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.

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.


Lauren Thorson: 스크린-창문 Screens-Windows. Seoul, South Korea. November 20–23, 2018. Collaboration with Chae Byung-rok. Workshop with Kyung Hee University & Virginia Commonwealth University

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, – 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


Ongoing series of coverings for Anderson Publishing Grant, Richmond, VA. With Chase Westfall, Script written by James Payne. 2019 Graphic Design Festival Scotland’s International Poster Competition


Tasmeem Doha 2017: Analogue Living in a Digital World, Post Publication spread


스크린-창문 Screens-Windows. Seoul, South Korea. November 20–23, 2018. Collaboration with Chae Byung-rok. Workshop with Kyung Hee University & Virginia Commonwealth University


Margin, 6. Studio-Set. Writing contributions from Ania Jaworska & Matylda Krzykowski. Order or Subscribe here


Margin, 6. Studio-Set. Writing contributions from Sarah Alfarhan. Order or Subscribe here


Margin, 1–4. Studio-Set. Order or Subscribe here


Margin, 6. Studio-Set. Writing contributions from James McAnally for US English. Order or Subscribe here


BIC® 4-Color™ Individual Ball Pen. Cast Sterling Silver, to scale, 2018.


Number: 99 Wizardly prohibition; spells within reason. Design takeover and Guest editor with Chase Westfall. Download the issue


Out of the Everywhere, Monograph for artist Brittany Nelson, spreads

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

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.

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