One of the most important steps for an aspiring artist is to have their work seen and critiqued by professionals, and that is exactly the purpose of the new Wilson Gallery installment of student works and the accompanying exhibit titled “The Judges.”
Students from every class of the visual communications major submit works or groups of works for adjudication by outside professionals who decide what works will be featured in the final exhibition.
Visual communications faculty, Tai Lipan, who is also responsible for organizing and curating the Wilson Gallery shows, highlighted that the exhibition is different every year depending on the jurors. Some years, a juror will choose the works that they think are not only the strongest, but also have a unifying theme around which they can shape the exhibition. Some jurors insist on limiting the number of works they accept from an individual artist.
This year, however, the jurors picked whichever work they thought was strongest regardless of class rank or the number of works an artist already has in the show. Lipan admits that this makes the show slightly less inclusive across the board, but also affirms that this method ensures that “the show focuses on the strongest work. Not every student has something in, some students have more than one thing in.”
The student works on display were created no later than the end of the 2016 fall semester, but in the interim between creation and submission students focused on how to best present their work, or in Lipan’s words, to have their work “show ready and mounted.” Since the department focuses on graphic design, a considerable part of the artists’ efforts go into the packaging of their work and how they look next to each other as they might when pitching their services to a company.
For example, a branding project for an Italian restaurant features wall decorations and a logo idea, and more are arranged as an artistically unified set. As any student or observer of graphic design knows, excellent packaging for a product—even if the product itself is packaging—is just as important as an excellent product, thus the experience of selling their work to a juror prepares AU students for selling their work to a client.
Whereas the majority of the Wilson Gallery space is dedicated to student works, the accompanying exhibit “The Judges,” focuses on the works of the jurors themselves. Judges Jenn Mansell and Ryan Pickard, who work for MilesHerndon in Indianapolis, provide input based on their experience working in the field now and give both students and visitors a glimpse into industry standards and their own creative abilities by showcasing their work alongside that of the students.
Many times, when students or professionals submit work to galleries or clients, they may never know why their work was or was not selected. Although AU students do not often received direct commentary form jurors, Lipan hopes “The Judges” will help them understand the people reviewing their work.
“They get a little window, by seeing the artist’s work, to the value system of professionals by giving them the context,” Lipan said. “[They] connect with individuals with whom they could have connections for work or internships.”
Lipan hopes that, by getting to know the work of local professionals they might get a glimpse into what will be expected of them when they fully enter the field upon graduating.
As with any art form, opinions on what makes “good graphic design” differ based on who, where and when one asks. With a different set of jurors every year, students and faculty alike can get outside opinions on design trends, reinforce lessons from the classroom or learn something new from those who are pushing the industry forward. Lipan stressed that doing this helps students see that their “opinions matter but aren’t the only opinions” and help to “not have students just end with hurt feelings but get outside input” to understand feedback, favorable or otherwise.
The exhibition shows the wide scope to which graphic design is applied. There are T-shirt designs and movie posters, but also calendars, journals, infographics, glassware and even packaging for Lego products.
Students will notice a similarity in the kind of products on display simply because much of the work comes from classroom projects that focus on those specific products.
Lipan asserts the importance of these kinds of projects not only because they mirror the average graphic designer’s everyday work, but also because they encourage “creative freedom within limitations. They can bring personality to work” even within the limits of classroom guidelines, while the classroom projects require “a ton of prep work so that stylistically, even if you favor something, your portfolio isn’t all of the same thing.”
The Student Juried Exhibition and “The Judges” is showing in the Wilson Gallery in the upstairs portion of the Fine Arts building Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from now through Feb. 24.