This past weekend I took a 10 hour bus ride to New York City, followed by a two-hour train to New Haven to check out the Yale Graphic Design Graduate Show: Off the Wall. I have been an avid follower of the school’s work for the past year and thought it was finally time to see it in person.
The show runs from May 15-22, but I wanted to be among the first to see it. I arrived at the exhibit just 2 hours after it had officially opened, but to my surprise, the students were still setting up! At first I was slightly disappointed that my long journey was rewarded by a half finished show. Fortunately, most of the work was there to be viewed as the pieces were still in the process of being arranged. The majority of the students were present, working hard to complete their show. It was actually quite a laid-back environment and many students were kind enough to walk me through the show and explain their ideas about the exhibit - an opportunity I may not have experience had I visited during the reception.
Off the Wall is a unique kind of exhibit where, as the name would imply, all of the work is off of the wall - it’s on the floor instead. This model distributes student work randomly throughout the gallery, thereby flattening any hierarchy that may occur in a traditional gallery setting. The idea behind this approach is that design is not art; it does not need to be place on a pedestal (maybe just two-inch thick foam platforms). It also encourages the idea that design needs to be presented in its true form and that is has to be accessible to the viewer.
One technical drawback to this set-up was that due to the overhead lighting, all of the pieces printed on glossy paper was difficult to view straight on - some things just don’t become apparent until they’ve finally been executed.
In a traditional gallery setting where work is hung on a wall, there is a predetermined orientation from which the work should be viewed, but since having the work on the floors allows viewers to walk around the work, the orientation of the work is left to the viewer’s interpretation.
Thesis books produced by each of the students of the graduating class.
Gallery window display, using Replica.
I should mention that screen work will also be presented on digital screens, laying flat on the ground, just like the print work. Unfortunately that portion was not fully complete by the time I had to catch my train back to NYC. You can view all the pieces on the Off the Wall website.
You can watch the full interview I did with Daniel Koppich, who was part of the space planning group for the show.
A warm thank you and congratulations goes out to all of the graduating students who welcomed me into the setting up process that day. Your hospitality and passion for the show made it an afternoon I will not soon forget. I wish you all the best.