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Event | Image of the Studio Exhibit

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

New York City is home to a plethora of graphic design professionals, but until now the question, “What does graphic design in New York look like?” had not yet been fully explored and charted. Cooper Union’s latest exhibit, Image of the Studio: A Portrait of Graphic Design in New York, does just that by examining how living and working in New York shapes contemporary studio practice on the level of scale, geography, and day-to-day organization. The exhibition, running at the Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography through October 26, uses more than 75 studios to present a clear snapshot of what’s happening in the field with documentation of each firm's disciplines, team, workspace, and culture.

We caught up with some of the curators to hear what it was like to map the contours and trace the edges of this dynamic discipline in a city that is itself always in flux.

What did you learn about graphic design studios and their relationship to New York City while working on this exhibit?

James Ellis, Partner at AthleticsOne interesting find was how the landscape has shifted over the past seven decades, with an increasing number of studios moving to Brooklyn. Our When/Where piece explores this progression. It's fascinating to see how Brooklyn begins to explode right around 2000, and within thirteen years we now have 27 studios (34 percent of the participating studios) located in Brooklyn.

Allison Connell, Designer at Athletics: It was fascinating to explore some of the connections between the studios, such as where the partners/principals had worked before starting their own studio. For example, many people previously came from Pentagram or 2x4, both of which are also participating in the exhibition. Many of the partners and principles are also connected through teaching at NYC-area design schools and being on the boards of professional organizations such as AIGA. In general, the extent of the connections is much deeper than we can pin down from the information we have.

Alexander Tochilovsky, Curator at the Herb Lubalin Study CenterThe thing that I found most enlightening was how young the profession is. The average age of the designers across the board is about 30 to 35. I think that is a very telling aspect of how vibrant the profession is, and how there seems to be an emphasis on youth to drive the New York’s image-makers. It will also be interesting to see if this number stays relatively similar over the next few years, or if it will shift. There are many narratives that can be inferred from this, but one thing that is very clear is that New York City attracts, relies on, and keeps a hold on the creative, younger generation.

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