End of Semester Review: Senior Studio

Angela Lian
8 min readDec 6, 2020


If this semester was an ice rink, I forgot my skates and decided to melt the ice and go swimming instead. Also, I’m terrible at swimming but managed to stay afloat. “Stay afloat” is actually a phrase I’ve ended my journal entries with since February 2020. Despite so many challenges academically, emotionally, and physically, I was able to create work that I’m proud to reflect on in Senior Studio.

The theme of the semester was collaboration. I’ll admit that I have a hard time working in groups sometimes, but looking back, I’m really glad I had so much group work both in this class and other classes. It taught me a lot about my work ethic, as well as my function in groups. Doing school over Zoom has proven to be more beneficial for me than I thought, even though I had countless Zoom fatigue migraines. It became a way for me to multitask efficiently, such as eating lunch while during class or working on two assignments while listening to a crit (exposing myself, but we can’t hide from the truth.) It took time to adapt, but I feel like I learned a plethora of new skills and perspectives this semester.

Project 1: Impact & Empathy, Design Spaces

Design Spaces collection of print

Design Spaces is a transparent collection of print including two books, a zine, and two riso prints that explore various ideas about design spaces and how they function. I chose to explore the concept of inclusion and space in design education, while Ellie focused on cooperative futures in design practice.

Our first idea was pretty grand, we wanted to create our own residency called Hi-Res that would be everything we wanted and more in a post-grad experience that doesn’t hold the standard pressure of getting a job. I think it’s interesting that in September, I already had the feeling that I don’t feel ready to jump into a job and settle at one place after I graduate. I can say that the feeling hasn’t gone away three months later. Design Spaces was a chance for me to develop my own perspective from an initial case study, have meaningful discussions with my partner, and develop a system for our perspectives to live in.

I loved that this was my first project with both extensive research and no set output besides two books. It became an exploration of print and an opportunity to learn how to use the riso printer so early on.

Project 2: Research Video, Case Study

Case Study research video

I love reflecting on things I’ve documented and creating something new from the archive. Last year, I included Leo Walk in my Catalog of Influences project, so it was nice to revisit and recontextualize him with both me and designer Na Kim.

Case Study II, Editorial Design

This project occurred simultaneously with my Multi-Format book project in Editorial Design. While I was connecting my creative process to Leo Walk and Na Kim in senior studio, I was creating a book in Editorial that takes the Illustrator blend tool and relates its function to themes in graphic design. I decided that Case Study II would become a continuing blend of my Case Study research video as a way to recontextualize my research and translate it to a different medium. These two projects together became a case study about how movement functions in my design practice, both broken down and in motion.

This was also the first time I ever used Premiere Pro, which was such an enlightening moment for me because up until then, I had been using After Effects for EVERY video project ever. Case Study solidified the fact that I want to continue bringing movement into my practice because I value its relationship with graphic design.

Project 3: Design In Question, Design Nomads

Design Nomads sculpture

What do you get when you put five chaotic graphic designers into a group to discourse the field of graphic design as we know it? A big fat question mark because how do we know? Jokes aside, these were some of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had. It was like interrogating everyone about a crime scene and all having different recollections, all valuable and spicy.

It felt so meta to be discussing a field we’ve just invested four years of our education into. I’ll admit, this project gave me a bit of an internal crisis, making me question why I chose such a nomadic field. But as the project continued, I realized that this nomadism is what I enjoy about graphic design, how it lives in this in-between space that allows it to exercise this tension between structure and freedom.

I want to highlight that I fell in love with riso through this project. I did a lot of printing from the start because I was so excited about the possibilities of layering different compositions that you wouldn’t imagine working together. Oh, the joys and trial and error only to find out that collectively, we all used too many masters. I’m really grateful we finally got a riso printer and I feel lucky to have gotten to use it so much this semester. I wonder what I’ll make with it next semester…

Project 4: Thoughts On Thesis, Disco-urse

Translator (2019, Sophomore Spring Studio)

As most people know, I’ve been bringing dance into my projects and process since sophomore year. It all started from a project about translating a piece from the Bauhaus exhibition at the Harvard Art Museum into a different medium. The first question I asked myself while staring at a wooden student sculpture was, How would it move, and how do I emulate the movement? From there, movement became a second visual thinking language for me. Notice that I say “movement” more than “dance.”

I’ve always disliked the idea that dance was reserved for those that have the skill and ability, or even the idea that if you don’t remember the choreography or do something right then your movement is automatically devalued. To me, moving should feel like how you would with your friends during a sleepover with music blasting and bodies spazzing. It’s about how it makes you feel good internally, not how you are seen externally. I also think of countless movie scenes where you see the character having an epiphany and dancing with themselves. They’re always portrayed in such a euphoric, carefree fashion with no fucks to give. I want my thesis to be about that kind of space that allows that freeform movement to transpire and how it can benefit the creative process in terms of comfort and an open mind.

I’ve gone back and forth with the idea of including a performance in my piece, but I decided that it’s important for people to see what I’m trying to convey so that they can try it for themselves. Try what, I’m not sure yet. Many people don’t like to dance in public so I have to figure out how to crack this.

My current list of references include dancers, dance therapists, activists, and psychologists (Leo Walk, Joan Wittig, Sabine C. Koch, Monika Nyenken, Joya Powell, Carl Jung, Mary Starks Whitehouse, Joana Chicau.) I want to look more into the nature and psychology of night clubs and other spaces that encourage and allow loose, fun movement. From there, I want to build a space that not only embodies this but also allows creativity to thrive in this liminal state. So much is up in the air right now and I want to start grounding myself this winter break. I’m grateful for what the last three years have led me to.

Thesis Statement In Progress

The active imagination is a concept coined by Carl Jung that takes unconscious content such as dreams and fantasies and gives them a voice through forms of expression such as drawing, writing, or dance. Dance is often perceived as an activity reserved for those with certain skill or technique, but there is value in simply allowing your body to move you, to transcend the unconscious into the creative process through movement. Dance’s relationship between body and mind can present an alternate language of thinking, one away from a piece of paper and into the physical space. This means of carving unconscious space takes thought into a conscious pliable form of ourselves that can then be documented, post-rationalized, and transformed.

Freeform movement is both a physical and emotional release. It brings you into a liminal state of looseness and security. Apart from its ability to bring a better understanding of the unconscious, it puts the mind into a state of play and experimentation. Think of a nightclub, where people dance without wondering what they look like. This euphoric feeling of release deserves a place in our creative practice as well by exercising our mental capacity without the fear of being judged. The active imagination is fed by a sense of play and curiosity. I want to create a space that fosters this curiosity and provides exercises and instruments that translate movement into one’s practice.

This synthesis takes shape from my background as a dancer and designer, in which the flexibility from process to documentation moves my practice. Dance is an extension of design, both manipulating form in space to communicate. I want to perform this approach of interdisciplinary methodology to individuals in creative fields and build a space where movement is both comfortable and accessible for others to experiment in.

When Body Draws the Abstract Space: “Slat Dance” by Oskar Schlemmer