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For the first time since the undergraduate major in design was introduced, Penn seniors in design created an in-person exhibition to showcase their final projects, interpreting this year’s theme “in search of” in a variety of mediums.
Design became a major in the fall semester of 2019, in conjunction with a restructuring of an enhanced fine arts major. Both majors are offered through a collaboration between the Weitzman School and College of Arts and Sciences, with most of the 70-plus courses taught by Weitzman faculty. The major, which requires 16 credits, incorporates history, theory, and practice.
The collaborative exhibition [on view in the Addams Gallery from April 13 through 15], with accompanying site, showcased the “culminating project” for 15 seniors who are design majors, said Ani Liu, professor of practice, who co-taught the senior design seminar with Jacob Rivkin. “They're all addressing different themes, of culture, identity, and the relationship between technology and society,” Liu said.
The words the students used to define their projects, filling in the blank after the phrase “in search of…,” included adaptability, anxiety, balance, culture, coherence, an escape, identity, interaction, legacy, memory, metamorphosis, myself, stories, sustainability, and understanding.
“It’s been amazing to see the students grow and develop as designers and artists throughout their time at Penn, especially this year,” Rivkin said. “Through the process of iteration and prototyping their thesis projects with intention, every student made creative and conceptual leaps in their own practice.”
The projects incorporated highlights of the major’s coursework, including website, book, publication, clothing, graphic, architectural, and spatial design, as well as illustration, animation, photography, 3D modeling, video, and augmented and virtual reality. The students also designed and created their exhibition spaces.
The showcase was “an experiment in and of itself” with diverse work in the different forms of media, Liu said, noting intersections with computer science, engineering, and art. “I think it’s important for Penn students to be able to explore outside the boundaries of one major,” Liu said, “and this is something that has lends itself to that type of thinking.”