Master of Arts Graduates in Graphic Design Stage an Exhibition at Fort Point

With large-scale thesis projects and a lack of display space at 75 Arlington Street, the January 2012 MAGD graduates took over the Fort Point Arts Community gallery on Farnsworth Street in Boston for a public exhibition of their work (which remains up until February 11th). Called Beyond Graphic Design, the tagline reads “Grow, Stitch, Travel, Imagine, Explode, Experience” and all those verbs only begin to explain the brilliant work one see on the walls.










The six program graduates, Emily Roose, April Kalix-Cattell, Shi-Min Chin, Kate Simonson, Jeanie Havens and Victor Cabrera, spent a minimum of three semesters working on the key project of their tenure at NESADSU. The amount of effort that went into each of the projects, the depth of commitment, the variety, and the stunning results were there for all to see.

One of the most challenging projects belongs to April Kalix-Cattell. Called “Fully Fed”, it “explores interactive, experiential design and its ability to bring awareness to the conflict between eating foods that fill us and truly being fed”. Against a backdrop of artfully arranged packaging containers, each bottle, box and jar painted a stark white, are several pedestals with immediately recognizable food products perched on top.

The familiar Cheez-It’s box, a bag of colorful candy, a jug of orange-flavored drink, a box of doughnuts, all “products we all know and love. Upon closer inspection, you will find the packages have been altered to highlight the non-nutritional value of these items. Inside are the ‘filler’ foods made from inedible materials such as cardboard, feathers, and sponges. The material choices communicate that these have as little nutritional value and provide as much satisfaction as the actual food products they represent.” April invites the viewer “to pick up, explore, and interact with my work. As you do, I hope to challenge your assumptions about something we all take for granted: our very definition of food.” And I guarantee you’ll never look at a package of prepared food in the same way again.


Shifting gears entirely, Emily Roose manages to make a biting statement about our obsession with breaking news stories that are “fast and ephemeral”, by slowly and painstakingly cross-stitching the images on canvas. In Slow-Breaking News, “I wanted to see how this transference of medium affects the message of these stories and highlights the absurdity of the way stories are reported in the media and the way we consume them.”

Using source imagery from television and news websites, she created six cross-stitch designs in about four months, then a seventh later on. Much of the stitching took place as she designed so there’s a wonderful spontaneity to all the pieces. The images ended as framed pieces and her documentation of the project made into three books: one on research on media theory, the second on the history of cross-stitch, and a third documenting the final work.


Victor Cabrera’s Branding Tourism for the Dominican Republic points out the obvious to anyone who has ever contemplated a Caribbean vacation: the simple fact that there are many wonderful places to vacation and a finite number of tourists to go there. With the crucial role that tourism plays in the economies of the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, even the U.S., the question becomes how best to entice those tourists to one place, in this case Victor’s Dominican Republic.

“My thesis goal was to develop a comprehensive strategic framework for branding tourism for the Dominican Republic. For several years, this industry has been the number one generator of income and jobs for the country. I have developed a set of associated communication campaign materials and a modular system in which tourism for the Dominican Republic can be promoted around the world by offering a live experience that encompasses all of the senses.” By highlighting the allure of the Dominican Republic in large-scale photographic panels, a book, and a multi-sensory, movable encapsulation of the country and its myriad offerings for tourists, Victor can entice potential travelers to sample all the Dominican Republic has to offer. Hopefully they’ll follow with a visit to the real thing.


Using her background in interior design to complement her new-found skills as a graphic/environmental designer, Kate Simonson sought to increase “the value of the mural in a digital age”. The goal of her thesis was to “enhance the value of the mural… turning the art form into an event…by exploding parts of a mural all over the city”. By increasing the visibility of the mural, she hoped to “more positively impact the environment, communicate messages, and create community”.


Shi-Min Chin’s thesis project, titled Ultimate Roots: A Case for Expanding Spirit in the Growth of Ultimate Frisbee, was aimed at creating and branding a “grassroots organization for the sport of Ultimate Frisbee”, which she named Ultimate Roots. The object was to involve Frisbee players in community service, by drawing on their “spirit of the game” and their sense of moral responsibility in order to benefit the general public.


Jeanie Havens drew her thesis project, called Morris and Gawwk: Go to the Planet of Mud, from a childhood’s worth of stories created by her father, Thomas, and told in on-going narratives to her and to her brothers. Though never written down at the time of the telling, Jeannie has recreated the stories and given them graphic form in accompanying drawings for the first time. As she says, “I believe that Morris and Gawwk helped open the doors of creativity in me as a child and I hope their stories do the same for children and parents who encounter them today.”

Graphic Design Graduate Program Director Rita Daly, always a champion of her students, said about the exhibition and the work shown:

“The student projects shown in the January 2012 Masters in Graphic Design Thesis Exhibition represent just what the show title states: ‘Beyond Graphic Design’. Students realize the value in the uniqueness of the topics and the form their final thesis projects take. The diversity of subject matter and the personal manifestation of thesis ideas communicate the MAGD program goal of producing thinking, creative, well-qualified graduates, capable of adapting to and addressing the issues that will confront them as graphic design professionals.”

As NESADSU Chairman Bill Davis said, after a tour of the exhibition: “Ultimately, the Master of Arts in Graphic Design program is concerned with communicating complex ideas visually. The goal of the work here is not to create “pretty pictures”, but to inform and persuade intellectually, emotionally and visually. The six projects included succeed in doing this most convincingly.”

The MAGD Thesis Exhibition is open through Saturday, February 11th. The gallery is at 12 Farnsworth Street in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood and is open Monday through Friday from 11 to 6 and on Saturday from 10 until 5.


Images Courtesy of Molly Akin