parsons school of design releases 100th anniversary book celebrating communication design program

Since the school's founding more than 125 years ago, Parsons has had the unique distinction of establishing the oldest graphic and communication design course of study in the United States

New York, March 15, 2022 - The New School’s Parsons School of Design announces the publication of “1, 10, 100 Years: Form, Typography, and Interaction at Parsons” which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the school’s acclaimed Communication Design program. The new book was written and edited by a team of Parsons professors, and serves as a retrospective on the evolving nature of the discipline seen through the unique pedagogical lens and work of the teachers and students that form the Communication Design community at Parsons.

Over the past decade, the Communication Design program at Parsons has developed a unique curriculum and seen tremendous growth from a population of a hundred students in a cluster of sections to close to five hundred across three undergraduate and graduate programs. The intervening years have witnessed an expansion of students hailing from across the globe and fundamental shifts in the way graphic design is practiced. “1, 10, 100 Years: Form, Typography, and Interaction at Parsons” captures three distinct moments in time: the last year, the last decade, and the last century.

“The Communication Design department is a unique reflection of New York’s design tradition in both its forward-looking attitude and international character,” said Caspar Lam, Assistant Professor of Communication Design and co-author of the new book. “Its vitality is characterized by holding in tension the wonder, theory, and practice of design.”

The book looks back at different time periods of education in three distinctive chapters: 100 Years, 10 Years, and 1 Year. The '100 Years' chapter discusses the history and objectives of design education. The '10 Years' includes essays and heavy data illustrating the teaching and learning that took place in recent years, along with faculty research and transcripts of lectures and conversations by visiting practitioners – coming from all corners of academia and industry, including California College of Arts, Pratt, Rutgers, Dropbox, Glitch, Shopify, and Google. The last chapter, '1 Year' presents thesis work from the AAS, BFA, and MPS classes of 2021 along with information about courses and other activities of the year.

According to Lam, “Over the past decade, Communication Design faculty have brought together typography— present from the first design courses at Parsons— and interaction into a unique educational philosophy that embraces the evolving methods of production that characterize contemporary graphic design.”

The growth of the program reflects the larger evolution of graphic design as a distinct discipline from advertising. Though it is a community situated inside a global metropolis that is also one of the world’s commercial design capitals, Communication Design at Parsons is not a vocationally oriented program. Experienced educators who have a unique commitment to design practice teach alongside professionals from the highest echelons of the industry and newly minted MFA graduates with independent practices. This dynamic mix is unusual for academically-oriented design schools. 

While the book is, in content, a celebration of the 100 years of history and education at Parsons, in form, it is a manifestation of the culture of experimentation and challenging the technological landscape that designers face today. Designed using unconventional methods of production using a custom set of softwares, the book is made with automated, logic-driven typesetting and layout. 

"We propose that communication designers should focus beyond the surface appearance of things towards these underlying layers of technology,” said E Roon Kang and Andrew LeClair, the two designers of the book. “Existing as an automated, printed snapshot of a database in time, this book opens new possibilities for creative expressions, treating books as physical representations of structured data.”

The emphasis on both typography and interaction in the Communication Design curriculum is a recognition of the historical roots of the field and its negotiation between material form and evolving methods of production. Design education has tended to jettison one or another aspect of making in response to changing conditions of the profession. However, the Communication Design department at Parsons has taken a broader perspective to view these changes against a meta-narrative of graphic design as fundamentally responding to the tools of production and the generation of meaning that arise through context and criticism. Thus, it is to hold in tension: the printed word and the new languages that will govern expression; the materiality of paper, the screen, and beyond; and the anticipation and criticism of production technology, itself. The result is design’s power to shape our networked culture and expand our ability to comprehend increasingly complex, visual environments.

A selection of high-res photos of the book can be found here.

Parsons School of Design at The New School is one of the leading institutions for art and design education in the world. Based in New York but active around the world, the school offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the full spectrum of art and design disciplines, as well as online courses, degree and certificate programs. Critical thinking and collaboration are at the heart of a Parsons education. Parsons graduates are leaders in their respective fields, with a shared commitment to creatively and critically addressing the complexities of life in the 21st century.


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Will Wilbur,
The New School
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