Graduating graphic design students host multimedia senior design showcase

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Fourth-year students in the undergraduate Graphic Design program within the Stuckeman School at Penn State are hosting their senior design showcase this spring through a variety of media – including a website, a poster exhibit, individual videos and a social media campaign on Instagram and LinkedIn – that culminates with two evenings of student presentations and Q&A sessions via Zoom from 6-8:30 p.m. on April 19 and 20.

Titled “Re/form,” the multimedia show is designed to highlight the students’ ability to adapt to environmental changes and challenges – particularly the COVID-19 pandemic – as they prepare to navigate the start of their professional careers.

The students, who are handling everything from the messaging to the branding and social media promotion for the event, installed their posters, which are printed and wheat-pasted, on the back of the State Theatre on Calder Way in downtown State College earlier this week. They also designed sticker boxes containing stickers that promote their event, which have been distributed to local businesses so customers can grab one while in the stores.

“Our goal with this modified format is to make every aspect of the exhibition an experience,” said fourth-year student Christie Warren. “From our poster installation, to social media, to our website, to our film and presentations, we’ve worked hard to not only create cohesion but also make sure our audience gets something different from each aspect.”

The theme of the showcase, which is “Shift the grid,” alludes to the unique ways in which the students have built upon the foundation of their design experience at Penn State.

“Over the past four years, we have all received the same assignments, been taught by the same professors and taken the same design courses, but we are ultimately emerging as exceedingly different designers in terms of style, process, interests and skill sets,” said Warren.

The theme also represents how the class has adapted and redefined traditions usually followed by graduating students.

“This class has overcome enormous challenges posed by the pandemic including the loss of internship opportunities, classes being mostly remote and missing out on their senior year in-person at school with their fellow classmates,” said Emily Burns, assistant professor of graphic design and the students’ capstone project instructor.

“In addition, they haven’t had the chance to hold an event for the internship show or install their senior exhibition in person [as they traditionally would as fourth-year students], everything had to be online,” she continued. “Geographic and time-zone differences also added significant challenges as many students were out of the area completely, or in totally different time zones.”

Graduating student Carly Blonski said the show is an opportunity for her and her classmates to art direct, research and purposely select each design piece they chose for the show. She also noted the challenges students faced in light of the pandemic.

“This program has an impressive alumni history and pushes its current students to be able to keep up with, and even exceed, the successes that they have had,” she said. “COVID definitely put a spin on how we were able to learn these skills, but it reinforced our abilities to adapt and get creative. That’s one of aspect of this show that gets me excited — each of us is able to bring our skill sets together to make something bigger than we could have on our own.”

To faculty within the Department of Graphic Design, the showcase represents the talents and ingenuity of the graduating seniors and their ability to work together to overcome the extreme challenges they faced to create a vibrant exhibition, said Burns.

“I continue to be amazed by their talent and hard work, their ability to pivot in response to obstacles and the overall positive outlook they have had,” she said. “They just don’t give up and they continue to strive to do their best work and help each other.”

Despite the challenges the class faced, Burns says she hopes those that view the show are inspired by the breadth and caliber of the work created by the students during their time in Happy Valley, as well as the creativity behind their independent senior capstone studio projects.

“Despite all the challenges they faced throughout the past year, the work is stunning, and the range of projects included in each student’s portfolio is a testament to their ability to adapt and learn new skills, methods and technologies,” she said.

Those interested in attending the two nights of student presentations can learn more via Eventbrite.

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