Social—flux dp

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The third, and final, lens of my degree project was a social lens, through which I explored what it means to be a designer engaged with his community; both in the context of Providence and RISD.

As I was thinking about what I wanted to do for my degree project, I thought about how I could I take this project and time and use it as an opportunity to further the work I have been doing outside/inside of RISD and to collaborate with other students and people in my community. Although the core “thesis” of my dp (loosely) defines it as an exploration of home through three distinct lenses—by no means were any of the projects or explorations mutually exclusive. That being said, the labelling of the lenses was more of a means of me providing a framework and structure for the work I was making during my degree project.

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For the social lens, I released a survey on social media asking my network (and my friends’ extended network) questions about what home means to them, in terms of geographic location and personal sentiment. One of the projects that crossed-over from my ISP and my DP was an illustrated zine about all the homes I have lived in since I was born through spring 2017.

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I mention this zine, because it led me both to the survey and to  working with Anina, a mfa thesis student who was doing her thesis on the topic of home. While my definition of home is dynamic, her perspective was static: her home in the Bahamas. Anina and I first met at the Haystack Art School Collaborative in Maine in the fall, and it was great to be able to reconnect before we graduated. We had some really rich conversations about our work and the its relation to the concept of home.

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I also collaborated with Ruth and DoYun, two of my dp peers in graphic design. With Ruth, we did a postcard project sending nonlinear memories and messages back and forth to each other in relation to home and identity. DoYu and I worked on a visual mapping of 25 objects we each brought in and made relationships intermixing and arranging in different compositions.

Lastly, I used the social lens as a means of reevaluating and refocusing more energy on my role as an artist mentor at NUA.  That community is honestly so warm and incredible. I feel so blessed to have been a part of it, and for the impact it has had on my career as an artist/designer/human-being; not just artistically but socially.

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Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’
—John 4:13–14, NIV

Religious—flux dp

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The second lens I explored through my degree project was a religious lens. As a Christian, I believe our time on Earth is temporary and that our true home is with God in Heaven. Living by this creed can look and sound different than a life lead without Christ, or under the notion that this one life is all that we have. Through a religious lens, I sought to explore making work about the most personal aspect of my identity, one that I’ve arguably struggled with the most through my short twenty-two years on this Earth.

The primary question of the religious lens was: “How can I use graphic design to make the gospel accessible to people who are not religious?” Many people have been either personally hurt by the church or some form of organized religion, or are hesitant and unaware of the heart of Christianity.

Starting this project, I quickly became aware and sensitive to the observation that many designers do not make work about religion. It is a tricky and challenging subject to approach. With my own reservations, and personal conflicts and questions about the faith that I grapple with day-to-day, I sought to use this lens as a means of pursuing my faith through form making and using visual design to supplement and build upon the act of sharing the gospel and supplementing personal testimony about Christianity. As Christians, we are called to spread the goodness and to evangelize; graphic design is the study of communication and language; marrying these two together seemed really compelling and helped me grow both on my own walk and as a designer.

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There were two main projects I made for the religious lens, each with multiple components (and each taking longer than expected!). I had hoped to make a larger body of work and to explore more themes, but I also feel like the projects I was able to ‘complete’ could have been made richer with more sustained meditation on the word and time on the exploration/production. I digress.

I designed a four poster series on Sanctuary‘s directions of pursuing God in our lives, on the Christian journey—our personal relationship walking with God. Pastor Andrew used to speak about seeking God in these four directions: upward, inward, outward, and withward. My initial inclination was to make one poster that encapsulated the idea of a Christian journey in one form, but Cyrus and Tom helped me distill it into four evocative pieces. It was important for me to create religious work that could be approachable to people who were not religious. I didn’t want to use any explicit imagery or iconography that would shut people out, but rather make smart design decisions that would attract viewers and convey a sense of emotion and richness.

After I finished the poster series, I wanted to build a body of work off of the core values of Christianity.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
—1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV

I designed faith as a large poster, that spoke about scale in relation to people thinking they need a lot of it, but Jesus mentioning with faith the size of a mustard seed you can move a mountain. Hope I designed as a series of booklets, anthologies that describes hope through narratives in the Bible. I have always wanted to design a daily devotional since I revived my faith and started to seriously pursue graphic design.

And ironically, I hadn’t had thought of what the manifestation of love would be. Supplementing my degree project, I had been doing a lot of religious design/art work through an independent study with Cyrus Highsmith. One of the final projects I made with him was a scarf—telling the narrative story of how Jesus fed 5000(+) with five loaves and two fish.  I brought that in to supplement the presentation of my work for the religious lens, and ended up presenting it as a manifestation of love as it was designed as a gift for my mother.

The Sunday before my degree project presentation, I ended up receiving confirmation through Sanctuary. These past four years have been such a rollercoaster, and one of the greatest strongholds has been my relationship with Christ throughout my life. It wasn’t always the strongest, especially freshman year and the proceeding period of suffering and pain, but I have seen God move in amazing ways both in my life and the lives of people around me. This project was only a small offering, and a huge joy of mine, to give as testament of my faith during my years at RISD and beyond.

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I found making work about my faith very fulfilling and challenging. The reception of it was reassuringly positive (with many mentions of Sister Corita Kent), and I feel very blessed and fortunate to have felt comfortable enough to have pursued this as a part of my dp exploration. Though I am not sure any people declared their faith for Jesus the day of my presentation (though that would have been amazing and all praise and glory to God if so), but I am happy to have had the opportunity to have helped ‘plant the seed’ or at least sprinkle a little piece of manure on the soil. Only God can save people, and I am happy to help contribute in spreading his good news and blessings however best I can. I feel a responsibility and privilege to be able to use graphic design and visual communication as a tool for activism and spreading the good news.

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Sorry for the hiatus, posting regularly is a lot harder than I would have thought! I just finished a book and (side plot) one of the main characters writes a very successful blog(s). Living in the city has been exciting and consuming, but I am hopeful I can chunk out this DP work and start focusing on making my own work again on the side or further pursuing my interests in design outside of my professional career. Thanks for reading. Happy 4th.

Political—flux dp

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Through my degree project, I explored the concept of home, and the social responsibilities of a designer engaged with his community, through three lenses. The first lens was ‘political.’

To quote my dp presentation, “Through a political lens—I explored what it means to be American. Are you considered to be American if you live in America? Or does being American require citizenship and legal status? Especially in today’s political climate, fear and hate have been instilled within our nation, and it has raised the question of what it means to consider America our home.”

What does it mean to be American? & What does it mean to be living in America today?

At the beginning of the semester, I had the desire to use my dp as an opportunity to work with people and organizations that I am interested in, and haven’t had the chance to work with prior. I first heard about Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island from Lucy (or from a mutual friend who told me that Lucy was interning there over the summer through the Maharam program). And throughout my senior year, I’ve seen an influx of DIIRI/RISD related programs and flyers. Then, out of the blue, Brandon (who later became one of my bosses and mentors at DIIRI) came to speak about DIIRI in one of my art history (Socially Engaged Art) classes.

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Long-story-short, I ended up doing an unofficial design internship/design volunteer with DIIRI, designing bilingual Know Your Rights pamphlets and the identity for the KYR campaign. (You may read more about this project on my website).

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The KYR project ended up consuming a lot of my time and energy throughout the semester, numerous iterations and receiving feedback from various perspectives and critics. I am proud to have designed something that was able to make such a significant, real-world impact. And at the end of the degree project, I questioned whether I would have been able to design a stronger identity/pamphlet had I only targeted the KYR project for my dp. And despite that, I do not think the project in its entirety would have been as rich without all the components of my dp. And I would not have felt as satisfied had I not pursued KYR or the other projects in tandem for my dp.

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Besides the KYR project with DIIRI, I had done some political postings. Including bilingual voting guides, postings about hope and inclusion, responses about inclusivity and ‘home’ in America. But these were all exercises that led to the KYR projects as the primary project of the political lens of my dp.

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The ‘political’ wall, presenting all the work from the political lens of my dp during the final dp presentation. KYR pamphlet and campaign identity (left). Message of Hope from President Obama (center). messages of encouragement and inclusion (right), bilingual voting guide (upper right).

More about the other lenses and my dp next week!

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands
—Revelation 7:9, ESV