'Graphic Design: Now in Production' opens at the RISD Museum this spring

  • PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island
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  • March 05, 2014

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Mike Perry, “Eames Eiffel Side Chair,” 2010.
Courtesy the artist and Outdoorz Gallery.

PROVIDENCE, RI — This spring, the RISD Museum explores some of the most cutting-edge concepts and creative practices in 21st-century graphic design as the ambitious international exhibition Graphic Design: Now in Production culminates its national tour in Providence. Graphic Design: Now in Production opens at the RISD Museum on Friday, March 28, and is on view—complemented by an exciting series of public programs and events—through Sunday, August 3, 2014.

“The RISD Museum is thrilled to present the groundbreaking exhibition Graphic Design: Now in Production,” says Museum Director John W. Smith. “We are confident that this exhibition will resonate widely throughout our community—where powerful, innovative design is valued and respected.”

Graphic design has broadened its reach dramatically in the 21st century, expanding from a specialized profession to a widely deployed tool. Today, graphic design is the largest of the design professions in the United States, with more than a quarter-million practitioners using color, typography, images, symbols, and systems to make the surfaces around us come alive with meaning. The revolutions in desktop computing and networked communication have raised public awareness of graphic design, and the field is shifting and expanding in unexpected ways as social media and other technologies change how people consume information. As design tools have become more widely accessible, designers’ roles have also expanded: more designers are becoming producers—authors, publishers, instigators, and entrepreneurs.

Co-organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, New York, Graphic Design: Now in Production explores some of the most vibrant graphic design work produced since 2000, including magazines, books, and posters; the expansion of branding programs for corporations, institutions, and subcultures; the entrepreneurial spirit of designer-produced goods; the renaissance in digital typeface design; the storytelling potential of film and television titling sequences; and the transformation of raw data into compelling information narratives.

Anthony Burrill, "Oil & Water Do Not Mix," 2010. Conceived and produced in collaboration with Happiness, Brussels.
Courtesy the artist.

“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,” Smith says. “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.”

Jan Howard, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs for the RISD Museum, adds, “As the RISD Museum is the last venue for this show, we are excited to develop programs that give us an opportunity to respond to the installations at the previous venues, and discuss some of the innovations in graphic design since the show was organized just a few years ago. Graphic Design: Now in Production also presents an opportunity for the RISD Museum to become more strongly identified as a major venue in the Northeast for the display of design.”

Graphic Design: Now in Production is co-organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, New York. The exhibition is co-curated by Andrew Blauvelt, Chief of Communications and Audience Engagement and Curator of Design, Walker Art Center, and Ellen Lupton, Senior Curator of Contemporary Design, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.

Jan Howard, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, is the show’s organizing curator in Providence. Howard is assisted by Derek Schusterbauer, Graphic Designer for the RISD Museum; Prem Krishnamurthy and Won Choi of New York-based creative agency Project Projects; and Anther Kiley and Colin Frazer, both Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) MFA alumni and critics in the Graphic Design department.

The RISD Museum is the final stop in a national tour of the exhibition, which debuted at the Walker Art Center in October 2011.


A 240-page color catalog, produced by the Walker Art Center (Walker Publications, 2011), accompanies the exhibition and is available for sale at RISD WORKS, the RISD Museum store. This visual compendium features project details, artists’ statements, excerpts from interviews and published manifestos, technologies, and tools. Essays discuss the changing nature of design labor and value; the expanding roles that designers are assigning themselves in the production process; the varied frameworks that inform the notion of “designer as producer”; the role graduate programs have played in development of “systematic creativity”; and the blurred nature of writing and reading in the age of user-generated content, desktop production and systems of self-publishing.

Meike Gerritzen, Beware of Software vest from the Saved by Droog Project, 2010. Text: Geert Lovink.
Photo: Stefanie Grätz


Exhibition curators, guest speakers, and RISD graphic designers discuss and demonstrate design principles and practices in an exciting series of public programs. Highlights include:

Critical Encounters with Type, Image, and Print
Wednesday, April 16, 1-5 pm and 6:30-8 pm

Andrew Blauvelt and Ellen Lupton, co-curators of Graphic Design: Now in Production, visit Providence for a two-part discussion co-sponsored by the RISD Museum and RISD’s Graphic Design department. Join the curators in the exhibition galleries for a discussion with graphic designers Jessica Helfand of Winterhouse Studios, Prem Krishnamurthy of Project Projects, and RISD faculty members—debating graphic design’s past, critiquing its role today, and imagining its future. (1-5 pm, Chace Center Galleries; registration required.)

In a free panel discussion that evening, Blauvelt, Lupton, Helfand, and Krishnamurthy explore the concept of the designer as producer. (6:30-8 pm, Metcalf Auditorium.)


Design the Night: WYSIWYG
Thursday, April 17, 5-9 pm, free

The RISD Museum’s dynamic evening event series kicks off its third-annual season with an evening celebrating graphic design and designers. What you see and what you get are lively discussions with artists and designers, hands-on art making, live music, and more—all free!


Graphic Design Lecture Series
April 3, 16, 24, 6:30-8 pm

RISD’s Graphic Design programs—ranked among the best in the world—guide students toward engaged, conscientious, and culturally connected learning that encourages creative making and critical thinking in the ever-expanding realm of visual communication. In this free lecture series sponsored by RISD’s Graphic Design Department, visiting designers share their philosophies and practices with the greater public. Visit risdmuseum.org/calendar for dates, speakers, and topics.


RISD Museum
224 Benefit Street
RISD Museum, Rhode Island
About RISD Museum

Southeastern New England's only comprehensive art museum, the Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design—also known as the RISD Museum—was established in 1877. Its permanent collection of more than 91,000 objects includes paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, costume, furniture, and other works of art from every part of the world—with objects from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, and art of all periods from Asia, Europe, and the Americas, up to the latest in contemporary art. The RISD Museum, with entrances at 224 Benefit Street and 20 North Main Street in Providence, RI, is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am-5 pm, and 10 am-9 pm every Thursday. Closed Mondays, January 1, July 4, Thanksgiving Day, and December 25. Admission: $12 adults; $10 senior citizens (age 62+); $5 college students (with valid ID); $3 youths (ages 5-18); always free for Museum members and children under 5, as well as students, staff, and faculty of member institutions. Free admission every Sunday, 10 am-5 pm, and the third Thursday evening of each month, 5-9 pm. For more information, call 401 454 6500 or visit risdmuseum.org. Follow the RISD Museum at Facebook.com/RISDMuseum and Twitter.com/RISDMuseum

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