Demonstrating design's impact & cultivating the future of design in New York City.

AIGA NY’s annual student showcase celebrating graduate education

Now in its 10th year, Fresh Grad showcases graduate students selected by local and regional MFA, MA, and certificate design programs. Their work reflects a variety of approaches adopted by different programs of study.

Graduates

This year’s graduates explored a diversity of topics and ideas through a variety of different communicative methods that ranged from cultural heritage and identity to the effects of networks on our daily life. Learn more about each graduate’s work by selecting their profile below.

Bryant Wells
Yale School of Art
Bryant Wells
Yale School of Art

Yale School of Art, Graphic Design MFA, 2020

Bryant Wells is a designer based in Brooklyn, New York. He works across mediums and is interested in the role of technical production in culture.


Why did you choose to go to graduate school?
I’ve been making graphic design since high school and have worked in a handful of different subcategories of the field since I started. I needed to take a moment to reset and take stock of what I wanted from my work. I came to Yale to afford myself the time, space, and support structure necessary to synthesize and critically address the influences I’ve had over the years.

Why did you choose Yale?
Yale is known for having a strong student body and a faculty that pushes students to create work unique to their worldview. Students are left to their own devices and are expected to establish the supporting ideas around their work. These challenges were appealing to me at the time.

From Within The Surround
20Hz to Infinity

I spent much of my time at Yale making work about and with networks. I refer to networks concretely as the collection of components that make up systems like the internet and the theoretical frameworks that inform those systems. I refer to networks abstractly as transitive relationships between nodes, people, objects, or moments in time.

My Thesis, titled From Within The Surround, is about establishing an approach to design for, with, and within networks that aligns itself with certain black diaspora musical traditions. This approach maintains a relationship with the technical (the “machine”) that imposes a sense of humanity these tools otherwise look to eradicate. I refer to artists like Gerald Donald and writers like Kodwo Eshun and Tiqqun to help synthesize these ideas.

How might your thesis inform your practice moving forward?
The creation of my thesis has helped cement a methodology for creating work that will stick with me for the rest of my time practicing.

What was the most valuable part of your graduate education?
School of Art students have the ability to take classes anywhere on Yale’s campus. I was never a great student academically, so I felt like I was given the chance to take classes I wouldn’t have access to otherwise — and that has been very formative for me. Tangentially, I really value the time I had with my classmates in the graphic design department and the School of Art at large. The students are intimately invested in each other’s work which leads to some really nuanced and fulfilling conversations.

Close
Katty Huertas
Maryland Institute College of Art
Katty Huertas
Maryland Institute College of Art

Maryland Institute College of Art, Graphic Design MFA 2020

Katty Huertas is a designer and illustrator born in Colombia and based in the Washington DC/Baltimore area. She holds a BA in Arts from FIU and an MFA in Graphic Design from MICA. Katty’s work explores identity, folklore, and animal rights, among other subjects. She likes to combine analog and digital mediums such as painting, sculpture, digital drawing, and animation. Some of Katty’s clients include Nickelodeon, Lenny Letter, BuzzFeed News, The Washington Post, Red Bull Music Academy, and the Women’s March


Why did you choose to go to graduate school?
I graduated from an undergraduate program that was mostly studio art. There, I did a lot of painting and ceramics and only dabbled in design. After graduation and once I started working as a designer at a start-up, I realized how much more there was to the design field and how much more I needed to learn. Going to grad school seemed like the next logical step to get guidance from the best in the field.

Why did you choose MICA?
Before ever deciding to go to grad school, I remembered being impressed by the work that MICA’s students were producing. Living relatively close to campus allowed me to visit some of its previous graduate shows. Once I decided to take the leap and apply to an MFA program, MICA was my top option. Since I’m a multi-disciplinary designer, it was also important for me that the program I ended up attending was open to diverse interests.


Mountain Mother & Other Stories
A celebration of Colombian folklore though different graphic approaches.

Mountain Mother & Other Stories is a celebration of Colombian folklore using different graphic approaches to communicating a narrative. Through the adaptation and writing of a story, the designing of a modular typeface, the making of an unconventional book, and the creation of a sculpture that activates through animation and AR, a universe was built for Mountain Mother to live in: one which was visually informed by the place she comes from.

How might your thesis inform your practice moving forward?
For my project, I researched botanical illustrations from colonial times in Colombia, typefaces created by Latin American designers, and the role of graphic design in colonization. While I don’t know if I’ll keep working with Colombian folklore per se, I know I want to make my practice research-based. Whether it’s doing branding, illustrations, or publication design, I want to make decisions based on more than what meets the eye.

What was the most valuable part of your graduate education?
Without a doubt, it was the people I connected with—both the faculty and students. I was able to see my peers and grow as a creative person, and a lot of that was due to peer-to-peer feedback. While I did learn new software, what was most valuable was how I learned to think about typography and design.

Close
Wes Larsen
Cranbrook Academy of Art
Wes Larsen
Cranbrook Academy of Art

Cranbrook Academy of Art, 2D Design MFA, 2020

I’m an artist, educator, and graphic designer working in traditional print mediums, three dimensional installation, and experimental publishing. Through a practice which continually oscillates between collaborative project-based endeavors, independent object-oriented investigations, and traditional designer/client relationships, I aim to foster and cultivate a spirit of criticality within myself, my peers, my colleagues, and my students.

Why did you choose to go to graduate school?
Community

Why did you choose Cranbrook?
The people

Insufficient Meanings or (In Defense of Rasterization)
A 250 page visual essay
covering themes of landscape, community, man’s imposition, and cognitive drift

How might your thesis inform your practice moving forward?
Embrace degradation. Archive and iterate.

What was the most valuable part of your graduate education? 
Unwavering friendship

Close
Yutong Liu
Virginia Commonwealth University School of Fine Arts
Yutong Liu
Virginia Commonwealth University School of Fine Arts

VCU, MFA Design: Visual Communication, 2020

I’m Yutong Liu from China. I received my BFA from the Luxun Academy School of Fine Arts in China and my MFA from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Fine Arts in the USA. My major is visual communication design. I’m interested in both physical and digital publication design and 2D/3D design. Many of my projects and research are inspired by progressiveness, relationships, and emotional sympathy. I believe in art and imagination encompassing the world.

Why did you choose to go to graduate school?
How to form my personality, find my role in a complex and expanding profession, and my passion for research pushed me to go to graduate school. I aimed to explore my interest, improve my visual language’s personality, and develop the diverse possibilities of graphic design in graduate school. I want to be a professional designer with a creative, philosophical, and theoretical nature, and I felt I could learn a lot from my graduate studies.

Why did you choose VCU?
VCU is a comprehensive university that offers many different programs. I enjoy hanging out with friends with a diverse educational background. The MFA program of VCUarts concentrates on the philosophical, communicative, and aesthetic relationships of visual problem-solving and interacting skills leading to the effective articulation of concepts. Also, the teaching assistantship they offer me teaching experience during my study time can contribute to my career exploration.

Machine Girl & Love Code
It starts from touch; It is generated by touch; It communicates through touch; It will end with touch.
View thesis

“Remember, mimic and love; Storage, fill in my memory; Love, easy to define, hard to express; Space, living in the dark, born in your shadow; Mirror, this machine is a girl; Screen, the girl is not machine; Touch, this love is a secret.”

Machine Girl Love Code is an art project based on publication design and typography. It comes from the relationship and interaction between machines and humans. Machine Girl is a character that contains machine sympathy and mimics biology. She updates and is a memory of big data. We work with devices every day, and they grow up, stay with us, and never leave. Machines contain our digital memory, and I question the relationship between the input and output during machine learning. I built Love Code into a typographic language by tying processes through the keyboard on devices. It is a secret language that reflects a magical transformation.

How might your thesis inform your practice moving forward?
For me, my thesis is a challenging practice and questions the meaning of the language, typography, publication, and material. It inspires me how to connect the sympathy language and visual language. During my thesis project research, the most impressive and attractive part for me is on the exploration between material and immaterial, physical and digital. These inspire me to form my visual personality and contribute to my design practice’s unique visual language.

What was the most valuable part of your graduate education?
In my two years of graduate studies, the part of group critic and communication builds my critical and theoretical thoughts. I enjoyed the time with my classmates and discussed our work and shared our different reviews. These always inspire me so much and help me avoid getting stuck for a long time. Communication assists me in opening and active my thoughts. As an international student, working and learning with many colleagues from different countries was the most valuable study experience for me. The multiple cultures also inspire and contribute to my art and design project.

Close
Robin Coenen
Parsons New School for Design
Robin Coenen
Parsons New School for Design

Parsons New School for Design, Data Visualisation MS, 2020

Robin Coenen works as a visual expert at the interface of technology, design and applied visual anthropology. He studied Visual Communication in Aachen & Zurich and Data Visualisation in New York. In his professional life he worked in the interdisciplinary design atelier „Integral Ruedi Baur“ in Paris & at the Think Tank »Innovation Center for Mobility and Societal Change« in Berlin. Together with Danielle Rosales, a sociologist and designer, he founded the practice »Visual Intelligence« in order to make information, data, knowledge, identities and ideas accessible, legible and experienceable.

Why did you choose to go to graduate school?
It is my strong opinion that there comes a great responsibility with the expertise of a designer and her/his ability to create visual representations on countless intersections. While working interdisciplinary I recognized that in every expertise the processing and utilizing of data plays an increasingly important role. Taking the before mentioned responsibility seriously, it’s a consequent step for a designer to acquire the competence to read, understand, create, use and communicate data. I decided to step out of my comfort zone and visit a graduation school with the main focus on data and design.

Why did you choose Parsons’ Data Visualization program?
A demand which is often formulated by clients is to make something nice and simple for the readership. Unfortunately, this expectation stands in direct contrast to the core task of the designer: making information and complexity easily accessible and readable. Furthermore, our media landscape is affected by a shift. The linearity of a book or a newspaper is replaced by a network-like communication through the internet. This shift includes challenges e.g. accessibility in view of huge data sets, questioning of factuality through fake news or ethical questions of privacy. The graduate program provides tools and knowledge to tackle these shifts.

»With Compliments to the Secretary General«
Visualizing Maritime Claims at the UN in regard to the Continental Shelf

Most of our maps and mental images represent the Sea free of any delimitations. This however does not depict reality. A large part of the ocean is divided into different territories. Most relevant for this project is the »Exclusive Economic Zone«. Within this zone states have the exclusive right to exploit all resources. Furthermore Article 76 of the Convention on the Law of the Sea provides States the rights to claim economic territory even beyond these 200 nautical miles.

This project compiles, contextualizes and visualizes an original dataset of all 85 claims in regard of the continental shelf and related diplomatic notes: Which area is claimed and which stakeholders are involved in that claim? How much new exploitable area is gained through the claim? Does the Convention on the Law of the Sea aggregate or counteract already existing inequalities between countries?

How might your thesis inform your practice moving forward?
One goal of my thesis was to create a new visual representation of our world, a new image of the world, so to say. I think it is important to always look for visual strategies and ideas to create such new images and representations– to show there are always many other perspectives possible. I hope that in my practice I will have the possibilities to continue to do so; meet people and collaborators who constantly challenge me to do so; and also to have clients or projects which allow me to do so.

What was the most valuable part of your graduate education?
It’s not really possible to name one single valuable part; rather, it’s the mix of multiple different parts: the excellent program curriculum and faculty which really embrace and live interdisciplinary learning and working; the people from my cohort where each one of them came from different backgrounds with different expertises; and finally the new tools I was able to learn.

Close
Hsiao-Wen Hu
Pratt Institute
Hsiao-Wen Hu
Pratt Institute

Pratt Institute, MFA Communications Design, 2020

Hsiao-Wen (Nancy) is a Taiwanese graphic designer coming from a commercial design background. She is particularly interested in the intertranslation between traditional and digital mediums, working across prints, graphics, motion, and web design. She likes to play with conceptual ideas and narratives, strikes to communicate through sophisticated visuals that stay true and relevant to the audience.

Why did you choose to go to graduate school?
To me, graduate school is a place where I find my own voice in the design field. When I was in my undergraduate, I was like many other students looking for answers to what design really is. Trained as a commercial designer, expected to master all kinds of design tasks, I got lost and confused about my own design practice. While learning from the market is important, I realized that I need to further immerse myself in more and more critical design thinking and discussions to explore my own definition of design.

Why did you choose Pratt?
New York is actually half of the reason why I chose this program. The resources and opportunities in this city are unbeatable. But the other half of the reason that makes Pratt’s Communications Design program my top choice is its curriculum. The program revolves around three main courses: Visual Language, Technology, and Transformation Design. These courses engage design in all kinds of different ways and levels. The program is interdisciplinary and open-ended, offers multiple directions of support, which is exactly the environment I was looking for.

Craft as Time Capsule: Postdigital Preservation
Contemporary Craft / Digital Preservation / Data Materiality / Data Visualization / Time Capsule
craft-timecapsule.com

This thesis started with a passion for crafts and an examination of the value of craft making, moving on to further develop craft into a postdigital methodology to preserve the current digital culture. The term “postdigital” is proposed by Melvin L. Alexenberg, defined as an attitude that emphasizes being human rather than being digital in artistic practice. By expanding craft into a postdigital preservation methodology, the journey of digital experiences could be retained and interpreted as the materiality of data, preserving the digital culture in a more tangible and relatable way. This research is an on-going investigation on the intertranslation between the physical and the virtual, documented in an online archive with a collection of design responses.

How might your thesis inform your practice moving forward?
This research integrates my passion for craft making and my vision for design. I realized that I am always working towards a more intimate way of translation, trying to relate design with everyday life. Data visualization has always been an interesting study for me, and this research broadens the definition of “visualization,” informing a more interdisciplinary approach to storytellings and communications. Moving forward, I will continue to explore a postdigital design practice that retains human traces and stays relevant to the present.

What was the most valuable part of your graduate education?
For me, the critical discussions with classmates and professors is the most valuable part during my study. My program is of great diversity with people from various cultures and backgrounds. I always found the conversations we had both in class and outside of class insightful and inspiring as we look at the same question in so many different perspectives. And it is through conversations that we build connections and cross paths on our design practices.

Close
Dana Elkis
New York University
Dana Elkis
New York University

New York University, Interactive Telecommunication Program (ITP), 2020

Dana Elkis is a typography-focused, print-obsessed designer and art director, specializing in interactive web and experience design. Dana’s work combines new media technology with classic design principles to challenge the way we tell stories. She acted as senior designer at the award winning studio Michal Sahar where she worked on the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, as well as the Israeli pavilion at The Venice Biennale of Architecture, 2018. Dana was recognized by the America-Israel Cultural Foundation and was awarded the Israeli Design Award. Born and raised in Haifa, Israel and currently based in Brooklyn, NY.

Why did you choose to go to graduate school?
While working at studio Michal Sahar as lead designer for art and cultural events I primarily worked in two dimensional design. At the same time I was working as a TA for Bezalel’s Visual Communication department imagining speculative design futures. I decided to attend graduate school to strengthen my knowledge of technological fundamentals like coding, fabrication and performance in order to expansively integrate visual arts with technology.

Why did you choose ITP?
As I was searching for a program which would provide a playground to deepen my understanding of technology through a creative prism, I discovered new designers and exhibitions coming out of the ITP community. ITP felt like a program where I could embrace my prior experience as a designer while at the same time, experiment with new tools and ideas. The fact that this program is both interdisciplinary and heavily composed of international students made it the perfect fit to expand my horizons both personally and professionally.

The Bureau of Push Notifications
‘The Bureau of Push Notifications’ is a satirical reflection on our relationship with push notifications

The project takes the form of an online interactive performance platform coupled with digital inquiries into the very personal relationships between push notifications and people.

The performance side is centered around a push notification, the sole employee of the bureau, having a heart to heart conversation. Emulating the ever present tension of people wanting to be both connected and disconnected, pushing away while longing for a new push.

On the digital inquiries side of the website, three interactive short experiences: 1/ A visual study demonstrating a spectrum of physical reaction to push notifications. 2 / A “Push language” translation proposal to the deterministic “aggressive” system-level vocabulary. 3 / An Homage for the trigger we’re trained to look for, resembling our longing for the next notification.

The project re-thinks our infatuation with push notifications by anthropomorphizing them, showing how society has adapted and assimilated them into our social cues.

How might your thesis inform your practice moving forward?
My thesis was to create a stage for research that evolved into a story. I learned that design could be inspired by performance art, especially when designing for, and with technology. Working on this project also helped me expand my storytelling and coding skills. Going forward I’d like to continue working as a creative director who leads interdisciplinary teams on compelling, conceptual visually driven projects.

What was the most valuable part of your graduate education?
ITP revealed fresh avenues for acquiring new knowledge. It showed me that these avenues are endless. I observed the power of collaboration, improvisation and documentation. Most recently, I learned how easily we can adapt to extenuating circumstances and how vital telecommunications has become in our new digital world. Half way through my thesis process, COVID turned our reality upside down, forcing the university to move to remote instruction and showing me just how adaptable and versatile I can be. I re-Imagined my thesis making it in many ways stronger and relevant to our current reality of communication.

Close
Julian Parikh
Boston University
Julian Parikh
Boston University

Boston University, MFA in Graphic Design, 2020

Julian Parikh is a graphic designer currently living in Boston, MA. They received their BS in Communication from Boston University in 2015 and recently completed their MFA in Graphic Design, also at BU. In their work, Julian explores narrative storytelling and how queer forms of experimentation can help us better communicate content and ideas.

Why did you choose to go to graduate school?
I chose to go to graduate school a few years after completing my undergraduate studies. There, I had learned about design from an advertising perspective, and since then I had taught myself most of the tools I needed to learn to practice graphic design. I wanted to return to school to learn about the history and contemporary landscape of the field and, with more practice, achieve a better sense of design overall. I was compelled to make work that explored my identity as a biracial transgender individual and further investigated how graphic design could serve me and my community.

Why did you choose Boston University?
I chose to pursue my MFA in Graphic Design at Boston University because I already had some experience with the program during my undergraduate studies, and I was excited to take advantage of the opportunities I knew BU had to offer. As a senior in undergrad in the College of Communications, the graphic design faculty allowed me to take some sophomore-level design courses, and they were by far my favorite classes I had taken at BU. The faculty’s openness and effectiveness in teaching was what drew me back to BU and to this program.

Queer Storytelling in Graphic Design
The ideas of risk and experimentation have historically had value in both the queer and graphic design communities. Therefore, why not use variable outcome as a method for graphic design?
View thesis

This body of work uses experimentation in graphic design to recontextualize common experiences in the trans community in order to better communicate and share queer stories. Eight Months // One Minute is a video piece that explores the changes I experienced during my first eight months taking testosterone. The Governance of Trans Existence is a three-part project that explores legally changing my name and updating my gender marker through the forms involved in the process. Part 1, Journey by Paper, animates the forms to show the amount of labor involved. Part 2, RMV Story, uses the forms as a backdrop for a written narrative. Part 3, Recontextualizing Record Keeping, uses a typeface I made called Gel, based on the topical gel I use to take testosterone. I use Gel to re-typeset the forms, challenging the conventional standards of record keeping when it comes to trans identity.

How might your thesis inform your practice moving forward?
My thesis will inform the ways in which I continue to make design work for the queer community. It’s important to me to make work that can be accessed and understood by anyone, but I don’t intend to use it to justify queer existence itself. So far I’ve explored my own personal narrative that highlights some common threads amongst the experiences of transgender people. I hope those moments of connection can serve as a foundation for community building and as a jumping off point for amplifying other stories that need to be told within the BIPOC queer community.

What was the most valuable part of your graduate education?
The most valuable part of my graduate education has to do with a word that I use a lot in my thesis work: community. I could not have grown as much as I did as a designer without the unconditional support of my peers and the brilliant instruction of my professors. Furthermore, I could fully explore the subject of “queering” graphic design in a way that was meaningful to me because I was able to access guidance from other queer educators in the visual arts community. Building these connections was an incredibly rewarding experience for me as a designer.

Close
Melissa Orr
The City College of New York
Melissa Orr
The City College of New York

The City College of New York, Branding and Integrated Communications, 2020

Melissa Orr is a copywriter who completed her Masters in Branding and Integrated Communications on the Creative Track in 2020 from the City College of New York at CUNY. She is currently working as a copywriting intern at DDB SF where she develops creative social content.

Originally from the Bay Area of California, she studied Politics and Electronic Music Production in undergraduate school at UC Santa Cruz. Later she moved to New York to pursue her passion in music and gained an interest in branding and promotion along the way. She has recently transitioned into a career in branding and aspires to be a Creative Director in the future.

Why did you choose to go to graduate school?
I chose to go to graduate school so that I could pursue greater opportunities in the Creative field. I was interested in finding a way to bring together my passion for creativity, writing and media.

Why did you choose the BIC program at CCNY?
I chose The BIC program at CCNY because I knew it would help leverage my diverse skill set into a cohesive and culturally relevant creative field. I felt this was the perfect program for me to sharpen my creativity and develop my passion for ideating. Upon visiting CCNY, I also appreciated the passion of BIC’s Program Directors and the depth of its history.

The Crisis Collection by Il Makiage
A faux branded product line to support makeup maximalists
View thesis

As a student of BIC at CCNY, every project is collaborative. My role as a creative along with José Fresán, Roxie Xiè and Lorenzo Lasagna the global makeup brand Il Makiage won us a Silver Pencil at The Young Ones awards for creativity. Il Makiage challenged us to reach a niche group called makeup maximalists—people who spend up to three hours a day doing their makeup. We were asked to prove to them that Il Makiage supports their obsession with the perfect makeup look. After weeks of research and ideation, we concluded that for maximalists, makeup is much more than just makeup. It’s even more than a lifestyle. It’s about life itself. That’s why we created a faux-branded product line called “The Crisis Collection,” and a one minute ad in the style of a PSA to promote it. We wanted to show just how serious Il Makiage is about their look—Dead Serious.

How might your thesis inform your practice moving forward?
After winning a Silver Pencil at the One Show for Creativity, the client felt the work was so disruptive that they asked the Awards host to remove it from their site. Although this was a disappointment at the time, it taught me that pushing the boundaries is part of being an innovator. I learned that as a Creative, if you have an outstanding idea, it’s okay to break the rules a little. If the idea stands on its own, creativity supersedes formality.

What was the most valuable part of your graduate education?
The most valuable parts of my graduate education were the amazing connections I made with my colleagues and mentors. Collaborating with people from all over the world was a privilege that helped inform my work and expand my creativity. I also value the sense of accomplishment that came from working hard at something I am passionate about. To me, education is a human right and at the same time, it is a privilege that allows for deeply personal and professional enrichment. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to pursue my Masters degree.

Close
Leanne Carroll
School of Visual Arts
Leanne Carroll
School of Visual Arts

The School of Visual Arts, MFA Interaction Design 2020

Leanne is a strategic interaction designer with a background in digital content design and project management. She has over 8 years of experience helping teams understand the needs of people using their products. Leanne is passionate about combining research, strategy and design to create meaningful, safe and accessible experiences for everyone. She moved to Brooklyn in 2012 from Ireland, after earning a bachelor’s degree in International Commerce and a love for a good cup of tea.

Why did you choose to go to graduate school?
Seeing how technology was changing the way we interact with people and the world around us highlighted a disparity to me between who is benefiting and who is negatively impacted. I wanted to use my experience I had been so fortunate to gain and put it towards helping others. Graduate school allowed me to dedicate my time to learn how to contribute to a culture where technology and design are inclusive of populations who have been historically underinvested in.

Why did you choose SVA’s Interaction Design program?
Aside from the broad curriculum which really appealed to me, talking to people who ran the department and seeing the studio space where students worked really impacted my decision. It was clear to me that the program supported you to pursue your own passions while providing you with the knowledge and tools necessary to broaden your perspective and develop your skills as a designer.

Aibell
A support platform for people affected by AI bias
View thesis

We are increasingly relying on algorithms to make decisions that impact every aspect of our lives. What news we read, who we date, what our credit limit should be, if we get a job, what our diagnosis is. Women and people of color, in particular women of color, are disproportionately affected by bias within AI systems. This is due to the lack of diversity in teams creating these models and the huge gaps in data used within them.

Aibell is a platform that educates people about how bias in AI systems could be affecting them and provides people with a safe space to share their experiences. With the help of the AI community and crowdsourced data, Aibell investigates and tracks incidents of bias. In addition, Aibell aims to provide people with the tools needed to impact change within these systems and raise awareness of the need for more diversity in the data.

How might your thesis inform your practice moving forward?
I’m very grateful for everything that my thesis taught me about the kind of designer I would like to be. My goal is to use the collaborative nature of Aibell to help me learn from as many people as possible about how to create inclusive, accessible, and safe experiences and use that knowledge to help drive change within industries using AI and emerging technologies.

What was the most valuable part of your graduate education?
I really appreciated being able to dedicate time to research and design in areas I was passionate about after working for several years. The diversity of voices, experiences of students, faculty and alumni and the collaborative nature of the program has been really valuable and has taught me a great deal about the potential for design.

It’s been amazing to join a community of people who share a common goal of positively impacting the space they are working in. I hope to keep learning and put what I do into practice in order to do the same.

Close
Yifu Zhang
Parsons School of Design
Yifu Zhang
Parsons School of Design

Parsons School of Design, MPS Communication Design, 2020

A designer who keeps delivering interesting experiences to the world.

Why did you choose to go to graduate school?
I was bored of commercial projects and going to graduate school allowed me to meet young, talented individuals and to make cool things together.

Why did you choose Parsons’s Communication Design program?
New York has a great creative network to explore. The MPS CD program offered by Parsons is the perfect niche for a developer-designer hybrid creator like me.

The Room
A virtual space based on browser
View thesis

I designed and built a web app where people could join and enjoy activities. It’s a virtual reality experience that lives on browser with great accessibility. It’s also flexible and can be easily extended to match different use cases.

How might your thesis inform your practice moving forward?
I am still working on this project and would like to extend it to a much larger scale.

What was the most valuable part of your graduate education?
The creative talent is priceless. I had the chance to meet and work together with the best minds in this industry.

Close
David Gray Kurushima
School of Visual Arts
David Gray Kurushima
School of Visual Arts

I am the mixed race son of two architects, born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I graduated with a double major in History and Art History from the University of Oregon. In my professional life I’ve been a dishwasher, a pastry baker, a political organizer, a mechanic, an educator and a manager. I’ve committed much of that working time to a non-profit bicycle organization in Portland Oregon where I also built a home and fostered a community of friends around the sport of Ultimate.

Why did you choose to go to graduate school?
Graduate school offered me an opportunity to make a break from my former career path. Upon completing my undergraduate studies I followed the often insufficient advice to simply follow my passion. I spent a decade working in the cycling and non-profit industries—I enjoyed my work. I felt that I was contributing positively to the world, I found community in my workplace, and yet I yearned for more. In graduate school I saw an opportunity to begin anew, to challenge my complacency, discover new possibilities, and inject fear and novelty back into my life.

Why did you choose SVA’s Branding program?
I applied to the MPS Branding Program at SVA for many reasons. In my previous work I was introduced to the world of brand development and became both mesmerized by the power of effective branding and dismayed by its often woeful application in the nonprofit industry. The SVA Program’s breadth of curriculum, depth of faculty and its commitment to developing graduates who make a difference in the world, convinced me that it was the only program to which I needed to apply. Seeking a wholly novel experience as well as the fact that the program is in NYC were additional bonuses.

Descent
Sisyphus as Zeitgeist
View thesis

This short film is an assessment of this cultural moment in time. It is a brief reflection upon the past decade, a decade defined by progress but punctuated by profound regression. The Myth of Sisyphus is certainly not a new or novel narrative, it is a story that has defined the most pressing social, political and environmental movements of our generation. But with the ubiquitous arrival of COVID-19 and a return to economic hardship, the Sisyphian struggle has become an inescapable narrative, consciously or otherwise. This pandemic, though not a complete equalizer, has made “the struggle” unironically real for everyone, and the multitude of recent cultural manifestations defined by endless struggle have been cast in an even more profoundly universal light.

How might your thesis inform your practice moving forward?
From conception to execution this short film was a completely new experience for me. I had never made a film before this and my crash-course in the tools used to create this work will certainly be a foundational experience for any motion picture work I do in the future. The experience of absorbing, processing and synthesising cultural trends—as guided by my wonderful instructor Sem Devillart—was also a completely novel experience for me that was tremendously exciting and inspiring and will certainly inform the rest of my professional experience.

What was the most valuable part of your graduate education?
As a westcoaster with a minimal design background and whose career has largely been spent in non-profit and blue-collar work places, the opportunity to simply meet and work with faculty and colleagues with experience in the branding industry has been profoundly impactful and inspiring. Better understanding the challenges, nuance and expansive possibilities of this field has given me both renewed confidence in myself and a welcomed dose of humility and awe.

Close