Urban Abstract Design of Modern Architecture in Bauhaus

Designers must delve beneath the obvious principles of Bauhaus purity and minimalism to comprehend how human memory and sense perception contribute to our experience

Min K. Pak
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
Art & Design
University of Southern Indiana

Photography reflects memory, allows us to ponder our past thinking and past experiences in our environments. At the boundaries between graphic design and photography, we can observe patterns in urban environments and associate these patterns with recalled sounds and human emotions.

In 1923, Lucia Moholy (1894-1989) sought to capture a futuristic vision in Bauhaus architecture. Her photographs balance the clarity, simplicity, and asymmetry that represent Bauhaus’s spirit of utopian zest and vitality and openness of spirit. Indeed, Moholy’s extreme verticals, tilted frames, and abstract forms emphasize the simple, clean, beautiful lines characterizing Bauhaus architecture.

Since each building employs its own architectural language, I identify the words for these urban shapes, for their forms and structures—freeing these buildings from their specific spatial contexts so that we observe them individually, seeing beauty even in marginal details of everyday city life.

Beyond merely documenting discoveries in Moholy’s photographs, I explicate her new ways of seeing this geometric, abstract architecture as a response to reading the world’s simplicity and organic autonomy. I contend that we designers must delve beneath the obvious principles of Bauhaus purity and minimalism to comprehend how human memory and sense perception contribute to our experience with both photography and Bauhaus.

Empathic Typography

Michele Damato McCaffrey
Assistant Professor
Department of Design
Syracuse University

Michele Damato McCaffrey
Assistant Professor
Department of Design
Syracuse University

How are students going to become empathic designers when they live and learn in a guarded design institution for four years? Can we develop courses/projects that encourage them to interact with communities outside of their own?

My work with students has shown they want to feel invested in their learning. Millennials are the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in the U.S. and are highly committed to social change. As design educators, we can use this information to tailor classes that will challenge them socially as citizens and designers so that they may have a deeper emotional connection to their work.

In my Experimental Typography Class, students are required to photograph the typographic signage/markings of an unknown neighborhood. For many, this may have been the first time visiting a neighborhood/culture significantly different from their own. Through typography only, the students designed a double-sided poster that communicates the culture and experience of that place. They come to understand how typography alone can reflect the ethnicity, culture, and socio-economic structure of a neighborhood. Though challenging and uncomfortable to some, students enjoy this project because they have the freedom to choose communities; take their own photography; spend time outside the boundaries and solitude of the classroom; and are in a new environment.

As a result, students often felt an investment and commitment to the neighborhood they chose to present. Not only did they fall in love with this new approach of discovering typography but also how they visually represented their story. Having students move outside of the classroom and interacting in new communities allowed them to (a) utilize their own strengths to develop their voice as designers and (b) raise their awareness of other communities as a first step toward becoming empathic and socially engaged citizens.


Commute 2 Brooklyn: Visual Exploration Along Interstate 278

Mary Ann Biehl
Associate Professor
Communication Design
New York City College of Technology, CUNY

Maria Giuliani
Associate Professor
Communication Design
New York City College of Technology, CUNY

The Decisive Moment, as described by Henri Cartier-Bresson, “is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event.” He continues “the precise organization of forms (…) give that event its proper expression.”  Our project, Commute 2 Brooklyn, will explore the question of significance through the lens of a series of mundane daily events.

As colleagues at a commuter college, we have each traveled over the same roads approximately 3,000 + times to reach our campus in downtown Brooklyn. We anticipate (hopefully) repeating this journey individually at least 2000 more times in the years to come. We are by no means unique. Our colleagues and students navigate their own individual journeys each semester, just as all New Yorkers do.  Whether it involves just a few short steps, traversing waterways, airways or transit systems, commuting is an experience we all share.

Using photography to capture images of the daily journey of individual drivers provides opportunities to explore moments of difference and commonality.  One driver begins her commute in Northern Queens, the other from western Nassau County. The base of the Kosciuszko Bridge on Interstate 278 forms a common point where these commutes intersect. Spanning Newtown Creek, the Kosciuszko bridge connects the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn, making it a marker of significance on each commuter’s journey. Construction to replace the 75 year old bridge provides a unique opportunity to document how this change in the physical landscape affects the commuters common experience on a daily basis.

This project examines how designers/artists can respond to evolving landscape and what narratives may emerge from this cycle of observation and change. Throughout the next two years we will explore how the effects of time and space (evolving topography/technology/aesthetic) impact the “proper expression” of our Commute 2 Brooklyn.  

Colloquium 2.4: CAA Conference 2016, Washington, DC

Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Time: 9:30am – 12:00pm
Location: Hoover, Mezzanine Level, Marriott Hotel

In collaboration with CAA Task Force on Design at the 104th Annual Conference in Washington, DC.

Chairs: Steven McCarthy, University of Minnesota; Aaris Sherin, St. John’s University

Abstract submission deadline: January 17, 2016. Email abstracts for peer review to submissions@designincubation.com

Open to all 104th Annual Conference, Washington, DC attendees.


Teaching Timeless Theory in Interactive Design through a Multidisciplinary Approach
James Pannafino
Associate Professor
Interactive and Graphic Design
Art and Design Department
Millersville University

Who Does This Internet Artwork Belong To? A Study on Art Appropriation and Youth Identity in a Digital Age
Laura Scherling

GreenspaceNYC, Co-founder

The New School, Design Lead
Teachers College,
Columbia University, Doctoral student

Conscious Interventions With The Personal Beasties Breathing Mobile App
Paula Murgia
Co-Founder Personal Beasties Group, LLC

Marianna Trofimova
Adjunct Professor
Communication Design Department
New York City College of Technology
City University of New York

Principal at Marianna Trofimova Design

A Plan for a National Communication Design Educator Award
Steven McCarthy
College of Design
University of Minnesota

Never Use Futura
Douglas Thomas
MFA Candidate in Graphic Design
Maryland Institute College of Art

Commute 2 Brooklyn: Visual Exploration Along Interstate 278
Mary Ann Biehl
Associate Professor
Communication Design
New York City College of Technology, CUNY

Maria Giuliani
Associate Professor
Communication Design
New York City College of Technology, CUNY

Alterpodium: Performing Disability
Amanda Cachia
PhD Candidate, Art History, Theory & Criticism
Department of Visual Arts, University of California San Diego

Design Practice Intervention: Experimental Approaches to Mapping Different Data
Rachele Riley
Assistant Professor
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Color, A “Conflict Mineral”
Grace Moon
Adjunct Professor
Graphic Design, Dept of Art
Queens College, CUNY

The Art of Mutable Mergers: Collaborations Between Designers, Artists, Curators, and the Plastics Industry, 1960 – 74
Grace Converse
Adjunct Instructor of Art History
Purchase College, SUNY
St. Joseph’s College, Brooklyn

Villages in the City

Hui Xie
Visiting Scholar in St. John’s University
Associate Professor
Graphic Design

School of Art and Design
Shenzhen Polytechnic
XiLi Lake, Nanshan District
Shenzhen, Guangdong, China

“Men and women do not want to move back, but the mark of youth has been branded in their heart. This is not their hometown, but with a deep nostalgia as well.”

As a unique specimen of Chinese urbanization, the villages “DaChong” and “GangXia” in Shenzhen, China represent a bridge between rural and urban. With the huge gap between disadvantageous groups and mainstream society, the existence of villages in the city created a buffer zone between low-income workers and the high cost of living. Unfortunately, in recent years because of ongoing urban renewal development, the villages have been razed and are now flat ground. Victims of high speed economic development, the villages of Shenzhen are disappearing, and because of their absence the names “DaChong” and “GangXia” are becoming as meaningless and vague. The multimedia installation “Villages in the City” incorporates vernacular typography used for signage with phrases like “ I LOVE YOU” and “I MISS YOU” to explore what should we learn and remember from these places.

The names “DaChong” and “GangXia”and shapes used to create their Chinese characters are data carriers as are the handwritten advertisements found on the walls of buildings. They provide with a wealth of living information about daily life in the most densely inhabited district in Shenzhen. Documentary photography, neon and stainless steel characters are used to create compositions, which reveal traces of the environment where immigrant working class citizens used to live. Text and imagery of messages from people for looking for or advertising jobs, information about selling Chinese herbal medicines, and telephone numbers of movers are combined with house numbers, street names, and the price tags from street foods to produce site-specific installations which serve as constructive links to former residents while recreating memories of village nights. “Villages in the City” is a memorial for the loss of history and an exploration aspect of village life that should be remembered.