oceans, I made dozens and dozens of iterations of each poem until a visual setting felt right—like it couldn’t be any other way. In his introduction, design historian/critic Steven Heller writes, “some of the compositions seem so simple and transparent resulting in self-evident grace and revelation.” This was the challenge of this project, to distill (like the writing does and the title suggests) a wide swath of experiences and emotions into a small space with minimal means: a seven inch square book, black and white, just using one type family throughout for the central voice of each poem, engaging the emptiness/fullness of the off-white page or screen.
Animations allow for a different kind of typographic realization/performance of select poems via time, kinetic typography, and soundtracks scored by composer/performer Andrew Griffin. Animations are featured in the live performance/readings, in the exhibition, public screenings and projections, and online. The exhibit also features prints of select poems from each movement.
Regarding impact and contribution to the field: As I write this, Five Oceans hasn’t even been published yet, officially. Yet there are indications that it will be impactful and receive critical attention. After reading an advance copy, Johanna Drucker, perhaps the foremost scholar of Visual Literature, writes: “In the long history of graphic word works, few, if any, have this range and repleteness.” In her forthcoming review in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Drucker calls Five Oceans an “engaging masterwork that has only a handful of precedents in literary and design history.” Bob Holman, leading chronicler of contemporary poetry writes, “Five Oceans re-envisions a poetry memoir via a textual kaleidoscope… Bernstein and Lehrer are the Rodgers and Hart of Visual Poetry.” Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker calls Five Oceans “Brilliant and Beautiful.” Gail Anderson and Steven Heller’s recent book “Type Tells Tales” includes three sections on my work, one devoted to Five Oceans as a work-in-progress. Tim Samara’s new edition of Making and Breaking the Grid analyzes select poems from Five Oceans as exemplars of “verbal deconstruction/ narrative allusion/ pictorialization.” An article on Five Oceans just came out in Creative Review; others are due out in AIGA’s Eye on Design, Afterimage, Electric Book Review, JAB and other media outlets. Debbie Millman is interviewing me in October about Five Oceans and my work for her Design Matters podcast, and Dennis and I will be presenting this work at Letterform Archive in San Francisco, at the NY Art Book Fair, City Lore, and other locations around the US.
Warren Lehrer is a writer, designer and book artist known as a “pioneer of visual literature and design authorship.” His books and multimedia projects attempt to capture the shape of thought and reunite oral and pictorial traditions of storytelling in books, animations, performance and installations. Awards include: The Brendan Gill Prize, IPPY Outstanding Book of the Year Award, Innovative Use of Archives Award, International Book Award for Best New Fiction, three AIGA Book Awards, Media That Matters Award, grants and fellowships from NEA, NYSCA, NYFA, Rockefeller, Ford, Greenwall Foundations. He is a 2016 Honoree of the Center for Book Arts. His work is in many collections including MoMA, Getty Museum, Georges Pompidou Centre, Tate Gallery. A frequent lecturer and performer, Lehrer is the Leff Distinguished Professor at SUNY Purchase, a founding faculty member of SVA’s Designer As Author MFA program, co-founder of EarSay, a non-profit arts organization in Queens, NY.
Dennis J Bernstein is a poet, investigative journalist and award-winning host/producer of Flashpoints, syndicated by the Pacifica radio network. Recipient of many awards and honors, including Pulse Media’s Top Global Media Figure, Pillar Award in Broadcast Journalism, Artists Embassy International Literary Cultural Award. He founded the Muriel Rukeyser Reading Series in Brooklyn, NY. Books include Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom, Particles of Light, and three books with Warren Lehrer including French Fries, considered a seminal works in the genre. His poetry has appeared in New York Quarterly, The Chimaera, The Progressive, Texas Observer, ZYZZYVA, and numerous other journals.
Sharon Oiga, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago Guy Villa Jr, Assistant Professor, Columbia College Chicago and Daria Tsoupikova, Associate Professor University of Illinois at Chicago
Other Chicago Design Milestones team members: Jack Weiss, Chicago Design Archive; Cheri Gearhart, Chicago Design Archive; Wayne Stuetzer, Chicago Design Archive; Krystofer Kim, Lead Animator, NASA; Ali Khan, Animator, University of Illinois at Chicago
Chicago Design Milestones is a new media public installation that took place throughout July, 2019, at 150 Media Stream in Chicago. It brought to life the evolution of Chicago design by examining and showcasing the historic characteristics of design works from the 1920s to the present. Project material was researched and culled directly from the vast collection of the Chicago Design Archive (CDA), which holds over 3,200 works from over 1,100 designers and 400 firms. Members of the CDA, the UIC School of Design & Electronic Visualization Laboratory, and Columbia College Chicago collaborated together on this project as a team, as their underlying and ongoing quest is to spotlight the role of Chicago as a major national design center through the use of innovative technologies, including 150 Media Stream’s unique display structure, the largest media screen (3,000+ square feet) in Chicago.
The team consists of design educators, animators, and members of the CDA. It is worthy to note that the Milestones project was initiated by the design educators of the team. With knowledge of the holdings of the CDA, it was the design educators that conceived of the opportunity to collaborate, to develop initial concepts, and to lead the project. It is their belief and practice to author and generate projects of personal interest in order to help advance the field of design with designers’ own concerns.
The Chicago Design Archive is a singular organization in that there is no other like it doing this type of documentation and presentation of Chicago design work—locating, procuring, organizing, and showcasing Chicago-related design in the form of images as well as articles, essays, interviews, and videos. This includes works from the pre-digital era, with the population of works beginning in the 1920s. This is over 100 hundred years of Chicago design work gathered up and organized in one place.
A significant challenge of the Milestones project was to figure out how to represent the thousands of archived works from the past 10 decades. The process of curating the works was scientific in that observation was key—untold hours of patient looking. Year by year, decade by decade, each image was scoured until 100 years of images passed in front of the eyes of the team. There wasn’t an agenda when the team first started looking, no plan of what to find, no expectations. The team wanted the images to speak to them, to tell them what was significant—and they did. In each decade, the images showed what colors they liked, what shapes they preferred, and very interestingly, what stories they held. Some of the images spoke more than others. They were the ones that were singled out as possibilities. From this pool, images were selected based on their potential for animation and their inherent magnetism to engage, inform, and spark the curiosity of any passerby.
Another challenge was to figure out how to best employ the distinctive installation structure of 150 Media Stream, which comprises of 89 LED vertical blades that reach varying heights up to 22 feet high and span 150 feet wide. This configuration forms a vertical pattern that is combined with extreme horizontality—interesting but opposing dynamics built into the structure. These are constructs the team intentionally utilized, by ensuring that particular images animate to traverse the unusual terrain.
The Milestones project is out of the ordinary in that Chicago design history is rarely brought to the attention of the general public. Bringing awareness to historically-relevant creative work was central to the project’s intent and importance. The project afforded design history outside of the confines and prompting of a book, classroom or school, and it was instead framed in the context and excitement of an immersive technological experience. The completion and success of this experiential design project has lead to ideas and invitations for further work at other public venues for new media at the international scale.
In advance of the debut of Chicago Design Milestones at 150 Media Stream, a preview gala and exhibition was held at Archeworks—a Chicago-based design lab and media outlet dedicated to using design as an agent of change in the public interest. The preview exhibition (lead by Lauren Meranda of CDA) featured the static images of the works selected for animation in Chicago Design Milestones.
For the opening of Chicago Design Milestones, a catalog was produced. It contained images of all of the design works included in the project as well as related examples of work from the Archive. It was an opportunity to not only celebrate the works selected for the project but to also highlight additional CDA holdings. The catalog further documented the team’s research by including the lists of descriptive terms that were generated and used to characterize the design and themes for each of the decades. Considered to be a valuable component of the project, the Chicago History Museum is presently acquiring the catalog for their collection.
In the end, the team hoped to engage onlookers and inspire them with the city’s creative history. Perhaps viewers delighted and marveled in what they saw. Perhaps they felt a sense of nostalgia, a feeling of pride for the city, or gained a stronger appreciation for Chicago history and design. Additionally, by example, the team hoped to have widened the conceptual space for designers, to explore, research and play.
Holding an MFA in Graphic Design from Yale University and BFA degrees in Graphic Design and Photography from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Sharon Oiga’s work investigates the process of design — the ways in which ideas are expressed and disseminated, ranging from the micro level of experimental typographic form to the macro level of self-authoring and publishing. At UIC, she is an Associate Professor and Chair of Graphic Design. Previously, Sharon partnered with design firms where she specialized in identity, branding, publication design, and packaging. Her work is consistently recognized through awards, publications, exhibitions, and funding. A two-time recipient of the Sappi Ideas That Matter grant, Sharon was also honored to receive the UIC Silver Circle Teaching Award. She has written about her teaching in UCDA’s Designer Magazine.
Sharon serves as Chair of the Society of Typographic Aficionados, and she is a Director of the Chicago Design Archive.
Guy Villa Jr Columbia College Chicago
Holding a BFA in Graphic Design from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Guy Villa Jr
is an Assistant Professor at Columbia College Chicago. His research interests include procedural image-making and photography, and experimental design processes. He has professional experience in editorial and identity design for not-for-profit organizations, start-ups, and other businesses. In recognition for his work, he was named a Platinum Winner by Graphis, for which he was interviewed and featured in the Graphis Letterhead 7 book. He was also interviewed by Print magazine, and his work was published in the annual. Aside from teaching, Guy speaks regularly at regional, national and international confer- ences and events. He is also Chair of the STA Design Inspiration Weekend, an annual forum for designers held by The Society of Typographic Arts. Recently, he was a juror for the international TypeCon Typography Award and a proposal reviewer for the TypeCon Education Forum.
Daria Tsoupikova University of Illinois at Chicago
Holding an MFA in Computer Graphics from Syracuse University, Daria Tsoupikova is an Associate Professor of New Media Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Positioned at the crossroads of artistic and technological innovation, her research and artwork explores the potential of new media and inter- activity in relation to traditional arts. Through the development of virtual reality (VR) art projects and networked multi-user exhibitions for VR projection systems, her work applies computer graphics art to various research domains, including educational multimedia, cultural heritage and virtual rehabilitation for stroke survivors. Daria’s work has been exhibited and published by ACM SIGGRAPH, IEEE VR, ISEA, among many others. Past projects have received funding from NSF, National Institute on Disability and Rehabili- tation Research and the Department of Education. A former Fulbright Scholar, Daria is currently partnering with the Hand Rehabilitation Laboratory to develop a multi-user virtual environment to aid in hand rehabilitation.