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Now in Production

Now in Production

The large and varied traveling exhibition Graphic Design: Now in Production opens on Friday, March 28 at the RISD Museum, providing an exhilarating look at cutting-edge concepts and creative practices in 21st-century graphic design. As the first graphic design exhibition at the museum in more than a decade, the 600-square-foot show presents work straddling the line between art and design.

“The show vividly highlights the ways in which graphic design influences our lives and offers a deeper understanding of the creative thinking that informs the design process,” says Museum Director John W. Smith. “During the course of the exhibition, the museum will be a forum that unites the public and some of graphic design’s leading practitioners through lively and innovative programming.”

As Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs Jan Howard points out, many of those leading practitioners got their start studying at RISD or are here as visiting artists, designers or faculty members. For example, Power Up Windmill, a poster by Shepard Fairey 99 IL (the artist best known for the Obey Giant series and for creating the Hope poster during President Obama’s 2008 campaign) is included in the show along with a Green Patriot Poster by Skolos + Wedell (interim Dean of Architecture + Design Nancy Skolos and Senior Critic Tom Wedell). Thought-provoking personal “annual reports” that made a name for Nicholas Felton 99 GD, who presents detailed information graphics on his everyday activities through his Feltron series, are also featured, as is work by renowned Israeli designer Oded Ezer, who served as a Designer in Residence in RISD’s Graphic Design department last fall.

The national traveling exhibition makes its final stop at RISD after opening in 2011 at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, which co-organized the ambitious overview with the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York. Now that graphic design is the largest of the design professions in the US (and the fourth largest major at RISD), more than a quarter-million practitioners use color, typography, images, symbols and systems to convey meaningful print and digital messages. Public awareness of the role of graphic design has also grown along with the rise in desktop publishing and the proliferation of web- and cloud-based tools, along with radical changes in the way people now consume information.

At the same time, uses of graphic design that were predicted to disappear from the planet – namely, printed books and magazines – are not only surviving but thriving in the digital age. Howard says that there are more magazines in production today than ever before and that deluxe, smaller editions provide opportunities for creative designers to handcraft masterpieces in these genres.

In addition to posters, information design, magazines and books, the exhibition highlights typography, branding, television titles and the “office of now,” where the RISD Museum’s own graphic designers Derek Schusterbauer (who helped to organize the exhibition) and Brendan Campbell actually work at their desks, which have been transplanted into the gallery space as part of the show.

Now in Production is on view through August 3 and will be further enhanced through a range of related programs, including a family-friendly tour of the show this Sunday, March 30; a panel discussion with RISD faculty members and visiting exhibition co-curators Andrew Blauvelt and Ellen Lupton on Wednesday, April 16; and a celebratory Design the Night event on Thursday, April 17 that will feature live music, hands-on art making and refreshments.

Simone Solondz

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