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Work / Graphic Design

Fresh Yale grad Franci Virgili applies an academic approach to graphic design

Graphic designer Franci Virgili is a German creative currently living in New York after graduating with an MFA from Yale just a few weeks ago.

After studying a bachelor of arts at the University of Applied Sciences in Dusseldorf, Franci moved to America to study graphic design masters at Yale, with a very different structure to her bachelors degree. “The big difference between those two programmes is the stance on graphic design,” she tells It’s Nice That. “In Dusseldorf everything is about the acquisition of skills, projects are not really made for the students to develop their own methodology. Typical prompts are “make a poster about drugs”, “create an intervention in a public space”, “think about typography as brutalist architecture” – I think everyone who has studied graphic design as an undergrad knows these prompts to a certain degree.”

However at Yale, the curriculum fulfilled factors that Franci felt she needed while in Germany: “What I felt was missing, next to the development of a skill set, was the time to think about the ‘designer as author’ as Michael Rock says, and what it means to have a methodology next to visual/aesthetic stength, which is what the programme at Yale is about.”

Although Franci’s comparison in courses could relate to the academic jump between masters and bachelor degrees, the programme at Yale allowed Franci to develop an individual approach to designing. “My work at Yale circulated around playing with the universality of design elements and their versatility,” she explains. “The question of whether a “toolbox” is something that can be established and used in different contexts, depending on content, was something I wanted to explore.”

To do this, Franci used the metaphor of an actor, “or a ventriloquist,” to expand the voice of her work. “My work is a way to understand the world around me; it is an internal process that finds its output through making, followed by understand – or confusion – with the desire to explore further,” she explains. “Because it is so personal, for a long time I struggled with detaching the success of the outcome with my expectations. The act of slipping into another character and projecting my voice and my thoughts onto that alter-ego is a form of obfuscation: it is a means to liberate myself from self-judgement and self-indulgence.”

The result is a portfolio that includes various poster designs that adapt her “graphic design toolbox” to display varying styles and themes, A Thing Amidst Things an “anthology with texts about different perspectives on anthropomorphic objects,” Performing Species another anthology focusing on “people who create their own idea of identity outside gender norms,” and a number of theses that display her academic approach to designing.

“Continuing to blur the borders between disciplines is necessary to find that out, and to me is an exciting prospect on which to continue building my graphic design practice.”

You can find out more about Franci and the rest of her classes Yale degree show here.

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