Professor Craig Berger Knows His Way Around

Few individuals navigate their paths as adeptly as Prof. Craig Berger, Chair of the Spatial Experience Design, Graphic Design, Packaging Design, and Advertising and Digital Design departments. He not only excels in finding his own way. He also extends a helping hand to others seeking direction.

Recently, Prof. Berger spearheaded a team at the blue-chip Sign Research Foundation, producing “The Trail Sign Manual: A Planning Guide for Parks and Trails Signage.” This groundbreaking work delves into topics such as financing, community outreach, and innovative sign-design approaches.

Craig Berger at the Empire State Trail start located in Battery Park. Photo: Gram Spina

Geared toward communities aiming to develop wayfinding systems as a cornerstone for urban and regional development, the book explores the entire process. It offers best practices and design inspirations. 

In response to our questions, Prof. Berger shared his perspectives on wayfinding whether on roads, trails, or within structures like hospitals, museums, airports, and mass transit hubs. Clearly, there’s much to learn—and to teach—on this expansive topic.

Q: Wayfinding extends beyond designating route numbers and street names, even on roads. How has it evolved to incorporate points of interest and travel essentials like gasoline, rest stops, and food?

A: Vehicular wayfinding has evolved over the decades to support both infrastructure and community destinations. Accompanied by extensive regulations, starting with the federal government’s creation of the Manual For Uniform Traffic Control Devices, the system we see today is built upon specific requirements and best practices that ensure legibility for drivers. That is why across the US wayfinding on interstate and state roads is remarkably similar.


Q: What’s the balance between complexity and utility, say, to a driver on an Interstate highway?

A: Simplicity trumps everything in vehicular environments. The only way to get more complex is by having information that is easy to learn, such as standard icons for gas or lodging along with distance information. That works well in, for instance, signs for gas, certain restaurants, lodging, and convenience stores. But larger signs are needed for more unique destinations.

“Despite extensive exploration of best practices and testing, bad design persists for reasons such as unqualified designers, over-design, and a lack of integration.” – Prof. Craig Berger

Q: Wayfinding in complex situations, such as train stations, airports, museums and venue spaces, has become harder as uses of these spaces vary. Not everyone in an airport needs to catch a plane, for instance. There are guidelines, often not followed. Why? And can we fix this?

Craig Berger giving a tour of Charlotte NC trails. “In Charlotte they are using bike and rail trails to connect pedestrians to their urban environment. It works to some extent but it is a different experience than the traditional urban environment,”

A: Despite extensive exploration of best practices and testing, bad design persists for reasons such as unqualified designers, over-design, and a lack of integration. Strong design firms and improved client understanding are making progress, but the field remains a work in progress. It’s frankly why I started writing books. Most books on wayfinding were technically useful but visually awful and promoted bad design. I combine research and organization with beautiful projects. People have accused me of writing glorified picture books and I fully agree with that assessment.

“English is a universal language for wayfinding. Most travelers know enough English words to get by.” – Prof. Craig Berger

Q: Abroad, signs often are in the vernacular language, plus English. In the USA, in non-English-speaking enclaves, often signage is in the area language only, but not English. Why?

A: English is a universal language for wayfinding. Most travelers know enough English words to get by. Japan and Korea often have English on signs, and even places in the Middle East do this. In the US though this is taken for granted to the point that in enclave communities there is an effort to be apart from that universality. This also often happens in places where cultures are afraid of losing their distinctiveness. English is sometimes feared as a facilitator of cultural destruction as opposed to a more universal language for wayfinding.

Craig Berger’s tour of Charlotte, NC included rail trails like this.

Q: My husband recently attended a conference in the arts district of Atlanta. He noted some signage for drivers but almost none for pedestrians. Even the entrance to the city’s largest art museum was hidden from view and unheralded by signs leading to it. He walked three quarters of the way around the block it is on to actually find a way in.

A: Almost all cities outside the East Coast developed after 1915 — the year planners began planning new spaces around cars — have little vocabulary for walkers and almost no codes requiring pedestrian accessibility. The more a city gets divorced from the pedestrian fabric, the more buildings are built around drivers. But now, cities like Charlotte and Atlanta use old rail rights of way and other byways as trails to bring the street life back. It is imperfect but often the only recourse for car-centric cities.

“Bad wayfinding at La Guardia before the renovation, was considered responsible for over 5,000 missed flights per year.” – Prof, Craig Berger

Q: In the Boston area, a young woman died in 2016 during a severe asthma attack because she could not get into the emergency room door that signs had guided her to – it was locked, late at night. There was an open entrance but she collapsed before she could find it. It resulted in Laura’s law. Other horror stories?

A: There are many, particularly in vehicular environments where people have to respond rapidly. On a Colorado highway a complete reliance on digital-display road signs created a huge accident when those signs broke down. Bad wayfinding at La Guardia, before the renovation, was considered responsible for over 5000 missed flights per year. Signs are fundamental infrastructure; Bad design can kill.

The Upper Perkiomen Sign System Developed by CVE Entro with Craig Berger. Vehicular signs always need to be larger with much larger type size. The exterior environment combines open space with speed “shrinking” all landmarks and graphics. (When drivers travel fast, they have less time to read the signs.)

Q: Mobile technology (such as virtual reality goggles and cell phones) make almost unlimited wayfinding options possible. How do wayfinder experts decide when it is wise to depend on people having access to these technologies?

A: Wayfinding is about the experience of navigation using multiple mediums. Often, the goal is to reduce clutter in that experience. Digital support on one hand facilitates wayfinding in specific cases by a lot. Most people could not drive anywhere without GPS support. On the other hand, these tools are almost worthless in unique environments like airports or universities where at best they can serve as a support for environment cues.

Airports and train stations require sophisticated wayfinding systems that are extensively researched and done with a high level of design vigor. The new Penn Station renovation designed by Via Collective shows the importance of simple colors, clear fonts and careful clutter minimization in system development.

Q: The visually and hearing impaired are more often able to work now, signage for them is inadequate. Only in the past few years have traffic lights added audible signals. These things cost money, but so does caring for folks who cannot work! Trouble is, the costs are paid out of different pockets – even if all the pockets belong to public agencies. How might wayfinders increase the chance of getting a project launched when costs and benefits accrue to different actors?

A: LAWS! But not all these mandates make sense. The Americans with Disabilities Act has been the law  of the land since 1990 and it certainly has improved wayfinding in many ways but it also froze innovation and many of the rules work well for the visually impaired but not the blind.

Thus, mandates are the way to go but they should be considered a work in progress and should also be simple. Again, more complexity leads to less compliance. Combined with best practices, simple mandates can help drive improvements for the visually impaired. Again this is why we need more pretty books on subjects that combine design and legibility.


Learn more about Spatial Experience Design, Packaging Design, and Advertising and Digital Design majors at FIT’s School of Art and Design.

All images used with permission. Special credit to Gram Spina, Photography ’26. Spina graduated from Pennsylvania College of Technology with an associates in Vintage Automotive Restoration.  Visit his website at: and on IG: @hotrod_crazy. Photos not taken by Gram Spina were provided by Prof. Berger.

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Yudi Kaufman: Making Interior Design Firms Better: Business Development, Licensing, Sustainability

A decade after graduating in Interior Design as a Presidential Scholar, Yudi Kaufman (BFA ’13, MS ‘15) runs his own business, YKD Associates, servicing both interior designers and creatives. In just a few years, he rose from intern to vice president at a boutique interior design firm in Manhattan.

Yudi Kaufman speaking to designers about business development at High Point Market. Photo: Katie Hickenbottom

Now one of his most ambitious projects is his own home, an unusual Japanese-modern, open-plan, mid-century house on eight acres of hillside property. Kaufman and his husband bought the property in Carmel in Putnam County, NY, early in 2022.

The way he designed the interior spaces for such an ambitious home has a lot to do with his architectural insights and training in both design and sustainable environments.

Incessantly curious about design from a young age, Kaufman’s career path was unusual. Because he was unable to study art or design growing up, applying to FIT required a work-around.

“I was raised in New York City outer boroughs. As soon as I was allowed to take public transportation, I was on the city buses, trains and ferries into Manhattan for no other reason than to look at architecture. I was always looking up at the designs and the styles and heights,” said Kaufman.

Japanese-modern, open-plan, mid-century house on eight acres of hillside property

To create a portfolio, an application requirement for FIT’s Interior Design program, Kaufman took a slew of design classes offered through the college’s Center for Continuing and Professional Studies:

“I took as many design courses as I could that didn’t have admission requirements,” says Kaufman. “I tried to align them with what could be applied to my degree in the future.”

Kaufman, who minored in History of Arts, won the Ronald and Anne Lubman Interior Design Award. He then earned his master’s at FIT in Sustainable Interior Environments.

Yudi Kaufman speaking to designers about business development at High Point Market. Photo: Katie Hickenbottom

As an intern at Robin Baron Design he employed a focused strategy: “I helped with everything I possibly could beyond design-related items. At a small firm you have the ability to get involved with marketing and growing the business into new arenas such as product design, licensing, and e-commerce,” says Kaufman.

It’s proof once again that design skills taught at FIT can be applicable in so many ways:

“The designer I worked for, Robin Baron, was always looking for ways to grow her business. When she needed help with creating an ad, for instance, I helped her design it using basic graphic design skills I learned at FIT. She loved it!

“I said yes to whatever was needed.” Kaufman has a background in business management and accounting. “I also brought that to the table,” he says.

His firm, YKD Associates, is primarily a business development consulting firm, where he assists interior designers in growing their businesses — everything from marketing, to sustainability.  Kaufman also occasionally takes on small design projects to feed “my creative soul,” he says.


“Designers hire me to refresh their brand and come up with a new brand concept because they’re not getting the right type of clients because of how they are presenting themselves.”

Kaufman has helped clients completely reshape their look: “I work with them on their websites, their logo, their brand marketing and messaging. I also help designers with licensing, acting as their licensing agent to help secure collaboration.

Kaufman is also writing a monthly column on business development for Design News Now.

He was recently added as a sustainability expert to the Saatva advisory panel. The company is redefining luxury mattresses, he says, and making them at price points that are accessible to more consumers. “They make every mattress to order, and use sustainable materials whenever possible. When they deliver their product and pick up the old mattress, they dissect its parts for what they can reuse.

The soaring windows in Kaufman’s home allow for ample natural light. His study includes items like menorahs and shoe miniatures.

Kaufman and his husband’s home was affordable, in part because of the unusual style and because of the hillside site, where the front door is on the second floor with kitchen and common rooms and the bedrooms are below. Commuter rail from nearby Brewster to Grand Central Station takes about an hour.

While the home was designed and built to express the architect’s vision, creating a complimentary interior was Kaufman’s domain.

“There’s a whole interior design part about how I got to decorate it!” says Kaufman.

“Especially with your first home, you sink your entire life savings into the down payment, so there’s little left for decorating. I had amassed a collection of furniture and art from past clients that are high-end and barely touched.”

Some of Kaufman’s upscale hand-me-downs from clients are now in his home

Kaufman had also been to countless auctions and design events where vendors donate or sell products inexpensively. “I bought beautiful furnishings [over time], which I added to my collection. I designed with what I had. It looks like it was intentionally designed that way.”

Kaufman and his husband, a hair stylist (“He makes people beautiful; I make spaces beautiful” says Kaufman), are now improving the house’s sustainability. “I just finished upgrading my heating system, changing over from oil heating to clean energy heat pump.”


There are features that architecturally are innately sustainable:

“The home has soaring windows floor to ceiling, but the wide eaves of the roof overhang everything. So while the windows bring in a lot of natural light, it is not direct light. That’s something that attracted me to the home: It’s innately protecting itself.”

“I was raised orthodox Jewish so the schools I went to were yeshivas. Any extra-curricular activities was Judaic. At FIT I loved being in classrooms with people from all over the world, and from all different backgrounds. It helped my approach to design and to life,” he said.

To learn more about Yudi Kaufman’s work, go to his website: YKD Associates, and follow him on IG: @yudikaufman.

To learn more about the BFA Interior Design program, go to Interior Design at FIT

All photos used with permission.

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Fast-rising packaging designer Bea Saludo returns to FIT

Bea Saludo (Packaging Design ’17) has joined the department where she earned her degree with highest honors. “It truly feels like a full-circle moment!” she says. “I’ve known from a young age that I wanted to study either design or education. I came to FIT for design, but knew that I would love to come back and teach. I’m beyond thrilled to be back!” 

Bea Saludo

Saludo, who has designed for many major companies from Unilever to Nike, talked to us about the future of the field, and advice for current students. As we learned, the discipline of packaging design is the consideration of many more elements than simply the outward appearance. She’s exuberant about every phase of the process!

Any notable changes in the Packaging Design department since you were a student?

There have been a lot of changes since I graduated. Notably, Marianne Klimchuk, the former chair of the department, has announced her retirement. Her class changed the trajectory of my life completely, and I can’t thank her enough. She will be missed dearly!

What’s one of the trickier things a Packaging Design student needs to master in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, the course you teach? 

One of the challenges is learning how to use the two programs together for a more efficient workflow. You can learn each program independently, but I am emphasizing more about how to use the two programs in harmony with each other.

Bea Saludo’s Packaging and Retail Design for Cannuka

What skills, aside from technical ones, are necessary to be a successful packaging designer?

You need to be able to talk to people, regardless of whether you’re employed within an agency, corporate environment, or as a freelancer. The ability to engage in conversations with various stakeholders is crucial. This includes coworkers, printers, vendors, and at times, even direct client interactions.

You’ll need to pitch your ideas, receive and apply feedback, and be collaborative. You’ll need to ask questions. You’ll also need to communicate with people who may not have a deep understanding of design. You can be a talented designer, but if you are bad at communicating, it could be challenging to find steady work.

“Bea was an exceptional student, full of energy and passion that she continues to exude in her professional practice. She has a broad scope of experience from a small boutique firm to the corporate environment and is now part of an independent design agency. With her tech savvy and professional experience, she has helped to tweak a technology course, tailoring it so students will have the technological skills specific to the brand and packaging design industry.”

Professor Sandra A. Krasovec, Packaging Design Program Coordinator

From your industry experience, what are some less obvious career choices in Packaging Design?

Prior to joining the program, I never knew there were so many different career paths even within this super specific design discipline. Within Packaging Design, you could become a designer, production artist, comp specialist, strategist, account/client manager, 3D visualizer, and more.

Bea Saludo’s Roses Mints Rebrand and Packaging Design for Roses Brands

What advice do you have for landing jobs or for visibility?

Networking is huge! The hardest part of breaking into the industry can be getting your foot in the door. The Packaging Design program keeps very good ties with its alumni network, which has led to many students landing jobs quickly after graduation. 

My other advice is to have a strong digital presence. Even though Packaging Design is a print-based discipline, many job applications require a website or PDF portfolio. You can even get discovered off of social media or Behance. 

Bea Saludo’s Packaging Design for Nike x Rit Dye. Photography: Breakfast for Dinner

What less obvious things might a Packaging Design student best take advantage of at FIT?

PrintFX is such a valuable resource for students. You have access to everything you could possibly need to create incredible packaging comps. Everything from high quality prints, vinyl cutting, 3D printing, and more! Mo who manages PrintFX is the best!

You have industry experience in very diverse areas, like beauty, apparel, and food and beverage. How do you position yourself to compete for these assignments?

I have to credit JxL Creative, the incredible agency I’ve had the opportunity to work with, (as lead senior designer and brand strategist), for scoring such wonderful clients from different industries. The agency offers a wide spectrum of creative services all under one roof. One of the founders, Lisa Ensanian ’12, is a graduate of FIT’s Packaging Design program as well!

Bea Saludo’s Packaging Design GIF for NIKE X RIT DYE. Photography: Breakfast for Dinner

Your website states that as an “info junkie” you have “a passion for research, strategy, and storytelling.” How does “strategy” come into play on an assignment? 

One of the most eye-opening lessons I’ve learned is that we design for more than just decorative purposes. There is a lot of strategy that precedes visual exploration. There are many layers to strategy, but if I had to boil it down to three main pillars, it would be to ensure that your design is created with these key questions in mind.

  1.  Who am I? (defining the brand)
  2.  Who am I talking to? (knowledge of the brand’s audience)
  3.  Who else is speaking? (knowledge of your competition)

This will ensure that our design work is relevant to the brand and their core audience, and to ensure that they stand apart from the competition on-shelf and online.


Finally, what would you like prospective students to know about FIT’s Packaging Design program? 

The program employs professors who have extensive experience. This allows students to learn relevant skills and lessons to prepare for the industry.  Every professor I have met cares deeply about the success of the students. I also love the small class size, which allows for a lot of personalized attention and support.

Says the professor, Marianne R. Klimchuk, who Saludo says changed her life: “Bea is an exceptionally creative designer, always eager to collaborate and help others. I am thrilled that she has joined the faculty. I hear from students that her expertise and teaching style are inspiring this next generation of designers.”

To learn more about the School of Art and Design’s Packaging Design BFA program, go to Packaging Design at FIT

All images were created at JxL Creative and used with permission. 

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Flight patterns: Deborah Kruger’s feathered work migrates worldwide

There are more dimensions to textiles and to flat, recycled materials than width and length… and more uses beyond clothing than have been imagined by most. Deborah Kruger, Textile/Surface Design, ’76, has helped lead the way. The internationally recognized artist credits FIT.

“FIT changed the course of my life. My artwork is influenced by textiles and design and that started with my studies at FIT,” says Kruger.

“Re-dress” by Deborah Kruger (Form based on traditional Aztec Ceramics)

“The Textile/Surface Design faculty was unilaterally supportive of my design skills,” says Kruger. Their enthusiasm about my talent set me up for success. The program was intense and comprehensive. My lifelong love of textiles was cemented during my time there. My training and passion have been evident in my artwork ever since.”

Kruger’s solo show, “Avianto,” is touring the US through 2025. The Museum of Art and Design (MAD) at Columbus Circle in Manhattan recently acquired two of her large environmental pieces, “Accidentals” and “Ropa Pintada,” which will be on display beginning May, 2024.

The touring exhibition includes Kruger’s mural-scale piece “Red Wing,” along with seven mid-size pieces and several smaller works. The exhibition will be coming to NYC in November as part of the “Follow the Thread” fiber event produced by ArteMorbida, a textile arts magazine.

“Ropa Pintada” by Deborah Kruger (Form based on tunic-like Huipil from Chiapas and Guatemala)

Kruger’s signature “tail feathers” that are not real feathers, appear in all her work — wall-hung pieces, sculptures, and installations:

“Some viewers think my tail feathers are fiber or paper,” Kruger says. “They are surprised to find they are recycled plastic.” She says having the feathers “read” as textiles delights her.

Kruger says she is inspired by those who expand the boundaries of their materials, such as Olga de Amaral of Colombia, Magdalena Abakanowicz from Poland, Nick Cave from the US and El Anatsui from Ghana. For her, that means using recycled materials, especially plastics, on which she and her workshop team screen-print designs using her drawings of endangered birds. Her production studio is close to Guadalajara Mexico, on Lake Chapala.

“Corona de Plumas” by Deborah Kruger (screen-printing on recycled plastic bags, sewing, wrapping, waxed linen thread)

Kruger says reading limnologist Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” made a deep impression, especially learning how pesticides, especially DDT, affected songbird populations. Carson’s work, of course, sparked the 1960s worldwide environmental movement. It led Kruger to consider addressing habitat fragmentation, species extinction and even the ongoing loss of indigenous languages. Half of the world’s current 7,000 languages are expected to disappear by 2100.

Viewers can see how her FIT and two-dimensional wallpaper design work influenced her artwork and preference for fiber and textiles. The feathers started appearing in the 1990s, with the advent of her environmental work.

“Breastplate” by Deborah Kruger (screen-printing on recycled plastic bags, sewing, wrapping, waxed linen thread)

“Choosing to use recycled materials brings attention to the waste and consumption that contribute to pollution and habitat fragmentation. These factors, along with climate change, are responsible for the drop in worldwide bird populations,” says Kruger.

“FIT changed the course of my life,” says the internationally recognized artist. “My artwork is influenced by textiles and design and that started with my studies at FIT…My training and passion have been evident in my artwork ever since.”

When she began using recycled plastics, Kruger experimented with digital printing. She liked the quality of the images, but not what she calls the “crankiness of the digital printers.” She moved to hand processes like silk-screen printing for her thousands of feathers.

The artist in front of “Redwing” the latest mural in her environmental portfolio

“It was like a homecoming,” Kruger says. “When I was a textile designer, we silk screened all our samples. It is a skill I shared with my team so that they have a bigger employment toolbox. That, in turn, helps preserve handmade culture.”

Kruger also has an ongoing series of textile artwork inspired by traditional women’s handmade garments such as kimonos from Japan and Korea, and the huipil, still worn in Chiapas, Mexico and Guatemala.

“Kimona 2” by Deborah Kruger (screen-printing on recycled plastic bags, sewing, wrapping, waxed linen thread)

“My interest in traditional women’s clothing grew out of my FIT training and has persisted throughout my life.” she says. “My weaving professor, Miriam Kellogg Fredenthal, was my mentor for 40 years until she died at 98.”

Kruger also started an artist residency program in Mexico. “When I was a young artist and mother, I attended the Millay Arts residency in Austerlitz, NY as their first fiber artist. I had the opportunity to focus on my artwork for an entire month. It was a game changer!” Other residencies would follow in the US and France.

When she moved to Mexico in 2010, she realized that the near-perfect year-round weather and beautiful scenery would make an ideal place for a residency. She founded 360 Xochi Quetzal. Over 300 artists and writers have attended, staying for a month or longer. Some have permanently moved to Chapala, helping to create an artists’ colony there.

Kruger’s next steps? One is a neon wall installation that addresses bird extinction. The other is a public sculpture shaped like a birdcage. Instead of bars, the cage would be made from simplified drawings of endangered birds fabricated from aluminum, steel or 3-D printing that would be entered by humans instead of birds.

“Broken Round Sculpture” by Deborah Kruger (Broken ceramic plates hand-painted with drawings of endangered birds grouted around ceramic form)

Kruger who also works with ceramics says “Each medium allows me to express my environmental concerns in an exciting new way.”

To see more of Deborah Kruger’s work, visit her website: Follow her on IG at: DeborahKrugerStudios. For a schedule of her upcoming exhibits go to her exhibit schedule.

For more information about the Textile/Surface Design AAS and BFA programs, go to: Textile/Surface Design at FIT.

All photos of artwork by Carlos Díaz Corona. All images used with permission.

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Photon Sorcerer Cat Trzaskowski

Cat Trzaskowski’s “photon sorcery” nods to history but generates the excitement of entirely new experiences. His work’s scope is rooted in his own life but spans centuries. It’s evocative without being imitative. Uncovering hidden worlds through art is the bedrock of Trzaskowski’s practice.

“More Life: The Ecstasy of St. Teresa” (2023), Dye sublimation composite photo on aluminum, by Cat Trzaskowski

Trzaskowski’s senior thesis, comprised of intense photo composites, is informed by over a year and a half of research, travel, studio photography and “post-production wizardry.” The impetus, he says, is to uplift the queer community:

“My subjects are all friends or colleagues, conveyed the way I see them: magnificent, creative, worthy-of-being-protected, worthy of living long beautiful lives without fear. I used the formalized visual language of the Baroque period, the time of the Counter Reformation, which aimed to persuade people through the power of beauty,” he says.

“More Life: The Inspiration of St. Matthew” (2023), dye sublimation composite photo on aluminum, by Cat Trzaskowski

“We often think of the camera as a tool of simple description, but Cat’s work shows the tremendous chasm between what our eye sees and what the photograph can show us.” 

– Professor Brad Farwell,  Photography and Mix Media

“Synapse I” (2021), by Cat Trzaskowski

Trzaskowski describes himself as a photographer and digital artist, a practitioner of photon sorcery, a term he has coined to describe his artistic process. “It’s creating things that don’t exist through the magic of lens, space, and light with photons and pixels.”

At FIT Trzaskowski says he learned how to paint with light, to place precise splashes of color, to capture invisible movement, and to create dizzying visual illusions, all in-camera.

“The Seeker” (2020) Series, by Cat Trzaskowski

“The FIT Photography department is phenomenal,” says Trzaskowski. “It feels like my found family. I was surrounded by people who were invested in helping me grow past self-imposed limitations…Because of what I’ve learned, I can conjure things never seen before in my art.”

“Bloom” (2020), self portrait, by Cat Trzaskowski

“Introducing imperfections and distortions with various acrylic materials, mirrors, filters and even everyday objects allows me to improvise on the fly as I shoot. The magic comes from the unpredictability of the outcome,” says Trzaskowski.

He describes how growing up with aphantasia — an inability to create mental imagery — compelled him to draw:

“When I read a book it would be hard to visualize the story in my mind, so I would want to draw it. It was my way of bringing something invisible into a visual world. “I think that drives the work I create. Now, I look through my lens and that is the portal of revelation.”

“She Commands Chaos” (2022), by Cat Trzaskowski

“Cat’s artistic vision, and technical prowess, come together to create something, which moves beyond the raw material of a superficial reality toward a more complex and beautiful truth.” 

– Professor Brad Farwell, Photography and Related Media

“Back to Stardust” (2022), by Cat Trzaskowski

Trzaskowski says he “romanticizes” his life as in a “Wes Anderson-like narrative always going through my head.”

Thinking in this poetic way fortifies him. “It’s been a bumpy journey. There have been difficult times, but doing this work is such a joy that I can’t help rhapsodizing about it.”

“The Hares of Iberia” (2021) Digital Photo Composite by Cat Trzaskowski

Trzaskowski credits much of his progress and growth to his time at FIT.

“The FIT Photography department is phenomenal. It feels like my found family. I was surrounded by people who were invested in helping me grow past self-imposed limitations. So many professors and staff pushed me to achieve what I didn’t think was possible. They showed me how to walk the path, and for that I will always be grateful. Because of what I’ve learned, I can conjure things never seen before in my art.”

“The Story Makes You Who You Are” (2021), Self Portrait by Cat Trzaskowski

Cat Trzaskowski’s BFA thesis, a series of seven large-scale prints, will be the subject of a solo exhibition in September. “More Life: A Baroque Celebration of Queer Identity” will be on view at ChaShaMa at 266 W 37 St in NYC, from September 16 to October 5, 2023.

To see more of Cat Trzaskowski’s work, visit his website at and on IG @cattrzaskowskiphoto.

To learn more about the School of Art and Design’s Photography and Related Media’s AAS and BFA degrees, go to Photography at FIT.

All images used with permission.

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Playground Detroit had its origin in NYC. How Fashion Designer Paulina Petkoski employed her design skills to help make it happen

It can be easier to be a creative in Detroit, the city where she grew up, says Paulina Petkoski (Fashion Design ’10), but it helps to get a jump-start in New York City. After nearly a decade of working and designing in NYC, she returned to her hometown Detroit in 2014.

Petkoski had already co-founded Playground Detroit while living in New York, hosting pop-up exhibitions, music showcases, and film screenings in Brooklyn and Manhattan, inviting Detroit artists to New York and bringing New York-based artists to Detroit. Playground Detroit has now moved beyond pop-ups, to its own gallery and performance space in Detroit.

Exterior of Playground Detroit gallery and creative talent agency

“Initially, I was inspired to showcase Detroit talent to a New York audience,” Petkoski said. Unlike Detroit, NYC has a robust, developed art market and industry where talent can be easily discovered and appreciated. The drawback? “Detroit affords many creatives more time, space and wanderlust, to be resourceful in their practice.”

Artists and creatives, she says, have the potential to thrive in Detroit, “thanks to the benefit of less expensive space, allowing time to create.”

Audience arrival for “Detroit Swag” Exhibit Photo: Jesse David Green.

“I am always amazed by the creative work of our alumni and how the skills they develop at FIT can be applied in so many ways to positively impact our world. The work Paulina is doing demonstrates the power of art to bring change to a community. Her gallery Playground Detroit is truly contributing to the cultural life of the city and providing opportunities to that city’s artists.”

– Dean Troy Richards, School of Art and Design

Detroit also has a rich design history, including important architecture, an influence on the Mid-Century Modern movement, and is home to the world-renowned Cranbrook Academy of Art and College for Creative Studies, all of which set the foundation for a city that thrives in creativity, she says.

“Detroit Swag” by Detroit mixed-media collage artist Judy Bowman, at Playground Detroit

Petkoski’s path to FIT wasn’t linear. Growing up in Detroit, she says, “I always wanted to be in fashion. My grandmother taught me how to hand stitch pillows and make dresses for Barbies. Once I got a sewing machine, I started thrifting and upcycling clothes, reworking vintage patterns, and figuring out what a yoke was before any formal education!”

Her father, an architect, was also an influence, stimulating her early interest in art and design.

George Petkoski and daughter Paulina Petkoski

“Living and working abroad allowed me to think differently. I gained an understanding of international design,” says Petroski.  “Detroit can feel like a small town despite being a large city. Those experiences have allowed me to maintain a global perspective.”

Before arriving at FIT, she spent a little over a year at Michigan State University. The college offered an exchange program with FIT, but she instead decided to transfer entirely. “I was waitlisted for the main campus in Manhattan, but pre-approved for the study abroad program at Polimoda. “I moved directly to Florence for a year and began my first semester. It was a pivotal, life-changing experience,” she says.

“Rito de Noches,” by Ivan Montoya, part of an online exhibit

Petkoski encourages designers to learn more about business, even while in college. “Often designers seek to start a business right after graduating,” she notes. They learn quickly that “It’s not just about creating a collection.”

While attending FIT, she launched the sustainable clothing line Sosume, taking calls from buyers at Barneys in-between classes. Later she conceptualized Playground Detroit while working full-time for Rachel Roy, where she eventually became head of trim and embellishment.

Opening of Detroit artist Zoe Beaudry Exhibit at Playground Detroit

“The design process I learned during my time at FIT continues to influence all of my work, says Petkoski. She manages off-site and site-specific exhibitions, designs public art experiences and events; she has directed the gallery branding, the website, and helps emerging artists craft their creative image and personal branding. “To me, these are all forms of design,” she says.

During her time at FIT she traveled to Australia to attend a wholesale tradeshow for Sosume, and later visited factories in China and Hong Kong to understand sourcing and production while with Rachel Roy.

“Living and working abroad allowed me to think differently. I gained an understanding of international design. Detroit can feel like a small town despite being a large city. Those experiences have allowed me to maintain a global perspective.”

Frst exhibit at Playground Detroit gallery, featuring the work of Cristin Ríchard

Playground Detroit didn’t start as a gallery. After returning to Detroit, Petkoski and her partner did pop-ups. They quickly outgrew their initial “bedroom turned gallery,” where they had begun to host exhibits in 2014. “It was in a 6,000 square-foot residential loft building. As word got out, attendances began exceeding 200 people,” she recalls.

The Motor City Match program helped them find a commercial location and create a business plan and budget. To raise funds for the gallery they “launched an ambitious Kickstarter and achieved the $75,000 goal.”

Mural by Sydney G. James, part of a billboard campaign for the film premiere of “Detroit.” Photo Lamar Landers

With widespread community support and additional funding from various community lenders including Michigan Women’s Forward for the interior renovation, they took over a historic building, dating from 1887.

“The design process I learned during my time at FIT continues to influence all of my work, says Petkoski. She manages off-site and site-specific exhibitions, designs public art experiences and events; she has directed the gallery branding, the website, and helps emerging artists craft their creative image and personal branding. “To me, these are all forms of design,” she says.

Artist and Designer Scott Klinker’s off-site exhibit, supported by Playground Detroit

Playground Detroit maintains its operations primarily through artwork sales, client-based projects and special events including dinners and music performances in the gallery space.

“We have public gallery hours, host opening receptions and sell artwork online through Artsy and 1stDibs. We just finished an interior mural project for a soon-to-open speakeasy in Ann Arbor. Annapurna Pictures from Los Angeles hired us to commission Detroit artists for a billboard campaign for the film premiere of ‘Detroit,’ directed by Kathryn Bigelow.” As a social-mission enterprise, Playground Detroit seeks grant support as well.

Petkoski continues to her work as a fashion stylist and designer. She also teaches at College for Creative Studies on topics such as closed-loop design and circularity.

Paulina Petkoski’s oversized anorak jacket from her FIT thesis collection

One of her fondest memories as a student in Professor George Simonton’s class was meeting esteemed alum Calvin Klein who came to visit. He offered to meet with students one-on-one for feedback on their work. “I met him at his gorgeous Chelsea office,” said Petkoski. “He graciously reviewed my collection.”

Then “a few years later, I was attending the Armory Show wearing one of the designs he helped me with, an oversized anorak jacket. I greeted him and he recognized the design. It was such a great moment!”

Go to Playground Detroit for more information about current and past exhibits. Follow Paulina Petkoski on IG @paulinapetkoski and visit her website at:

To learn more about the School of Art and Design’s Fashion Design major, go to: Fashion Design at FIT.

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Harrison Shaw: Innovation is his brand

FIT’s campus covers little more than a city block, but for their inspiration, students have all of New York City — and sometimes the whole world — to explore. Harrison “Harry” Shaw (Packaging Design ’23), took advantage, starting during the pandemic. His product concepts and presentations come across as almost real…as if we could walk down the street and buy them this afternoon after work.

Here are four of them:

Tagged Brewing Co. by Harrison Shaw

“Tagged Brewing Co.” (Capstone Design Studio, taught by Prof. James Silva)

“This was one of my first big school projects during the pandemic,” says Shaw. “I was living in Bushwick and it was hard and nerve-racking to take the subway to commute around the city. I went by foot to explore areas near my apartment.”

That is when he came upon The Bushwick Collective. The Collective hosts a year-round outdoor art exhibition and annual block party that brings together local businesses.

“From there, the beer idea just took off. It gained a personality on its own,” he says.

Tagged Brewing Co. by Harrison Shaw

“Harry came into the program with a strong design foundation and motivation to succeed. His determination in his coursework led to outstanding design projects,” says Prof. Marianne Klimchuk, former chair of Packaging Design

Shaw’s assignment was to develop a 360 brand identity (that is, looking at a brand’s positioning and opportunities from every angle) that hit on four different BFA design majors: Packaging, Advertising, Spacial Experience Design, and Graphic Design.

As with other Packaging Design class projects, Shaw started off by taking a dive into the landscape of brands, mapping what might motivate potential customers in the category. Then he created a brand that clicked with his insights.

“I describe it as finding a solution to a problem consumers never thought they had,” says Shaw. He then created territory boards, sketching out ways to motivte the consumer. And finally on to addressing digital development, typography, illustration, brandworld creation, to arrive at a packaging design concept.

Tagged Brewing Co. by Harrison Shaw

Nottinghill Distillery (Designers Portfolio, taught by Program Coordinator Prof. Sandra Krasovec)

“Nottinghill Distillery was inspired by my study abroad in London and Scotland, an opportunity I was afforded through the Packaging Design program.

“We visited 12 brand and packaging design firms like Bulletproof, JKR, Pearlfisher. We sat in on their design process presentations, and went over case studies. We asked questions and gained insight into the design world in the UK,” says Shaw.

Nottinghill Distillery by Harrison Shaw

“I was so inspired by the architecture, particularly in Notting Hill, which has this amazing juxtaposition of old, classically designed buildings, but with vibrantly colored facades,” says Shaw.

“I wanted to  capture the essence of what I felt there, developing a gin brand that held both an essence of class and striking color.”

The brand story Shaw created tells of a place where “passion, creativity, and smoky allure converge.”

Nottinghill Distillery by Harrison Shaw

The allure of Nottinghill Distillery is its smoky infusion made from “smoldering embers and aromatic scents that waft through the air of Notting Hill.” The Distillery uses a “time-honored technique,” that includes “carefully selected, hand-charred woods to infuse the gin.”

Nottinghill Distillery by Harrison Shaw

“BUZZZ!” (Strategic Design Studio and Design Strategy, taught by profs. Marianne Klimchuk and Susan Palombo) 

Shaw then segued to another type of suds. His BUZZZ! is a men’s personal care soap brand that he suggests be used for showering at night.

“This was a fun project that required upfront research and strategizing the development of a robust brand design concept,” he says.

Says Prof. Marianne Klimchuk, “I am beyond proud of Harry.  I have no doubt that we will be seeing a lot of outstanding brands and packaging designs in the marketplace that Harry had his hands on.” 

Buzzz! by Harrison Shaw

“The overarching concept of BUZZZ! revolves around being inspired by night life — to bring a sense of a neon glow and the ‘buzz of the night’ to customers’ showering routine,”  Shaw’s brand story states.

“In my communication style, I wanted to give it a voice that millennials can connect to, playing with modern slang.”

His line “Night Showers Hit Different” does that. His playful yet bold approach to the night shower has “unique charm,” as he describes it: “It’s a moment of escape, a sanctuary where one can wash away the stress of the day and emerge refreshed.”

Buzzz! by Harrison Shaw

“Harry came into the program with a strong design foundation and motivation to succeed. His determination in his coursework led to outstanding design projects.” – Prof. Marianne Klimchuk

Buzzz! by Harrison Shaw

“Vibes CBD” (Brand Identity Design, taught by Prof. Candace Allenson

“Vibes CBD” was one of my first projects coming out of the pandemic, and the start of my bachelors degree. I was missing that feeling of vacation and that feeling of relaxation and playful spirit that comes with being on a beach with a cold drink to just relax,” says Shaw.

Vibes CBD by Harrison Shaw

“I took that yearning for something fun again; I wanted to develop a brand that was just super fun, one that captured that essence of what I felt was missing because of the pandemic.”

His brand story states: “The waves are your playground with Vibes CBD. Colorful and playful branding will transport you to the beach with retro typography inspired by classic beachside neon signs, palm trees, and iconic sunsets that explode in the sky.

“Whether you’re catching waves or just chillin’ with friends,” Shaw writes, “Vibes CBD’s refreshing flavors and soothing properties will be your go-to beachside companion.”

Vibes CBD by Harrison Shaw

During his time at FIT, Shaw interned for two outstanding design firms. The first was with graphic design agency Piscatello Design Centre. “It gave him a keen sense of what excellence looks like,” says Prof. Klimchuk. Shaw then spent several semesters interning for JDO, a global brand and packaging design agency.

“These educational experiences and his innate abilities took his design thinking skills and executional abilities to a new level,” says Prof. Klimchuk.

Vibes CBD by Harrison Shaw

Shaw is currently employed by the design agency Vault49, working on packaging and branding design.

Says Prof. Klimchuck “I am beyond proud of Harry. I have no doubt that we will be seeing a lot of outstanding brands and packaging designs in the marketplace that Harry had his hands on.”

Harrison “Harry” Shaw

To see more of Harrison Shaw’s work visit his website:, and on Instagram

To learn more about the School of Art and Design’s Packaging Design program, go to Packaging Design at FIT.

All images used with permission.

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A conceptual online museum of appropriated art

When he was a child growing up in Szechuan, China, Harry XiZhuo Lin enjoyed watching television programs on art and culture, such as those on the History Channel. He always noticed where the artwork came from –- places like Egypt, China and India –- and where it had ended up –- places like the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Louvre.

From Harry Lin’s presentation of “The Stolen History of Art Collection”

Lin, an Advertising and Digital Design senior, learned more about “stolen art” and issues of repatriations through his studies at FIT. His interest never abated. He was recently awarded first prize in an NFT Design Competition sponsored by Fabriq Labs, a digital design marketplace. Lin’s winning project, “The Stolen History of Art Collection,” is a NFT collection of artwork and artifacts that have been deemed improperly acquired from their places of origin.

Lin aims to correct misconceptions and bring attention to looted art:

“A lot of times major museums refer to artwork in their collection as being part of humanity. But they don’t identify pieces that were stolen. People are going to museums to be educated. We want them to know more about this,” says Lin. “If you are manipulating the narrative, then the history is not authentic.”

Lin describes NFTs as “representing digital authenticity and ownership.” His NFT collection is minted through what he calls an “experience art gallery.”

”Visitors will be allowed to acquire the NFT through contactless technology,” says Lin. Think of it as digital theft of already stolen art!

Harry Lin’s project provides examples of “stolen” artworks

“We want people to keep the authentic history of art alive,” says Lin who is passionate about artwork being accessible to all. He says that of the approximately 8,000,000 artifacts in the holdings of The British Museum, only a very small percentage are on display.

During a semester abroad studying at Leeds Arts University in the UK, Lin gained greater appreciation for issues involving art repatriation:

“I feel privileged to have visited the UK and to travel abroad to see these artifacts in person. I wish my people from China could all do the same to understand our heritage and the achievements of our ancestors.”

Lin explains the process of transforming images to the 3D platform Blender before formatting for NFT minting
Lin explains the process of transforming images to the 3D platform Blender before formatting for NFT minting.

Lin’s winning project was part of his senior graduation thesis in the format of an integrated advertising campaign. “This is an ongoing project. My hope is that one day museums will acknowledge the dark history of their acquisitions by repatriating certain works of art,” he says.

“A lot of times major museums refer to artwork in their collection as being part of humanity. But they don’t identify pieces that were stolen. People are going to museums to be educated. We want them to know more about this. If you are manipulating the narrative, then the history is not authentic,” says Lin.

In addition to minoring in Art History, Psychology, and Creative Technology, Lin is president of the Metaverse Club, for FIT students interested in exploring new technology and working on digital design projects.

The Metaverse Club won third place in the NFT Design Competition. Its project prompts fellow students to create a collection of NFTs that reflect the diversity and creativity at FIT. Photos of students are turned into characters in voxel (Lego-like) style. The club’s advisor, Interaction Design and Immersive Technologies professor Michael Posso, ’08, had arranged for guest speakers to discuss blockchain and 3D design.

The second place prize went to Lauren Breuer, a Production Management: Fashion and Related Industries senior. Her “Spot the Difference” art collection addresses the topic of speciesism with a focus on the dog and cow meat trades.

Metaverse Club won third place in the NFT Competition

Fabriq Labs, an advocate of “Web3,” partnered with FIT for this first NFT Design Competition. Web3 is the general term for the emerging on-line collection of small, specialized, often individual web services.  The contest was initiated by Chair William Reinisch and Professor Renee Leibler of the Entrepreneurship department.

Prize money was $2,500 for first place; $1,500 for second; and $750 for third.

Harry XiZhuo Lin

To see more of Harry XiZhuo Lin’s work, visit his website: He can be reached at: [email protected]

Click here to learn more about the Advertising and Digital Design major and here for information about student Clubs and Activities at FIT.

Click here to learn more about Student Contests and Industry-Related Projects.

All images used with permission

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A postcard with a stark message about school gun violence

“I started off with the image of the empty classroom, brought in the silhouette of a hand holding a gun, and then, using the pen and star tools in Illustrator, illustrated the American flag behind that in the windows,” says Cindy Choo describing how she created the winning image for FIT’s Constitution Day Postcard Competition.

“I thought of the prevalence of school shootings in the news and the fear they create for school children and teens,” said the Graphic Design senior.

Cindy Choo’s first-place winning Constitution Day Postcard

Choo won first place in the annual postcard competition sponsored by the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Participants are instructed to illuminate a section of the U.S. Constitution in a contemporary context.

Professor Ronald Bacsa had assigned students in his Design Competition class (GD 361) to create work for the completion. Students had to design a front and back of a 3×5 or 4×6-inch postcard that reflects their beliefs in any part of the Constitution.

“Creating a victorious work that addresses the issue of gun control feels entirely appropriate with all that is going on in the news,” said Prof. Bacsa.

Choo, who is minoring in Art History and Asian Studies, is a gpassionate about designing playful, fun, and colorful pieces that bring joy, but I am also committed to creating meaningful work that speaks to people on a deeper level,” she says.

“I believe that the right to bear arms should be balanced with the need to prevent gun violence. Implementing gun control measures is essential to prevent further tragedies,” said Choo. “Thoughts and prayers alone aren’t enough.”

Winners of the Constitution Day competition are selected in the spring for the week of Constitution Day. (Constitution Day is September 17.) To submit a design for 2024, students can email their work to [email protected] and cc: history professor Daniel Levinson Wilk who helps oversee the competition at: [email protected].

See more of Cindy Choo’s work her website and follow her in IG: @nicetomeetcchoo.

Follow this link for more information about FIT’s Graphic Design BFA.

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Daisy Ruiz’s illustrated South Bronx tale

Daisy Ruiz, Illustration ’16, has released her first book, “Gordita: Built Like This.” In this illustrated long-form comic, a Chicana Bronx teen is bullied for not being curvy, but is helped by friends and mentors. The plot mirrors the author’s own middle school experiences and offers lots of good advice to victims and to folks who can help. A sequel is already in the works.

“Gordita: Built Like This” is a 28-page comic illustrated and written by Daisy Ruiz

Ruiz, known online as Draizys, is founder and creative director of the award-winning compilation zine Deadass Tho NYC. Her illustrations take inspiration from her career trajectory, her East Coast Chicana upbringing, and everyday NYC living.

“The story came out of me growing up as a Mexican-American in the South Bronx,” she says.

“I experienced shame as a child from my family, classmates, and strangers because of my body shape. It took a long time for me to love myself. It’s a journey I’m still on. I want young kids and adults alike to know that we are more than our bodies, and to learn to accept ourselves as we are.”

Page from “Gordita,” illustrated and written by Daisy Ruiz

Gordita’s friends and guidance counselor are central to the sophisticated storyline. They provide different perspectives to Gordita’s lived experiences. Among the characters:

Cassandra is the prettiest girl in the class but she’s shunned by classmates for being curvy and having the boys attention, she’s sexualized at a very early age.

Page from “Gordita,” illustrated and written by Daisy Ruiz

Treasure is gothic and bisexual. She speaks up for her friends but she’s still reduced to being called fat by classmates.

Marie is quiet and shy because of her body odor despite her being a pretty girl.

Miss Payne, a woman in her 30’s, can emphasize with the girls because she was their age once.

Gordita relates to all their stories and realizes that no matter the body shape, some people will always have something off-putting to say.

Page from “Gordita,” illustrated and written by Daisy Ruiz

“I experienced bullying in subtle ways at FIT,” she admits. “But being in the EOP (Equal Opportunity Program), I was able to know people from different majors, so I never felt isolated for being a BIPOC student.”

EOP is a program that acquaints incoming students with navigating FIT in a summer program before college starts. FIT also assigns a counselor to each student for support.

Page from “Gordita,” illustrated and written by Daisy Ruiz

Daisy has an uncommonly long list of people who helped her at FIT. “I’d like to give a shout-out to my professors Eric Velasquez, Kam Mak, William Low, Tony Capparelli, the late Chris Spollen, and Ray Lago for being particularly instrumental professors in my journey to becoming an artist,” she said.

There are two versions of “Gordita,” one with more frank language that could be inappropriate for some youngsters. It is already available in English, with Spanish editions and, as noted, a sequel coming soon.

Daisy “Draizys” Ruiz, illustrator and author

“Gorditas” will be available shortly in the Gladys Marcus Library. The book can be purchased at, in person at the Silver Sprocket store in San Francisco, Drawn & Quarterly in Montreal, and Gulf Coast Cosmos Comics in Houston.

Follow Daisy Ruiz on IG: @Draizys, and on Twitter: @Draizys.

To learn more about FIT’s Illustration and Interactive Media major, go to: Illustration at FIT.

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