On December 1, 18 Graphic Design seniors launched their senior showcase in a pair of colorful, spacious galleries at the Graphic Design Center on West Broad St. Each of the exhibiting students were December graduates and have all chosen to go out with a bang. The show, overseen by Associate Professor of Graphic Design Sandy Wheeler, celebrated some extraordinary intersections between hand-built technology and keen-eyed design. From an immersive installation about the journey of immigrants to richly colorful graphics for the Atlanta Falcons, each idea was transposed and transformed through traditional and digital mediums.
Thomas Tonapi wanted to visualize a concept for a new country in developing his work United Martian Territories. Not content with inventing a new country here on Earth, Tonapi imagined what living in a future Martian colony would be like. In the gallery, his project looked like an imposing black box. But if visitors unzipped the door, they’d discover a vision of the future inside. It was a foil-lined pod replete with space suits, a flag, passports, the lyrics to the national anthem, schematics for interplanetary transport, a book of high-resolution images of the planet’s surface, and various other Martian “paraphernalia”—all designed by Tonapi.
“Essentially, you enter what I call a Planetary Immigration Embassy,” says Tonapi. The idea is that someone could go here to “get a taste of what Mars life would be like, and what it would be like to travel to Mars.”
Once inside, visitors were closed off to the world. “I want you to be immersed in the space, and really separate yourself outside of everybody else’s project.”
Visiting Hours, by Bex, was an installation that featured a digital clock, printed text and two motorized turntables fitted with laser cut Plexiglass. The multiple sheets of glass, etched with images of male and female torsos at various points of life, converged with every turn to create a rapid-fire slideshow.
Bex says that the project was designed to evoke and consider the “temporal space” that exists in the process of reproduction. “What does it mean to share your body?” she says. “I wanted to isolate an experience that gets washed away: the psychosis of what it means to make another human, and what it does to you.”
Standing in the center, with a light flashing through the glass, Bex’s idea took shape. “It’s kind of a play on a zoetrope, right? Two entities meeting to make one image.”
Some students demonstrated the immediate practicality of their work, and how it affects their career. Kevin Keane’s project Patent Pending was driven by his three years of graphic design work with the Virginia Center for Policing Innovation in Richmond. Working so closely with law enforcement inspired him to design a better body camera—one that won’t be obscured or need to be manually powered on.
“I came up with an idea to … have a drone mounted on the roof of a police car,” says Keane, “that automatically deploys when the officer responds to a call. It autonomously follows and films the officer from above, showing the full picture.”
The drone can also be used as a tool by the officer for searching for missing persons, or analyzing traffic and crime scenes. Keane worked with retired police officers to patent the work, which inspired the name of his contribution to the show.
Image: Thomas Tonapi, United Martian Territories, 2017, installation view.