The Walker’s Design department continues to push the idea of a holistic design program forward, simultaneously operating in three primary registers: design practice (through the efforts of our in-house studio); curation and presentation (through our design exhibitions, programs, and publishing); and design thinking (through the Walker’s institutional embrace of design values as a whole).
The year 2015 saw the launch of Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia, a moment-defining exhibition created by former curator of design and architecture Andrew Blauvelt, which examines the art, architecture, and design of the counterculture of the 1960s and early 1970s. The multidisciplinary show surveys the radical experiments that challenged societal norms while proposing new kinds of technological, ecological, and political utopias. It includes the counter-design proposals of Victor Papanek and the anti-design polemics of Global Tools; the radical architectural visions of Archigram, Superstudio, Haus-Rucker-Co, and ONYX; the installations of Ken Isaacs, Joan Hills, Mark Boyle, Hélio Oiticica, and Neville D’Almeida; the experimental films of Jordan Belson, Bruce Conner, and John Whitney; posters and prints by Emory Douglas, Corita Kent, and Victor Moscoso; documentation of performances by the Diggers and the Cockettes; publications such as Oz and The Whole Earth Catalog; books by Marshall McLuhan and R. Buckminster Fuller; and much more. The exhibition was accompanied by a 448-page catalogue, featuring a range of scholarship investigating the themes of the show. Many of the authors from the catalogue also participated in a series of presentations regarding their research in the Walker Cinema.
Our public programming around graphic design continued as part of our annual Insights lecture series, which invites designers to share their creative process with the public. The series included a mix of established and emerging design talents, including Seoul-based designers Sulki + Min, Grammy award–winning music packaging designer Brian Roettinger, design curator Jon Sueda, and 2×4 founder Susan Sellers, design director for the Met. The lectures were again webcast this year and an aggressive push was made to promote these among the national AIGA chapters, resulting in live viewing parties in many cities around the country in addition to several university design programs and design firms.
In 2016 the Design department worked in collaboration with the Marketing department to create a unique, cross-disciplinary brand campaign centering around the idea of participation and social media, translating Marcel Duchamp’s ideas of audience participation into an Instagram-inspired concept. The campaign was featured on billboards, bus wraps, bus shelter posters, and a variety of online and printed advertising.
The Design studio continued to fulfill the institution’s ever-expanding need for video production, devoting more of our videographer’s time to creative production and the management of freelance videographers. In addition to overseeing the documentation of countless Walker lectures and programs as well as the production of trailers for exhibitions and performances, our videographer created beautiful short pieces for every programming department, such as several Art Speaks videos featuring artists talking about their work, the ever-popular Rock the Garden music video, and various documentation pieces. A video exploring Andrea Büttner’s exhibition was particularly successful on Facebook, featuring the artist, the curator, and our crew discussing what it means to take care of artwork (and grow moss). Video is continually being integrated into every aspect of the Walker’s communications, and our videographer is being called on more and more frequently to advise on projects as varied as the scholarly publication The Living Collections Catalogue, created with support from the Getty Foundation’s Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative, the International Pop exhibition, and Walker social media channels such as Instagram and Facebook.
In other publishing areas, Design produced the stock photography-inspired catalogue for Ordinary Pictures, a book that featured the Walker’s first flexi-disc recording inserted within a publication. Continuing in this vein, the Walker pressed a vinyl LP for the exhibition Chris Larson: Land Speed Record, featuring a booklet with texts by the curator and artist, in essence functioning as a publication for the show. Outside of print, Design continued to assist the web editor in his online publishing efforts, from editing feature stories to creating graphics for the homepage to conceptualizing and releasing the online content digest newsletter to designing the Artist Op-Ed series of online articles that also have print-on-demand counterparts. The Gradient design blog continues to be the most-read blog from the Walker, attracting an international audience of design aficionados, students, and practitioners, featuring content as varied as interviews with type designers and book reviews to a post that examines the notion of gender fluidity through typography.
The studio continued to win awards for its publication and branding work, including two 50/50 book awards presented by Design Observer, 10 AIGA Minnesota design awards—including two judge’s choice awards for the 75th anniversary campaign “Question Everything” and the identity for the Superscript conference—and the Core 77 best in category award for visual communications, for the Hippie Modernism catalogue, among others.