Zion Ozeri’s photos capture Jewish diversity 3,000 years post exodus

Americans, and even American Jews, are used to thinking of Jewish families as well-educated strivers living a comfortable life in a major city. But for many if not most Jewish communities around the globe, the look is different even if the strivings are what we would expect. Photographer Zion Ozeri, Photography ‘78, knows that better than most. Many of the most evocative images of contemporary Jewish diversity are his, captured worldwide over a career that has spanned more than 40 years.

“Pictures Tell” Photo courtesy of Gefen Publishing

That’s particularly evident in Ozeri’s new book, “Pictures Tell: A Passover Haggadah,” (Gefen Publishing). The word “Haggadah,” which comes from the Hebrew word meaning “to tell,” refers to the guidebook used at a Passover Seder.  A Haggadah typically features traditional songs, prayers, commentaries, and stories that commemorate the exodus of Jews from Egypt more than 3,000 years ago and offer lessons that still resonate today.

“Cave,” Haidan, northern Yemen. Photo: Zion Ozeri

“The Passover Seder is celebrated by Jews all over the world,” says Ozeri.  “It’s something that connects far-flung Jewish communities. At the same time, every community brings its own unique customs, its own spin on the rituals.  So it reflects both our unity and diversity as Jews.  I like to think my photography does the same thing.”

“Holocaust Survivior,” Buenos Aires, Argentina. Photo: Zion Ozeri

“Pictures Tell” is Ozeri’s second Haggadah. The first, published (Simon & Schuster) in 2005, was “The Jewish World Family Haggadah,” also illustrated with his photos.

“Shepard,” Kfar Zeitim, Israel. Photo: Zion Ozeri

“I was pleased with the first Haggadah, and the way the photographs helped illustrate the stories and songs,” says Ozeri.  “But there was more I wanted to do.  ‘Pictures Tell’ gave me the opportunity to spotlight the photographs as not just illustrations, but essentially visual ‘texts’ in their own right. The photographs are in dialogue with the traditional texts. They can help spark discussion and provide a visual way into the conversation for people of all ages.”

“Setting the Table,” Santiago de Cuba. Photo: Zion Ozeri
“Zion Ozeri’s photographs do more than document the lives of people in the Jewish community. They connect us with this community on an emotional level and, in doing so, help to bridge perceived differences.” – Dean Troy Richards, School of Art and Design  

Ozeri was born in Israel, the son of immigrants from Yemen. He came to New York to attend FIT after a stint as a draftee in the Israeli army. During the Yom Kippur War in 1973, he was a tank commander.

“Four Mothers,” Mevasert Zion Absorption Center, Israel. Photo: Zion Ozeri

“So much of my perspective and vision as a photographer was shaped by growing up in Israel as the son of Yemenite Jews,” Ozeri says. “The Jews of Yemen, The Last Generation” is among his previous titles.

“Matzah oven,” Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Photo: Zion Ozeri
“I learned not just the fundamentals of photography, but also the power of photography as a medium that can engage people, move people, and even motivate change.” – Zion Ozeri

“While many of the earlier pioneers and immigrants to Israel were European, we represented a different face of Jewry.  We brought a different understanding of what it meant to be Jewish, and what it meant to be Israeli.”

“Outdoor market,” Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Photo: Zion Ozeri

His parents came to Israel during a period when ancient Jewish communities in Arab lands were being pressured to leave ancestral homes. Thus, he was raised and schooled among many diverse cultures. He notes that this gave him a cross-cultural perspective that suffuses his work.

“Twilight Mincha,” Rosh Hay’ayin, Israel. Photo: Zion Ozeri

Ten years ago he launched the DiverCity Lens curriculum and program for public schools, in collaboration with the New York City Department of Education (DOE). The program uses photography as a tool to help students reflect on their own cultures and to explore the rich diversity of our city.

“The Secret,” Mevaseret Zion Absorption Center. Photo: Zion Ozeri

The DiverCity Lens program typically works with 12-18 high schools and junior high schools each year, culminating with a student exhibition in the rotunda of the DOE headquarters at the historic Tweed Building on Chambers Street.

“Backpack,” Operation Solomon, Ben Gurion Airport. Photo: Zion Ozeri

Much of Ozeri’s work today involves helping others – especially young people – better understand themselves and their world through the medium of photography. He says his FIT training played an important role in the direction his career has taken:

“Brooklyn,” Photo: Zion Ozeri

“I learned not just the fundamentals of photography,” Ozeri says, “but also the power of photography as a medium that can engage people, move people, and even motivate change.  My work rests on the shoulders of earlier photographers and artists who saw their work as part of a broader humanistic endeavor.”

Zion Ozeri

A copy of “Pictures Tell: A Passover Haggadah” will be on display in the New Books section at the college’s Gladys Marcus Library.

Ozeri’s work has been published widely in major publications. His work has been on exhibit at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; ANU Museum, Tel Aviv; Centro Cultural Recoleta, Buenos Aires; Skirball Museum, LA; 92Y, and The Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC and many other museums and galleries. He lives in New York City.

To see more of Zion Ozeri’s work, visit his websites: ZionOzeri.com; DiverCityLens.org; JewishLens.org, and follow him on Instagram @ozerizion.

To learn more about the Photography and Related Media program at FIT go to: Photography at FIT.

Photos used with permission.

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From Paperboard to Eye-Stopping Project: Packaging Design Students Top the Competition

A team of three Packaging Design BFA students has won first place in the Paperboard Packaging Alliance Student Design Challenge for 2021. Competing against more than 40 other teams from 10 schools, FIT teams also took one of two honorable mentions and one of four “shout outs” for semester-long class projects that required creativity, teamwork, and mastery of the technology needed to economically turn flat paperboard into eye-stopping, functional three-dimensional packaging.

Hate is a Virus super kit

The winning FIT concept – the Super Kit – was unique and timely. It was developed for Hate is a Virus, the AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) organization against Asian American violent crime. The team members are from AAPI ethnic groups from three different countries — Indonesia, Guam, and India. All seven FIT teams got to choose an organization for which each team did a project.

T-Shirt and educational materials packaged in The Super KIt to spread awareness for the Hate is a Virus organization

Their concept, aimed at students age 7 to 9, combines 20 cards with conversation-starting questions, other teaching materials such as a family tree fill-in, and a T-shirt, all in a small folding carton that turns into a superhero shield with room for the students’ own messages. Except for the shirt, the whole kit starts out as one standard-size 14 x 28-inch sheet of paperboard. The folds locks everything together with no glue needed.

Hate Is a Virus design concept

“FIT’s Packaging Design BFA Program is the only one in the United States,” says Packaging Design Coordinator Sandra Krasovec. “We compete with colleges that approach the issues more from a structural engineering point of view.”

Nevertheless, “FIT students have almost always come away with one of the top three prizes since we started participating in 2006,” she said.

The Super Kit winning team: Jessica Vergel, Ankita Ghosh and Claudia Natasha

“We’re coming at it from a different perspective – brand development and how to best portray the brand narrative and its visual application to a 3D package.”

The first place award winners – Ankita Ghosh, Claudia Natasha, and Jessica Vergel – participated in the competition in Spring 2021 as juniors in PK343 Explorations in 3D with Professor Adam Straus. Students submitted concepts last May. Judging was held in Fall 2021 and the top three teams were notified late last year.

Super Kit Team member Jessica Vergel

The three team members presented the FIT team’s project to 200-plus industry members in Denver, at the PPA/PPC (Paperboard Packaging Alliance/Paperboard Packaging Council) 2022 Spring Outlook and Strategies Conference. “We were so proud of them. They spoke beautifully.” They received their first-place prize at an awards dinner.

Sandra Krasovec/Professor & Packaging Design BFA Coordinator, The Super Kit Team members: Ankita Ghosh and Claudia Natasha; Heidi Brock/President and CEO at American Forest and Paper Association; Super Kit Team member Jessica Vergel; Packaging Design Professor Adam Straus

The students presented to industry members who “run the gamut, from paperboard manufacturers and converters to print production and use of special materials and finishing techniques,” said Krasovec.

Addressing sustainability with packaging design concept

She added that it was “really nice for industry to see what the students had done, and students had a lot of great opportunities to network, including a bowling event.” “Our students attended the conference program and met the other top teams. Each school had a table in the exhibitors’ hall, along with conference sponsors – students were able to display their concept prototypes, and so could talk to attendees as they walked by.”

The 2021 class was a particular challenge because like the FIT group that took third place in 2020, they were doing this virtually. “Working in different time zones to develop a 3D concept via a 2D screen was a real challenge,” Krasovec said.

About the Hate is a Virus community

“Adam and I, especially Adam because he’s an inventor, were trying hard to art direct and explain ideas because this is a hands-on process and you can’t show exactly what you want to communicate via a virtual meeting!”

Krasovec said a lot of the explanations involved sketches and short videos. “We typically met once a week during most of the semester.”

Said Krasovec: It’s an interesting time for our industry and an interesting time for our students to consider innovation and sustainability challenges, so we equip our students to have a voice when they go out into industry to start their professional careers…and to lead conversations.”

Recognition also came as in two other categories. An Honorable Mention for the project: PERIOD All-In-One Dispenser Box. Team members included Alana Abesamis, Melissa Portillo, and Alyssa Randone.

PERIOD All-In-One Dispenser Box won an Honorable Mention

And a Shout-Out went to the team who designed Doctors Without Borders Obstetrics Kit with team members, Courtney Hannel, Lily Janker, and Tiffany He.

The Doctors Without Borders Obstetrics Kit receives a “Shout Out”

To read an earlier post about FIT involvement in the Paperboard Packaging Alliance Student Design Challenge, go to: “Packaging Design students hit the sweet spot!”

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

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Collegial Art with Prof. Julia Jacquette

Energy, excitement, and wide-ranging talent were in evidence in Prof. Julia Jacquette’s Fine Arts course, Painting VI: Sources of Painted Imagery, when Joan Endres from the Dean’s Office came by to view student critiques. Here’s a closer look.

Marissa Bohk. Photo: Joan Endres
Painting by Marissa Bohk. Photo: Julia Jacquette

The class of 23 students was well along on their assignment, Identity and Cultural Influence, when Endres, who oversees the Art and Design Instagram account, visited them in week five, a third of the way through the spring semester. Many of the photos she posted are repeated here.

Abigail Dutes. Photo: Joan Endres

“The experience of observing the students’ critiques was inspiring,” said Endres, a communications associate for the School of Art and Design.

“They all know each other, having shared classes and have such thoughtful, encouraging comments about each others’ work.  There’s a sense of community among these artists who are finding their own voices and have sharp insight about their colleagues’ work,” she said.

Kayla Edmonston. Photo: Julia Jacquette

In their junior year — and in this third course in the painting sequence — students “still have structured assignments,” says Prof. Jacquette. “But in my section and the other section, taught by Prof. John Allen, they’re encouraged to focus on their own vision.”

Rebecca Cooper, “A_Woman of Valor.” Photo: John Allen

Jacquette’s intention is for the assignments and in-class prompts to continue providing structure, but also to allow for latitude as they master and hone their skills.

Kai Liguori. Photo: Joan Endres
Kai Liguori

Jacquette conducts two major group critiques like the one Endres watched, and many more impromptu ones that don’t take a full class.

For this project, the students start with sketches of their initial ideas for their painting. They also respond to a worksheet where Jacquette asks them their ideas for personal identity or what might be their cultural influences. The worksheet is meant to help bring ideas to the fore.

Kaili Woop. Photo: Joan Endres

Students are also asked to create digital folders and actual hard copy folders of visual research, photos of what interests them visually, and that might include imagery of the cultures they’re from or that influenced them.

Huairan Zhang. Photo: Joan Endres
Huairan Zhang. Photo: Julia Jacquette

For this first assignment of the semester, Jacquette asked them to take a stroll through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, making sure to include galleries of non-Western art.

Tyler Lormel. Photo: Julia Jacquette
Tyler Lormel. Photo: Julia Jacquette

“They were encouraged to use the Met as a visual library,” she said.

Jacquette notes that “a lot of those ideas about structure, preparation, and exercises, were developed with my colleagues. Kudos!”

Jess Romano Sossi. Photo: Joan Endres
Jess Sossi Romano

“I try to give them assignments that allow them to bring their own vision to the art,” says Jacquette.

It’s easy to say but not always easy to execute. “As a professor you know they must use of certain skills that they’re still learning, but in advanced courses like this one, skills may be more about form than content.”

Harry Wyatt. Photo: Joan Endres
Harry Wyatt. Photo: Julia Jacquette

Jacquette praised her students, saying “this group really embraced that they are game for the idea that they still need prompts but are also bringing their own ideas to the assignments.

Gloria Lee Seonhee. Photo: Julia Jacquette
Jane Schechter. Photo: Julia Jacquette

Despite the large class size, she said, “this is probably the best class I’ve ever had as a group…maybe ever.”

In this class, Jacquette conducts two major group critiques and many more impromptu ones that don’t take a full class.

Grace Keller. Photo: Joan_Endres
Grace Keller. Photo: Julia Jacquette

In Jacquette’s words, “Because it’s an advanced class and they are really segued into making self-determined art work,  it requires a lot of one-on-one discussion.

“It requires me, as the professor, not only giving feedback and suggestions but really giving them advice about how to strengthen whatever they want to be doing,” says Jacquette.

Dylan Daxian Zhao. Photo: Julia Jacquette

“Whatever their ideas are, I’m helping them make those ideas clearer to achieve the best work they can with the choices they’re making.”

Dylan Daxian Zhao. Photo: Julia Jacquette

Jacquette says painting classes in her own junior year, at Skidmore, “were very similar to this in many ways.”

“I’m bringing that experience and pride as a student to my students now,” she said.

“I actually remember the work that I started making as a junior. It was the first time I felt that it was my art work.

Elliot Tellef. Photo: Julia Jacquette

“I loved all the classes I took at Skidmore. During my junior year we were encouraged to find our own voice. My excellent professors worked with me to strengthen that voice.

Olivia Oppenheim. Julia Jacquette

“I hadn’t thought about that until this moment, but that work to this day is still important to me. I don’t show it. I don’t exhibit it, but how pleasurable it was to be making something completely of my own choice.”

But, Jacquette adds, “as I am doing now with my own students, I was nudged, I was given prompts.”

For more information about the Fine Arts AAS and BFA programs, visit: Fine Arts at FIT.

Follow the School of Art and Design on Twitter: @fit_artdesign and IG: @fit_artdesign.

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Vaccine Jitters? Corlette Douglas ‘14, Illustrates New Children’s Book

A new children’s book that helps explain vaccinations to young readers, “Maxine’s Critters Get the Vaccine Jitters,” is illustrated with aplomb by Corlette Douglas, (Illustration ‘14). The main character, the charming and buoyant Maxine, playfully engages with her stuffed animals to help put them at ease about getting vaccinated.

“Maxine’s Critters Get the Vaccine Jitters” book cover

Douglas’ illustrations capture the dread of Maxine’s “critters” with subtle but distinct gestures of fright. That all begins to change when Maxine explains to them, with clever repartee that “vaccines keep us well.”

Yet, their reluctance remains until they get vaccinated. Both illustrator and author have created a menagerie of lively stuffed animals with minds of their own. Their personalities suspiciously reflect that of Maxine’s come to think of it.

From “Maxine’s Critters,” Illustrated by Corlette Douglas
From “Maxine’s Critters,” Illustrated by Corlette Douglas
“Wow! I’m really impressed by Corlette’s illustrations in ‘Maxine’s Critters Get the Vaccine Jitters.’ As her former professor I’m happy to see the results of Corlette’s hard work and dedication in these marvelous illustrations.” – Illustration Prof. Eric Velasquez

Douglas got involved in the project in April 2021, when her agent, Saritza Hernandez, called to let her know that The Experiment, an independent publishing house, had seen her work on Instagram and thought her style would fit perfectly.

“I knew this special book needed to be shared with everyone,” Douglas said.

From “Maxine’s Critters,” Illustrated by Corlette Douglas
From “Maxine’s Critters,” Illustrated by Corlette Douglas

Douglas notes that there’s more that goes into illustrating a book than just the sketching, coloring and finalizing of the drawings. “As the illustrator, you not only get to communicate with the author but the art director of the publishing house as well.”

Thus, despite being a freelance illustrator, there is typically a team approach with all the creative people exchanging ideas. Maxine, the book’s main character, comes across as upbeat and playful, and engaged with adults. Douglas says “That’s 100 percent thanks to the author Jan Zaumer and her amazing writing skills building on Maxine’s character.”

Illustration detail of Maxine bringing her “critters” to get vaccinated.

Maxine, says Douglas, reminds her of her niece. “They’re both fun motivated people who are always willing to learn more about the world around them.”

Says Douglas, “the full range of emotion I’m able to show is from years of practice and trial-and-error. It helps to create a character sheet with posing, facial expressions and some extra doodles to help you get a feel for each cute critter.”

At FIT, “I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do, but interacting with so many creative, like-minded peers and professors helped me consider what kind of artist I wanted to be,” says Douglas.

“As a senior, in my children’s book class, taught by (award-winning author and children’s book illustrator) Prof. Eric Velasquez, I enjoyed the process of creating a book from start to finish. I was open to learning more about creating books for both kids and parents. I learned how to build a perfect portfolio for the industry I wanted to pursue,” she said.

From "Maxine's Critters," Illustrated by Corlette Douglas
From “Maxine’s Critters,” Illustrated by Corlette Douglas

“I’ve been illustrating characters that look like me for a long time now, since day one of my career. What has changed, aside from my becoming a better artist, is that more and more people are taking notice of my work. That has me very excited.”

Says Prof. Velasquez “I remember Corlette from my Book Illustration class.  She worked really hard and was  a dedicated student. Corlette’s work had a very distinctive style, which is still a part of her work today.”

When it’s Maxine’s turn to get vaccinated, she has a downturned expression. But she’s holding out her arm, as if to say: There’s a part of this that’s unpleasant, but I’m being a good sport about it. After getting her shot she immediately becomes exuberantly happy again.

illustration detail of Maxine passing out treats after getting vaccinated

This sudden change of expression isn’t merely an illustration device that’s common to cartooning:

“It was something I made note of while interacting with my niece and kids in general,” Douglas said. “They seem to switch how they feel at the drop of a hat! So I thought it would be funny to have Maxine do the same in the book.”

Oddly enough, Douglas doesn’t remember having a lot of stuffed animals as a child. “But I can say that I have a very big designer toy collection now as an adult!”

Illustrator Corlette Douglas

To view more of Corlette Douglas’ work visit her website: www.corcorart.squarespace.com and follow her on IG: @corcor_chocolate_pretty.

To learn more about the School of Art and Design Illustration program go to Illustration at FIT.

Follow the School of Art and Design on Twitter @fit_artdesign and IG @fit_artdesign.

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Paintings by Prof. Anne Finkelstein on Every Wi-Fi Kiosk in NYC

Ten paintings by Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design professor Anne Finkelstein are on display until February 27 on every LinkNYC screen in New York City – over 1,800 in all.

The project serves as an example in wayfinding, a concept she teaches in her 6th semester BFA class: Placemaking, Wayfinding and Environmental Graphics (VP 305).

Most New Yorkers see the 55-inch screens daily at kiosks that once were pay-phone booths. Now the kiosks can be used for free calls, device recharging, and for their fast Wi-Fi access.

“The street kiosks act as wayfinding devices, providing access to emergency numbers and phone charging,” says Finkelstein.

The giant 55-inch screens at the kiosks also display weather information, transit schedules, news of subway delays, local resources and more.

“The kiosk is an incredible example of one of the most important parts of wayfinding and that is reassurance, the certainty that the kiosk will be providing information allows for more information to be displayed and, in addition, for art to become a narrative element.”

– Craig Berger, Chair, Communication Design Pathways and author of “Wayfinding: Designing And Implementing Graphic Navigational Systems” 

“Night” by Anne Finkelstein

“Night” is an image that everyone in the FIT community should recognize. It’s a painting based on a photograph of the corner of 28th and 7th at night.

“Closed Restaurant” by Anne Finkelstein

“Closed Restaurant” is a painting based on a photograph of a closed Venezuelan restaurant—a casualty of the pandemic.

“18 Street Subway” by Anne Finkelstein

The “18th Street Subway” is a painting based on a photograph of the 18th Street subway entrance at 7th Avenue and the Con Ed substation behind it.

Slideshow of all 10 Paintings:  “Look for them on the street, and if you are quick with your camera take a picture. Please post it or make a story with the date and location and tag me,” says Prof. Finkelstein on IG @annefinkelstein.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

LinkNYC teamed up with the NYC Department of Information Technology in 2018 to collaborate with local artists for #ArtOnLink, to provide artwork that “captures and celebrates life, beauty, and culture in New York City.”

On LinkNYC website Ruth Fasoldt, Link’s Director of Community Affairs, says “#ArtOnLink has created a unique way for New Yorkers and visitors to view and appreciate local artwork on the go — and even learn some of the unspoken but important NYC tips and etiquette rules that New Yorkers know well!”

To view more of Professor Finkelstein’s work visit her website: AnneFinkelstein.com and follow her on IG: @annefinkelstein.

For more information about the Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design major visit: VPED at FIT.

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Packaging Design adds terrific taste to Best Damn Cookies

Navya Jhunjhunwala is well on her way toward building a career in packaging design with an emphasis on food products. Her multi-step approach, honed at FIT, often leads to iconic, deceptively simple designs, easy to manufacture. They also build on her fascination with food.

Jhunjhunwala, who arrived in New York City from her native New Delhi in 2017 to attend FIT, started highlighting food on her Instagram account – in effect, a simple food “blog,“ while still a student.

Label designs for the cookies

“It began as a hobby because my friends and family would often ask me for restaurant recommendations, especially in NYC. It ended up growing and giving me many networking opportunities,” said the 2021 Packaging Design grad. The blog quickly led to freelance projects like Best Damn Cookies, Junzi Kitchen/Nice Day and HaGou. 

To put it another way, “blending my love for food with my eye for design came naturally to me because I had a good understanding of the food industry as a consumer.” Good design leads to trying products.

A takeaway from coursework to professional work was learning how to break the design process into separate steps. “That led me to think about strategy and to create more meaningful designs and brand identities,” Jhunjhunwala said.

She met Mohit Sahoo, co-owner of Best Damn Cookies, when he contacted her via her Instagram account in winter 2021. He invited her to taste the company’s product. She spoke about her packaging and branding design experience, so when the company was ready for a redesign he hired her last May as a freelancer.

Navya Jhunjhunwala with Chef Dave Dreifus

“When I began the redesign for BDC, I drew on a lesson from Professor Marianne Klimchuk’s class. We were assigned to redesign one of our past projects, paying close attention to breaking down the process into multiple steps.”

She started by taking the old Best Damn Cookies logo, and breaking down what worked and what had to change.

“We were especially impressed with Navya’s ability to synthesize what we wanted into a cohesive design without being swayed by prior attempts,” said Mohit Sahoo, co-owner of Best Damn Cookies.  “We had already worked with three talented designers who were not able to provide us with a logo that had the depth we wanted, while at the same time being simple enough for the type of market we were in.

“Navya took two very different aesthetics and merged them into one logo that my partner and I both were happy with and that had legs commercially,” said Sahoo.

Previous package design

“The shade of purple they were using served their product well, so I retained that and made a few design tweaks. But they had a script font that looked dated and didn’t speak to their target consumer, so I decided to get rid of it,” said Jhunjhunwala.

New package design
New package design

Now she is working on creating merchandise for BDC. “At FIT there was a lot of focus on ‘off-pack’ applications  – designs that are not for the main product’s packaging. ‘Off pack’ applications show how the brand lives in the world.”

“Navya’s best strength is her ability to work with a lot of different brands, keeping their identities separate, but close to heart, while still delivering heartfelt visuals.

“We get a lot of people who compliment our visuals now, which is not something that happened before!” says Sahoo.

These are often secondary assets of the brand. “Creating secondary assets that feel true to the brand values and aesthetics are essential, but the new designs must look unique and purposeful.”

“At FIT I learned to start off with a review of the product and where it stands in the market. I made a competitive overview and created a ‘perceptual map’ to find a gap in the market,” says Jhunjhunwala.

“The perceptual map lays out the competitors and defines what qualities they have in common. If competitors feel playful and mass market, we might try to create a design that’s more sophisticated and high-end”

Another important step is to define the target market. Jhunjhunwala  does this while studying the competition.

“I learn more about the consumer: What their lifestyle is like, what they buy, their income, age, gender, and so forth.”

Only then does she start “mood-boarding” and finding inspiration. She gathers images, fonts and colors that explain a certain direction in which the brand could go.

“I usually create three different options with unique defining factors, to see what works for the brand. I go beyond the look of the brand, and focus on how it makes the consumer feel.”

For example, if she’s going for a more refined and high-end aesthetic, the tone of voice used when talking about the brand in advertisements, Instagram captions and so forth would probably be more formal and classy, Jhunjhunwala says.

Only then does she start designing the logo and defining brand assets such as colors, primary and secondary fonts.. “I also come up with slogans that could be used for the brand,” she said.

The result in this case: A redefined brand identity with a simple yet unique logo, using color to differentiate cookies from one another.

It’s the best damn design!

Design for collaboration with chocolate company, Fine and Raw
Design for collaboration with chocolate company, Fine and Raw

Since carrying forward the Best Damn Cookies redesign, Navya has also been the designer for many of their collaborations with Fine and Raw, Truffle Shuffle and Mala Project.

To see more of Navya Jhunjhunwala’s portfolio visit her website and follow her on Instagram: @nyconthetable.

To learn more about the Packaging Design program go to Packaging Design at FIT.

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Much More Than Design Itself: Emerging Senior Thesis by Karo Buttler

Karo Buttler’s senior thesis project offers an enormous amount of detail on design, manufacturability, materials and sustainability. Her insights were hard-won, and speak not only to her curiosity and versatility, but also to the special learning opportunities offered by FIT – opportunities that expand arguments way beyond simple, facile explanations.

Karo Buttler in her up-cycled sweater with burned edges and the double-knee carpenter pants

Buttler describes her project, “everest,” as “an exploration focusing on unisex garments and balancing active-outerwear functionality with streetstyle elements.” She presented her work in Prof. Jerry Dellova’s Incubator class (FD462) in mid-December.

Detail shots of the burned edge on the sweater, the belt loop details and monochrome top-stitching

The collection is based on upcycling – turning donated and discarded old clothes into new ones. But there’s more sophistication than meets the casual glance. Her professional experiences meld the performance apparel sector and materials science.

Upcycled tote bag (made from corduroy pants), a pocket detail and belt loop detail for overall utility

How did it happen?  In early 2020, when Covid first hit NYC, Buttler quarantined in Colorado with her best friend’s family. “We went hiking every day. That solitude I found in nature and movement are seen in the outerwear aspects in the garments.”

Buttler is 5’ 10” and finds it difficult to buy pants that aren’t too short but fit tight enough on her waist so getting the silhouette right was her biggest goal, she said. “Whenever I design, I try to solve a problem; in this case by adjusting the fit of carpenter pants for the female body.”

Carpenter pants with double-knee detail

All of this was based on a firm intellectual foundation. Just before leaving for Colorado, Buttler participated in a masterclass sponsored by Pensole with industry partners New Balance and Foot Locker, and was exposed to sustainability from a corporate standpoint.

“Karo understands how to take repurposed, reused, recycled to a different level. Many do this on a very small mom-and-pop level but with her experience at New Balance, Google and MIT she ‘gets’ the branding relevance, and ‘gets’ how to use technology and science, which makes sustainability more of a global practice then a local practice.” – Prof. Jerry Dellova

“Through daily presentations, meetings, and the guidance of New Balance designers and mentors like D’wayne Edwards [Founder of Pensole], I added to my communication skills and realized the importance of collaboration within a department,” she said. “Ever since, I’ve been interested in approaching waste and recycling from an economic angle. Moving toward a circular economy is crucial for the fashion industry.”

Sketch for the final design to New Balance and Foot Locker: a highly-functional, layered windbreaker and track pants with thermoregulatory properties

Back in New York last September, Buttler had an opportunity to talk to Maria McClay, Director Fashion and Beauty at Google Cloud, about the importance of technology in the fashion industry and how companies like Stella McCartney are investing in ways to make the supply chain more transparent.

That conversation was captured (below) in a video created to showcase Google Cloud’s new technology that will help fashion brands, fashion designers and design students.

That conversation reinforced Buttler’s view of the growing interest of industries (not just companies) collaborating with each other and the need for knowledge about materials within the fashion industry.

“It underlined for me the need for conversation between different industries, to have people communicate about the issue not only within the design realm but across industries,” Buttler said.

Upcycled windbreaker following the aesthetics of the product created in the MIT x FIT workshop with team

In January 2021, Buttler participated in the MIT x FIT workshop with New Balance and Advanced Functional Fabrics of America, (AFFOA) that she said, “transformed my thinking about the intersection between engineering and design. Creating mono-material garments for easier recycling processes was one point my team and I focused on.”

“Working with Karo is proof that science and design are great partners. Her team communicated the merger of innovative textiles and well-researched design to establish a scalable marketable presentation in a real-world scenario.” – Faculty mentor and Fashion Design professor Amy Sperber

This led to an internship with the MIT start-up Neramco in Fall 2021, working with polyethylene, a synthetic polymer that has great sustainability benefits. Working among engineers, Buttler gained insight in their way of approaching a problem.

“Most people think organic and natural fabrics are our only way out of this mess. But those options are often costly and often use enormous amounts of water. Active clothing requires specific properties – so working on the recycling and up-cycling of already existing polyester is going to be important.”

“Upcycling is a very intuitive process, as the design becomes clear only after you know what fabric you have to work with” she said.

“I like using ‘what’s already out there,’ and giving it a new life. Even though upcycling is difficult to achieve on a large-scale level for big companies, it might inspire give-back programs and recycling initiatives. It will be an exciting few months working on ‘everest.'”

Visit Karo Buttler’s website: karobuttler.com and follow her on IG @karobttlr.

To learn about the Fashion Design program go to: Fashion Design at FIT.

All images provided by Karo Buttler.

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FIT Senior Sarai Maman Wins Competition, Shoots for the Moon

Landing on the moon requires more than technical skill. You also need cooperation, perseverance, creativity and the ability to dream, says Sarai Maman, ’22, a winner of the 27th annual Planning and Visual Education Partnership (PAVE) Award.  Her work is “a perfect showing of what students in the Spatial Experience Design program can do combining narrative, graphics, place and spacemaking,” said Craig Berger, Chair, Communication Design Pathways.

Sarai Maman’s PAVE award competition submission

The PAVE “Meet the Street” award competition, sponsored this year by CallisonRTKL, attracted students from 40 colleges in 14 countries and involved concepts in retail planning, interior design, architecture, visual merchandising, branding, and similar disciplines.

The competition challenged students to design a small-scale project that could be incorporated into any community to address a problem using aspects of retail, scalability, materiality, technology, accessibility, and sustainability in their concepts.

Sarai Maman, a PAVE “Meet the Street” Award winner. Photo by: Diana Nyland

Maman’s winning project envisioned six separate, small mazes arranged in a circle around a model of a real moon landing craft, launched by SpaceIL an Israel-based company, the first private non-profit non-governmental organization to get to the moon. In this playground design, six participants, one per maze, each needs to have a specific skill — mechanic, engineer, astronaut and so forth — to get through his or her maze. The mechanic for instance, gets through by unlocking a tool box and using the tools from the box to open the door that leads to the central area where the moon lander model is.

The SpaceIL Labyrinth can be moved easily and assembled on any small, flat park or playground

Once they are all through, each participant grabs a rope connected to the spacecraft model. They have to coordinate their efforts on the ropes to land the spacecraft successfully on the moon.

Maze walls are 4 feet high–short enough for adults to keep watch over the participants.

The real SpaceIL craft achieved lunar orbit in 2019, but the landing attempt failed. “Despite the disappointment,” Maman said, “SpaceIL did something incredible. It brought people together and got the Israeli public, especially children, excited about space exploration. It also taught us that failure is just another step in the journey to success.” SpaceIL is working on its next moon attempt.

Here’s a walk-through inside the model:

Her “SpaceIL Labyrinth” doesn’t take up a lot of room on a playground. It can be moved easily and assembled on any small, flat park or playground. It doesn’t require a huge amount of supervision. It uses inexpensive, durable materials like plywood and Tyvek (Maman provided a materials and supplier list in her entry).

Inherent in the design is that not everyone has to be a superstar, even when reaching for the moon. There are jobs and needs for every kind of talent.

Space specialist patches designs

“I have always been intrigued and curious about outer space and its mysteries, but unfortunately, I utterly failed the school’s physics exams,” she said. “And yet, as a designer, I found myself researching and designing this.”

Challenges inside the astronaut’s maze
Challenges inside the astronaut’s maze

“My project presents children with both an individual journey and a collaborative task. It simulates real life because some challenges have to be faced alone, while at other times we need to rely on each other,” she said.

Maman speaks five languages: “My native language is Hebrew. I acquired English in school. Italian, Turkish and Spanish, I learned by watching foreign television and movies.”

“Learning a foreign language also means learning the culture of the people who speak it, their traditions, history, and context,” she said. “Every project targets a different audience. My job is to tailor the best design solution for that audience. It wouldn’t be possible without studying and researching those audiences.

The final task–a collaborative effort to land the spacecraft on the Moon

“The VPED program is a collaborative and constructive environment. Students habitually share knowledge with one another, and I feel comfortable asking my peers questions, speaking, and exchanging criticism. It is an essential part of my learning process, and I am grateful for my friends and professors who grant it.”

Maman also credits VPED with sharpening her critical thinking skills. “I’ve learned to analyze and evaluate situations, products, brands…to break down all the bits and pieces that compose those factors and determine the problems that I need to address in my design.”

She also credits the programs with the skill of “future telling,” or “learning to recognize emerging trends, to adapt, and to initiate, because as designers we need to constantly be ahead of the game.”

Sarai Maman in a VPED classroom. Photo by: Diana Nyland

Maman added, “Space exploration is critical to humankind because it helps us understand and solve issues on Earth. Now as we face catastrophes from global pandemic to global warming, we  need to ensure the future of our home planet. SpaceIL’s educational vision is ‘to encourage the next generation to choose to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics’ (STEM). My project is designed to take this conversation outside the classroom to a physical space where children can enjoy the learning process.”

Is there any chance of turning this project into a reality? “I would be very pleased and proud if it would. I have contacted SpaceIL to share my work with them, and I hope they will get back to me soon.

From Maman’s early hand sketches of the SapceIL Labyrinth model
More of Maman’s hand sketches

“New York City is the leading design hub in the world, and I was looking to learn from the best. As a young Israeli girl, I thought I could only dream of working side by side with designers like Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, and Nina Garcia, who are FIT alumni. I would hear the name of FIT in movies, but it looked like a distant star. As I grew up, I began to realize that the world isn’t as big as it seems. When I finally gathered my courage and moved from Israel to America, I had no intention to compromise.”

SpaceIL Mission Accomplished

Said Maman, “I learned at FIT to dream big. I engage my biggest fantasies in my school projects and choose the topics of my projects following these fantasies. While many of our projects are conceptual, I hope to see these fantasies come to life after graduation.”

To see more of Sarai Maman’s work go to her design porfolio. Follow her on Instagram @saray.maman.

To learn more about the Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design program go to: VPED at FIT.

Photos of Sarai Maman taken by Diana Nyman, ’22.

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Adirondack Mac is New York State’s latest celebrity

New York State has a lovable new mascot moose, Adirondack Mac, designed by Illustration sophomore Kristina Ingerowski. Her plush, blue-scarfed entry bested nearly 150 other competitors from 35 New York State counties in a contest established last March to design a mascot for the World University Games scheduled for winter 2023 in Lake Placid.

Adirondack Mac, designed by Kristina Ingerowski. (New York State Governor’s office)

“Adirondack Mac is special to me,” Ingerowshi said, “because I have spent a lot of time over the years with my grandparents and family who live in Lake Placid. I wanted to capture the majestic beauty and character of the Adirondack region. There’s nothing more charming than an Adirondack moose to represent and celebrate this spirit of friendly athletic competition in Lake Placid.”

Her mom actually brought the competition to her attention. “It had popped up on her Facebook page and she knew I needed to do it! It stood out to her, as she grew up in Lake Placid.”

Adirondack Mac designer Kristina Ingerowski. Photo by Diana Nyman

More than 2,500 athletes from more than 50 countries are scheduled to compete there in 86 medal events including hockey, figure skating, curling, skiing, and snowboarding. The games are the world’s largest international winter sports event for student-athletes.

“…I want to congratulate Kristina Ingerowski on her winning design,” Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement last week.

Adirondack Mac already has a packed itinerary. He’s making public appearances in upstate New York to promote the region and the games. He’s expected to roam among restaurants (no nibbling), shops and events in the vast six million acre Adirondack Park region, the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States. It’s larger than Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined.

Adirondack Mac

At Lake Placid, Mac will be featured on T-shirts, caps, toys, and anything else that can be retailed.

The mascot competition was open to all New York State residents and anyone attending college here. Ingerowski is a native of Farmington in Ontario County just east of Rochester and a three-hour drive from Lake Placid itself.

To win, Ingerowski and her moose had to excel in a public vote and then withstand scrutiny from mascot experts. Aside from the fame, there was a cash prize of $5,000.

“The mascot design competition was a unique way to showcase the talent and creativity of New Yorkers, and I want to congratulate Kristina Ingerowski on her winning design,” Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement last week.

Hochul’s office said the moose “represents the best of what New Yorkers and the participating athletes have in common: strength, courage and determination.”

Kristina Ingerowski with Adirondack Mac on the ice at the Schenectady Curling Club (Provided photo — Lake Placid 2023

Ingerowski said her creative process “entailed lots of sketches, trial and error, and Panera green tea.” She had never designed a mascot or anything close to it, she said.

“This was a new experience for me outside of my normal style and content. I added a bit of myself to it however, with my technique in rendering using my favorite medium, colored pencils,” she said.

“Originally, I was thinking about a moose, raccoon, or snowy owl. All are animals that are iconic in the Adirondack region. I started with designs for the snowy owl, then the raccoon, but they just weren’t doing it. The moose clicked for me. The moose is such an ideal character for the games, as its strength is unmatched.“

Adirondack Mac, designed by Kristina Ingerowski. Photo: New York State Governor’s office

Ingerowski credits skills obtained from her FIT classes, specifically Illustration Process taught by Dave Devries, Illustration Process II taught by Leslie Cober-Gentry, and Painting Process I: Color Theory and Applications taught by Tony Capparelli.

She also pulled inspiration from the art classes she took at Victor Senior High School in Victor NY, taught by David Denner and Andy Reddout, she said.

Ingerowski said she was not prepared for the amount of attention she and Adirondack Mac received, although she was “extremely thrilled and grateful. I knew there were plans to get the governor involved with the announcement, but I never imagined so many people would pick up the story.”

Kristina Ingerowski outside the Illustraiton and Interactive Media classrooms. Photo by Diana Nyman

She also doesn’t see mascot design as the exclusive focus of her career plans. “I am passionate about illustration, but I am hoping to pursue another degree in Cosmetic and Fragrance Marketing at FIT. I love the illustration aspect of portraiture and makeup, so I am hoping to use both of these skills in my future endeavors.”

But is Stitch, FIT’s mascot, going to be jealous? “I’m not sure,” Ingerowski said. “We would have to have them meet for a little friendly competition.”

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Kurta Collaboration Exhibit: FIT and India’s Pearl Academy

Photo by Diana Nyman. Prof. Susanne Goetz, curator of the kurta exhibit

The current “Style Journey” exhibition in the Art and Design Gallery has an extensive section on contemporary kurtas, hand-embroidered and collaboratively designed by FIT Textile/Surface Design students and by Fashion Design students from Pearl Academy in India.

We asked Textile Surface Design Professor Susanne Goetz, who curated the kurta section, for details on how it came about and on what students gain from working across 10 time zones.

Photo by Diana Nyman of the kurta exhibit (designs by Jihyun Lim and Lianne Covington)

First, the basics. What makes a kurta a kurta?

Prof. Goetz: A kurta is a comfortable upper garment worn by men and women in India, with variations in length (shirt-length or longer) and by region. Traditionally it is worn with different types of pants by both women and men, or with a skirt by women.

Photo by Diana Nyman of the kurta exhibit

What distinguishes the kurtas on exhibit as “contemporary?”

Prof. Goetz: The core of the project was to create a garment that would appeal to consumers of all ages in both India and the US, bridging both traditional elements and more modern and international approaches to pattern, cut, and styling.

Photo by Diana Nyman. Prof. Susanne Goetz, curator of the kurta exhibit (design by Danielle Douglas, Rikita Bhutani, Neha Jain, Sanya Dahr)
Photo by Diana Nyman of the Kurta Exhibit (Design by Thomas McLaughlin, Priya Gautam, Urvashi Bharti, Chandra Tiwari)

What is your own experience with studying or wearing kurtas?

Prof. Goetz: I admire the skillfulness with which many kurtas are embellished, and the wide variety of styles they come in. I love wearing them. They’re very comfortable and can look really stylish.

Photo by Diana Nyman. Prof. Susanne Goetz, curator of the kurta exhbit (Design by Madeline McCarthy, Rahel D. Peter, Riya Bhatia, Vidhi Daswani)

Kurtas allow women a lot of freedom for everyday and formal wear. What are the different ways they can be worn, such as part of Punjabi suits or over jeans?

Prof. Goetz: Because kurtas come in many different styles and lengths there is really no limit to how they can be worn. Shorter styles can be worn just like a shirt or blouse, longer styles like dresses.

Photo by Diana Nyman. Detail from the Kurta Exhibit (Design by Stephanie Stickle, Anushree Jalan, Prerna Modi)

Was this a class project? If so, how long did students have to work on it?

Prof. Goetz: Yes, students from both colleges worked on this project as part of their classes. Integrated into TD 313 Advanced Photoshop and Illustrator, for instance, students were able to connect their digital design skills with traditional hand embroidery skills.

Photo by Diana Nyman. Detail from the kurta exhibit (Design by Seo Hye Lee, Urshia Fatima, Rashika Mittal, Simran Verma)
Photo by Diana Nyman. Detail from the kurta exhibit (Design by Seo Hye Lee, Urshia Fatima, Rashika Mittal, Simran Verma)

How did students put their projects into motion?

Prof. Goetz: Starting in September 2018, FIT students created digital mood boards inspired by World’s Global Style Network (WGSN) trend forecasts for Spring/Summer 2020 on the theme of ‘Designing Emotions.’ They consulted WGSN trend forecasting books available at the FIT library. They did additional research to help narrow the focus of their theme, and created visually stimulating and concise digital storyboards. Working in design teams, FIT and Pearl Academy students discussed the story boards, current style trends in both India and NYC, and their personal style preferences.

Photo by Diana Nyman. Susanne Goetz, curator of the kurta exhibit

Did students weave their own fabric?

Prof. Goetz: Fabrics were sourced by the Pearl Academy students, who also designed the garments. Some teams dyed or digitally printed fabrics, and some worked with handwoven artisan fabrics.

Photo by Diana Nyman of the Kurta Exhibit (Design by Alexandra Krynyckyi and Riya Tulsyan)

How did the partnership with Pearl Academy come about?

Prof. Goetz: Since 2016 I have led a short-term study abroad program to India each January. We travel mainly in Rajasthan and work with local artisans to learn about their design and production process and the artisan industry. Pearl Academy has campuses in Jaipur, Delhi and elsewhere, and is also well established in distance learning.

Photo by Diana Nyman. Detail from the Kurta exhibit (Design by Stephanie Stickle, Anushree Jalan, Prerna Modi)

Prof. Goetz cont. In a meeting with Pearl Academy faculty, the idea of a collaborative project was born. We wanted our students to explore design in a cross-cultural and inclusive way, while working within a real-world production scenario. Requiring students to think outside the ‘comfort zone’ of their own major, we created a cultural and skill exchange that encourages innovative design thinking. We wanted students to assess trend preferences as a reflection of identity and their cultural background, and approach fashion with a global perspective.

Photo by Diana Nyman, detail from the Kurta Exhibit (Design by Isabelle Abbracciamento and Manogya Arora)
Photo by Diana Nyman, detail from the Kurta Exhibit (Design by Isabelle Abbracciamento and Manogya Arora)

What knowledge and experience did students share with fellow students in India?

Prof. Goetz:. As one of their most important experiences, students listed learning about different fashion styles, trends and markets from their peers. Because of the pandemic, we now know how to collaborate virtually, but video conferencing and exchanging ideas in writing was a new experience for our students in 2018. Everyone appreciated gaining real-life work experience with an international team across a 10-hour time difference.

Photo by Diana Nyman, Prof. Susanne Goetz, curator of the kurta exhibit
Photo by Diana Nyman, Prof. Susanne Goetz, curator of the kurta exhibit (Design by Klana King and Disha Ramrakhiani)

cont. Prof. Goetz: Students based in the US would normally find it difficult to get their designs hand embroidered by artisans without having a liaison there and without knowledge of the production process in India.

Photo by Diana Nyman. Detail from the Kurta exhibit (Design by Lianne Covington and Shubham Bohra)
Photo by Diana Nyman (Design by Jeanne Schrem and Ami Shah)

What other parts of the FIT curriculum does this cover?

Prof. Goetz: Aside from creating portfolio work and gaining life experience, the project integrated aspects of sustainability: Integrating traditional hand embroidery with computer-aided design and online collaboration offers a wider platform for incorporating artisan textile techniques in contemporary textiles. Protecting the livelihood of traditional craft communities is an important aspect of sustainability in our industry. From an environmental viewpoint, it’s beneficial to be able to work collaboratively without having to travel across the globe.

Photo by Diana Nyman of Prof. Susanne Goetz, curator of the kurta exhibit

The free exhibition runs until November 22 at the Art and Design Gallery, 27 St. and Seventh Avenue in Manhattan. For more information go to: Style Journey Exhibtion.

To learn more about the Textile Surface Design AAS and BFA programs visit: Textile Surface Design at FIT.

Photos by Diana Nyman, Photography ’22. Follow her on IG: @diana.w.ny.photos.

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