new. An MFA Design Show.
Pratt Institute presents the Inaugural MFA Communications Design Thesis Exhibition

First Show: April 8–19, 2011

Opening Reception: Friday, April 8, 6–9 pm
Theresa Berenato / John Chaich / Elizabeth Kuehnen / Brenda McManus / Christie Shin / Rebecca Wiener

Second Show: April 22–May 3, 2011

Opening Reception: Friday, April 22, 6–9 pm
Skyler Balbus / Betsy Medvedovsky / Julian Rehani / Matt Scheer / Maria-Nefeli Stavrinidi / Daniel Wiggins

Pratt Institute's Graduate Communications Design department is pleased to announce the 2011 thesis exhibitions for its inaugural MFA class.

Pratt opens the Manhattan Gallery to members of the design community, alumni, press, and potential clients to highlight the new work of twelve new MFA students. The exhibitions, premiering April 8 and April 22, will present thesis installations in diverse mediums including print, audio, and digital.

Both exhibitions, which run for twelve days, provide a unique opportunity to glimpse work from the city's newest MFA program in design.

Theresa Berenato
The Phenomenology of Design
Exploring the Intimate

Through hand-crafted and gestural forms, I have explored how design can point out wonders of reality we may not already be fully appreciating. Design tangibly punctuated with the inclusion or allusion to pieces of daily life can collapse time, creating a space for viewers to be emotionally present with their past experiences.

Through a phenomenological approach—addressing the meaning things have in the experience of our daily lives—design can trigger intimate encounters, unearthing the poetic essence that resonates in objects, acts, and ephemera.


John Chaich
Connecting the Dots
Curation is Communications Design

As both a designer who curates and a curator who designs, I embrace an interconnected practice that allows me to author and style similar ideas—love, loss, identity, materiality, and community—through not only creating my own work but also presenting others’.

Curating is a way of connecting the dots of questions, inspirations, and delineations that intrigue me. Like design, curating frames, navigates, and communicates in a space.


Elizabeth Kuehnen
Re-Imagining the City
To reveal, interpret and reconstruct the experience of place

New York City provides visitors and residents a multiplicity of characters, viewpoints and histories. In my desire to explore what gives me a feeling of attachment to the city, many of my investigations isolate, fragment and abstract specific patterns, places and events in order to interpret from my subjective viewpoint.

Each component of my thesis exhibition is a model for a site-specific, permanent installation in the city that will create new ways to experience the everyday city environment. I hope that by re-imagining the city I can offer a prism through which people can reflect on their own experience of place.


Brenda McManus
Mediating Integrity
Personal Perspectives on Politics, Religion and Design

Design is everywhere; it influences and shapes everything we see and touch. My reality is structured and packaged by design, immersed in a sense of value and commonality. My need to understand is what leads me to question, to dissect, to shift through the layers of interpretation to gain the essence of the meaning, the integrity of the content, and to do so responsibly.

This thesis is a natural continuation and response to my life experience, culture and media. Frustrated with the complexities and contradictions that rhetoric can impose on my ability to understand meaning, I feel the need to express my perspective and expose my process of searching for truths. The goal is for my personal explorations to highlight and reveal for others the importance of investigating and questioning the validity of messaging.


Christie Shin
Digital Media and Cognitive Learning in Preschool Education
A new playful learning experience

“Little Finder” is a digital media application that stimulates early childhood education. This mobile device application demonstrates ways of inspiring preschoolers’ cognition, learning, and creativity through interactive multimedia lessons using everyday surroundings. Lessons are in the form of playful games that promote children’s discovery and comprehension in an everyday context, helping to create a lifelong foundation for learning.


Rebecca Wiener
Show Me How It Hurts
Health, Communication and Visual Metaphor

Modern Western medicine is verbal. But talking about pain is like dancing about arch itecture—in translation, the range, depth and context of sensations is lost. We need new ways to communicate what is happening in our bodies that are personal, flexible, evocative and connected. Visual metaphors can help us express sensations without limiting their meaning and create better bridges for empathy. But above all, they can help us get to know our bodies, histories and habits, and apply that knowledge to a holistic vision of our health. Only then can we be our own advocates, in the doctor’s office and in our own homes.

Throughout my thesis exploration, I used metaphors to investigate my own health experiences. My final capstone project is a visual health notebook that aims to help others do the same.


Skyler Balbus
100 Means of Invisibility

The process of design is a series of choices, and it is no surprise that carefully considered choices result in more meaningful work. Every time something is made visible—color, image, typography, layout—something else is inherently made invisible. We create intentional messages every day, but we often ignore the unintentional messages broadcast by what we leave out. Harnessing the invisibility essential to the creative process allows for a wholly different kind of communication.

Stemming from and inspired by a set of 100 definitions (or “means”) of invisibility, the work in this exhibition explores invisibility both in message-making and as a means of communication itself.


Betsy Medvedovsky
Times Canyon/ Grand Square
What is the anti-Times Square?

This project is an exploration of what the anti-Times Square might be. A cavernous, iconic American tourist spot, full of color, almost too popular, too overwhelming to be engaged with. The anti-Times Square already exists: it is the Grand Canyon, although the process of formation is inverse; instead of rapid urban construction, slow natural erosion forms the Canyon. ANTI is an approach I have been working with this year: it means working with and against constraints, standards and expectations. Rather than ignoring them, ANTI exploits these limitations by selectively flouting them. I see it as a strategy for thinking creatively and embracing conflict or ambiguity. Rooted in ANTI, Times Canyon/Grand Square is a project that simply maps the opposite of Times Square onto itself, thus offering perspective onto both. Layers of activity become layers of time, the space is quieted for once, urban landscape become oddly natural. Ultimately, Times Canyon tries to discover the Grand Canyon in Times Square and (re)discover Times Square in the Grand Canyon.


Julian Rehani
Shift in Perception
Facilitating Experiential Discovery by Altering the Familiar

Altering the familiar is an indispensable tool for communication design. It can induce participation, create a memorable multidimensional experience, and facilitate a moment of insight and discovery. The familiar represents the patterns which are known to us. We are constantly inspired to explore new experiences. Altering the familiar represents applying a small change on a well-known concept. Thus it attracts attention and provokes curiosity about the reason behind the change. Decoding the purpose of the change forms a bond between the observed and the observer and it becomes a memorable experience. The result can be a shift in perception of the familiar. Design cannot be separated from perception. Design reflects the way we recognize and perceive the world we live in through the act of making and communicating. It is thus important for a designer not be limited by visual design, but to be open to new ways of discovery and communication.


Matt Scheer
Those Poor People
Expanding the Visual Language of Poverty in America

Since the landmark 1890 publication of “How The Other-Half Lives” in which Jacob Riis documented wretched living conditions on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the de facto images of poverty have been literal depictions of squalor. While photo journalistic accounts of the impoverished are essential to our understanding of the human condition, the use of this image type in forms such as nonprofit mail appeals has limited value. These solicitations of sympathy have helped to desensitize the general public to extreme circumstances and though they are often meant to humanize calamity, they frequently offer glimpses of the most degrading situations. In effect dehumanized, the subjects become even harder to relate to.

Connecting is imperative, as academic studies have demonstrated a clear philanthropic value in establishing a bond between the entreated and a cause. Yet the prevailing construct, which positions the viewer as savior, subject as victim, can be off-putting to general audiences, as implicit in their inaction is a tolerance or acceptance of what they see. The suggestion of complicity creates feelings of guilt, which lead to rationalizing and ignoring the issue at hand.

Alternatively, images based on empathy, focused on commonalities and solicitous by way of shared human experience may offer much broader appeal. With a growing market for design advocacy pieces, it is imperative that designers have a fundamental understanding of the images that they use – their limitations and connotations as well as a firm grasp on why those choices are appropriate for such complex issues.


Maria-Nefeli Stavrinidi
How Does Time Look?
Mechanical Clocks, Personal Clocks and the Creative Process.

“How we move through time is ultimately how we live our lives.” Robert V. Levine

I say to myself, “Time is running out"… "You better hurry up or else someone else will get your spot." Hurry up for what? I am rushing to go somewhere... anywhere… everywhere… I look at the time. It is 8:11pm. By now I should have started designing; however, the page is staring at me full of shame, as "she" is still naked.

With the standardization of clock time, people in modern, urban cities take for granted that there is only one way to relate to duration. They tend to ignore their internal personal clocks: specifically that of the circadian and interval time.

The circadian clock calculates rhythms (tells people when to wake up, eat, sleep, etc.) while the interval clock tells people how long a particular activity is going to take, e.g., right now, you may be unconsciously estimating how long it would take you to read this statement.

By following the rhythm posed by mechanical clocks, people underestimate their individual needs, signified by their personal clocks. However, If the deadlines remain imposed but the work conditions become flexible and individualized, each person will be able to use their imagination to generate new ideas in this limited time without being constrained by a creative process which is not that creative after all.

Through this exhibit the viewer will consciously experience their personal clocks for the first time, as they become participants in the show and part of the minute itself.


Daniel Wiggins
Joy, Delight, and Growth
Harnessing the power of joy in design

In my thesis I’m investigating the power of joy and delight to grow as a designer and creator. Joy is an opportunity and has the power to transform and empower. This sense of empowerment can take countless applications, especially in design.

I define joy is an unique spark of empowerment, surprise, and delight one feels through experiencing an activity, object, or situation. This experience gives the user a deep sense of fulfillment because it is intimately and powerfully connected the individual. By using one’s joy, skill, love, or talent as an entry point to design, the user will create work with more enthusiasm and interest.

In my exhibition, I designed an experience where I invite others to reflect and share the moments, objects, or experiences that bring them joy. Together these lists form a taxonomy containing hundreds of definitions or ways to experience joy.

I hope these investigations serve to create a rich understanding of joy through difference audiences, help you define what brings joy to you, and how to apply it in our own life and process.