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Branding the NEXT Generation of Artists

Corcoran College of Art and Design Art School DC undergraduate and graduate thesis exhibition

For a select group of Corcoran College of Art + Design undergraduate students, Design Lab offers the unique opportunity to experience real world applications of learned skills. Throughout this year long course, students design and oversee the production of the NEXT at the Corcoran exhibition identity and collateral for the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art and Design.

Design Lab serves as an in-house design studio, which works closely with the Office of Design at the Corcoran. Students gain experience interacting with clients, managing deadlines, and understanding the limitations of their projects. Elements of the design process covered in the course are those likely to come up in any professional design studio: how to write design briefs and contracts; conceptual and design development; production of print-ready artwork; and fabrication, coordination, and supervision. Students leave the course with an invaluable skill set and the

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How does Design Lab connect with the overall NEXT exhibition each year?
Design Lab is responsible for developing the overall branding of the NEXT at the Corcoran exhibition. The identity stems from the theme of the exhibition which changes annually. In 2012, for example, the theme was “One Corcoran” in response to the many changes that were affecting both the Gallery and the College at the time. Design Lab also produces all collateral related to NEXT, including print materials, web, motion graphics, and exhibition graphics. NEXT is an annual exhibition, so each year it has its own unique challenges and involves distinctive design elements. Throughout the process, though, Design Lab works with departments at both the Gallery and the College – including marketing and communications, exhibition design, operations, and representatives from the faculty and student body—to ensure that NEXT is a success.

What is the process of developing the identity of NEXT each year? How do you develop the initial inspiration and theme(s)?
At the beginning of the year, staff from the marketing and communications department meets with representatives from the College to discuss the theme and goals for the exhibition. Based on this discussion, Design Lab begins to brainstorm different approaches towards creating the identity. Several weeks are devoted to this conceptual stage. Eventually, these design directions are narrowed to three or four ideas that are fully explored. Different teams will create

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mockups and prototypes of collateral pieces and explore materials. These design directions are then presented to all the stakeholders involved with the NEXT exhibition and a final direction is chosen based on their feedback. The wordmark continues to be refined until it reaches its final form, and from that point, the remaining collateral pieces are designed.

How would you describe Design Lab/NEXT to a potential Corcoran student?
Design Lab is more of an internship rather than a typical undergraduate course. It is an opportunity to work on a “real world” project rather than a theoretical campaign or branding project. Design Lab gives a student a design team experience and simulates a studio environment. Students are expected to act in a professional manner and will gain experience interacting with other design professionals as well as other artists and professionals involved with the Gallery and the academic departments.

NEXT at the Corcoran: Class of 2014 is on view from April 10–May 18, 2014 (admission to this exhibition is free). This annual exhibition celebrates work by the graduating students of the Corcoran College of Art and Design. NEXT includes both an exhibition of the thesis work of the Bachelor of Fine Arts class of 2014 and a showcase of the Bachelors and Masters of Arts degree programs at the Corcoran.

Photos: Maribel Gray and Kate Warren