Lauren Thorson’s graphic design practice shows dedication and a profound fascination with the field
Following an explorative relationship with the medium, through to her studies to being a teacher now, we learn more about this designer bringing out the true craft of design.
- Lucy Bourton
- 7 August 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
For Lauren Thorson it’s important to view herself as a graphic designer who is a “collaborator not service provider,” she tells It’s Nice That. A multi-faceted creative with several strings to her bow (although all intwined with one another), Lauren is an Aries, a dart player, a current assistant professor in the graphic design department at Virginia Commonwealth University and a partner at Studio-Set. Consciously splitting herself in two career-wise, she operates full time as an educator alongside her studio practice. Lauren’s approach to the design industry relates back to her ethos of being a collaborator, “allowing flexibility to commit to projects that support our definition of designer,” alongside Jasio Stefanski, her partner at Studio-Set.
What has led Lauren to this point currently, and informed her stance, is a meandering journey through graphic design, starting from quite literally stumbling upon the medium during her own studies. While an undergraduate art student Lauren came across, “a computer lab of Apple/Macintosh computers housed within the graphic design department,” she recalls to us. “Quickly I realised this tool could support my printmaking and drawing practice in seemingly unknown/ efficient/ inefficient/ playful/ surprising/ mysterious ways.” Upon finding out that to utilise these computers you had to be a graphic design student, “I switched majors the following semester.”
Then joining an MFA course in visual studies at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Lauren’s free exploration in the medium continued, especially as “students were not defined or organised by the ‘type’ of creative media produced,” she explains. Erik Brandt, “the loving/formidable/inspiring” designer was her mentor too, “who never encouraged me to use the computer, which was very refreshing.” Later studying a PhD in graphic design and computer science, it is “this flexibility I try to extend to my students” today.
Through her own learning experiences, and now in a role dedicated to encouraging learning at Virginia Commonwealth, it’s the process of picking up a new skill or creative methodology that keeps Lauren hooked on the subject matter of graphic design. “I love to play, push pursue,” adding that despite the brilliant amalgamation of work she creates at Studio-Set “maybe the most exciting and inspiring aspect of my practice I find is within the role of educator,” she tells us. “Students are truly inspiring, I learn so much from them.”
This interest and respect for others not to mention their ideas comes into the work of Studio-Set too, with collaboration a key part of its considerations on projects. One example is Margin, a project they’ve been collaborating on since 2015 and in which “collaboration is one of the main objectives”. A “non-scheduled one-sheet publication that takes the form of a decentralised newsletter,” no two releases are the same, the project is informed by the interests of its collaborators. Each of these collaborators differs in themselves too, always keen to engage with those from different communities “with the hope that each printed expression helps to define the project as a whole.”
It began as a proposal for the project with its first issue, and “within that a proposal for discussion.” Following the first issue, collaborations formed organically “and in many ways served as a catalyst for the next contributor through discussion, theme, comparison, reflection.” Continuing to take on a bit of a life of it’s own with Studio-Set overseeing its development, it has since created a community in print. This was also inspired by the local newsletter in the studio’s hometown in Churchill, Richmond, which Lauren describes as having “the inherent ability to create community through the act of its free distribution,” she says. “We like to think of Margin as an object in itself serving as the sense of ‘place’ or community.”
In this sense, it feels that the driver of all of Lauren’s work – whether it’s in her teaching or studio practice – is the act of learning and the endless possibilities it can bring. It’s refreshing to see a designer so dedicated yet curious. The possibilities of the medium explored stylistically and shown through Lauren’s detailed craft.
On asking the creative what is next she explains that really, “it is three fold”. At the moment she’s preparing for the next semester of graphic design courses, likely to be hybrid or remote due to the current situation. She’ll also be completing and launching a new project, workshop-archive.com – a depository of information and archive of works from workshops held in South Korea between 2017-2019. “Inspiring student work [comes] out of this!” she adds – a collaboration with Chae Byung-rok. Finally, it’s a busy time for Studio-Set who is currently working with Center for Books Arts re-designing its identity, website and digital archive. In the final stages, “we are really excited to launch within the next few months, keep an eye out for it!” And after learning about her fascinating process, we certainly will.”
GalleryAll images by Lauren Thorson
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.