Isometric Studio partners Andy Chen ’09 and Waqas Jawaid ’10 discussed their recent graphic design projects in conjunction with the University and their effects toward inclusion and belonging in a lecture on Nov. 9.
Chen and Jawaid are members of the Advisory Group to the Princeton Campus Iconography Committee.
Chen and Jawaid were tasked by the University with graphically redesigning several virtual and physical spaces around the University. The lecture focused on their design work for the University’s Council of the Humanities, the Women*s Center, the LGBT Center, and the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding.
The redesigned Fields Center features several spaces that represent values such as hope, love, and equality. In modifying the spaces, Chen noted that a primary goal for the renovation was to create spaces that not only projected images of safety and comfort for students, but actually elicited these feelings when in use.
“There were questions about this idea of comfort, right?” Chen explained. “So, a lot of students said, ‘Well, I want a place that I feel like home in,’ and this was often misinterpreted as, ‘I want a place that looks like a home.’ These are two very different things.”
The sense of belonging that Chen and Jawaid strived to foster in their graphic redesign of the Fields Center served as a unifying theme for their work on the Women*s Center and the LGBT Center as well, they noted.
“If you look at the history, you see that women were admitted [to the University] but they were excluded from prestigious fellowships like the Rhodes Scholarship on the left [of the screen],” Chen explained. “And the stuff on the right is what was in The Daily Princetonian [at the time] about women: you had images or words that were related to gardening or arts, because those were safe.”
In designing the space for the Women*s Center, Chen and Jawaid worked to expose narratives of discrimination against women throughout the University’s history both in long-held traditions like the bicker process and informal, everyday experiences of women.
Similar goals motivated their work on the LGBT Center, as well as the desire to move away from oversimplified portrayals of the LGBT community towards more inclusive and diverse representations.
“The problem that they relate to us is that ‘gay’ is two white men and a rainbow flag,” Chen noted. “And there exists our discourse around ‘Why are all the covers of these mainstream magazines all white men?’”
Chen and Jawaid also said they wanted to address physical issues with the planned space for the LGBT Center, notably the fact that the entrance to the Center features a threshold.
“Why do you have to cross a threshold to be inside the center?” Chen asked. “It is a moment of outing the moment you cross that threshold.”
To this end, Chen explained how they deconstructed the rainbow flag to create a series of color gradients for a campus-wide poster campaign. As part of the campaign, Chen and Jawaid collected personal narratives from students and anonymously combined them with student portraits to share the LGBT experience with the community.
Photography was also a large part of Chen and Jawaid’s redesign of the Council of the Humanities’ branding. In an effort to leave behind the stereotypical images of the humanities, Chen and Jawaid used both candid and staged photos of University humanities professors to provide a more accurate portrayal of the Council.
“Visual representations of the humanities and academia across the board tend to be cliché and ethnocentric,” Jawaid said. “Images of academic departments and programs focused on academic tourism, a lot of pointing at objects, and stock representations of one-dimensional, diverse characters, often supporting characters.”
Chen and Jawaid’s work on the Council also featured overlays of the image of the book from the University crest onto brochures and posters and a more contemporary and dynamic typeface.
The talk drew a sizable audience consisting of University students, affiliates, and listeners from outside the University community.
The lecture, part of the Princeton Iconography event, was held at 4:30 p.m. in McCormick 101. It was sponsored by the Princeton Campus Iconography Committee of the Office of the Executive Vice President as an extension of the Trustee Committee on Woodrow Wilson’s Legacy at Princeton.