Chaos.

That was the sensation Grace Julian Murthy wanted to evoke in her graphic design exhibit on food allergies – because that’s what people with food allergies experience every time they enter a restaurant or other dining area that they don’t control themselves.

Presentation plays an important part in graphic design education, and Murthy was among eight recent graphic design master’s degree recipients who returned to campus after graduation to learn how to turn their thesis projects into exhibit material for Re:design, at Suffolk University’s Adams Gallery through Nov. 17, 2013.

They discovered that displaying their ideas for the public in a three-dimensional space is much different than their customary New England School of Art & Design presentations.

“What I wanted to do in the gallery setting was to engage viewers who hadn’t thought about food allergies,” said Murthy.

She covered part of a wall with a confusion of black-and-white images, with interactive lift-up panels.

“I used red dots as a visual indicator to let the viewer know where the selected designs are located … the posters are hidden just as food ingredients are often hidden in an allergy sufferer’s life,” wrote Murthy in material accompanying her display.

Learning from the experts

The student exhibitors worked closely with Professor Rita Daly, director of the Master of Arts in Graphic Design program, and exhibit designer Joe Viamonte to learn how best to convey their messages in three dimensions.

“Presentation is always part of what our students do,” said Daly. But to prepare them for this new form, Daly had the students visit the gallery space, meet with her and Viamonte, and then present drawings of their exhibit concepts.

“Joe and I critiqued their work, and once a final design was approved, they went ahead.”

Viamonte advised the graphic designers on how to assemble, mount and install – part of learning to translate two-dimensional work to 3D.

“I enjoyed the students’ energy and creativity as well as the diversity of their projects,” he said.

A different way of thinking

Emily Boyes-Watson found the learning experience “a lot of fun” and said that “it definitely allows you to think about your work in a different way. Joe has been incredibly helpful in helping to translate my vision to reality.”

She said the opportunity presented through the campus gallery gave her a unique chance to explore her ideas.

Boyes-Watson created a system for offering feedback on the exhibit, consisting of paper bracelets color-coded to each students’ display. Visitors to the exhibit are asked to write on the bracelets, wear them, use them to spread the word about the exhibit and the artists’ ideas, or leave a bracelet with a written response on a structure Boyes-Watson built outside the gallery door.

“It’s anonymous and a collective expression of what people are thinking about,” she said.

Taking it up a notch

Stephen Plummer’s installation for Story Keys, a set of educational tools aimed at helping students become expert storytellers, was influenced by a column in the gallery space that he was allotted.

“I had to think about how to use vertical space,” he said. His solution: to mount cutouts of shapes that serve as keys to narrative techniques on the column, along with a projector that throws large images onto a nearby wall.

“I took what I learned in master’s program and took it to another level,” said Plummer. “When I was working on my thesis I didn’t know I’d be presenting in a gallery. It’s exciting.”

Working artists

Boyes-Watson founded Group Project Design in April 2012 while still a student and functions as the company’s creative director.

Plummer has been working with Emily for about a year, consulting with startups and other companies on logos, identities and websites.

Murthy, a former associate art director who plans to do consulting work, has shared her graphic design ideas related to food allergies with Tufts University, which is considering implementing her innovations. These include a sticker that changes color to warn parents that a child is being exposed to a specific allergen and a food indicator stick coated with a non-toxic chemical; when inserted into a food or meal, the probe would change color to indicate whether or not an allergen is present.

Additional graphic designers represented in the exhibit are:

  • Kevin Lin
  • Michelle Pergal
  • Joshua Peters
  • Krista Van Guilder
  • Elizabeth Barrera Yepez