Spatial Experience Design Program Evolves with Industry

Professional needs and academic disciplines change over the years. That is the main theme of the By Design exhibit in the Art and Design Gallery running now through September 25.

The exhibit highlights innovations in spatial experience such as the integration of interactive and dynamic environments. This 4-part screen can combine into one large screen. Photo: C&G Partners

The exhibit was done in collaboration with Prof. Craig Berger, Chair of the Communications Design Pathways department, as well as students and staff. By Design is a retrospective exhibit and media show of “experience design” work such as sales booths and interiors, led by Keith Helmetag, co-founder of C&G Partners, a pace-setting design practice in New York City.

“By Design is essentially a teaching tool,” said Prof. Berger. “Students participated in its development as interns and fifth semester students will use it as a laboratory for future project development.”

This would include showing professional design processes, graphic development and display methodologies, says Prof. Berger.

Graphic display is central to the exhibit with floor tiles that add information throughout the space. Photo: C&G Partners

C&G Partners is among the seminal graphic design firms, responsible for many of the advances in modern multi-disciplinary graphic design over the last 60 years.

The company, where Prof. Berger has a working relationship, grew from Chermayeff and Geismar (now Chermayeff, Geismar and Haviv), to focus on the new discipline of experience design, which combines interpretive graphics, display, placemaking, interactivity, and media.

C&G now focuses on both cultural experiences including the current exhibit “Native New York” at The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, and interpretive projects such as the graphics for Little Island public park in New York.

By Design emphasizes the interrelationship between placemaking and public art. Photo: C&G Partners

FIT’s Spatial Experience Design Program has followed a different path historically, but has reached a similar destination. The program began with a focus on the world of object merchandising and display, followed by a combination of display, exhibition and event design.

In the past decade the program has evolved further with support of the Communication Design Pathways and the Creative Technology programs to encompass new areas of experiential design including dynamic environments, interactivity, and the graphic and digital support.

FIT’s Spatial Experience Design program has developed exhibits that reflect the changes in experiential design such as the Rentbrella exhibit in March and senior capstone projects.

The Rentbrella exhibit in the Pomerantz Art and Design Gallery last Spring

The Rentbrella exhibit exemplified the creative use of landmark displays, lighting and projection-based media. Recent capstone projects incorporated spatial experience design trends from advocacy-oriented events to branded environments says Prof. Berger.

The Pomerantz Center Art and Design Gallery is an ideal platform for creative work, says Prof. Berger. “The space is public-facing, open to the public, and central to the circulation of the school. The goal is to promote these exhibitions as teaching tools for students to understand the potential of placemaking,” says Prof. Berger.

Capstone student projects reflect the final summation of acquired skills as spatial experience student designers. The program has been updated based on the model for design process set by designers from firms like C&G Partners

Leading firms like C&G Partners, Gensler and Pentagram are at the cutting edge of these new developments, says Prof. Berger. The Spatial Experience Design program works with them through internships, special projects and exhibits.

Interactive gender ribbons are featured in By Design and were part of a San Diego History Center’s LGBTQ+ exhibit. Photo: C&G Partners

“In November the students will profile lessons they learned from the By Design show for their own exhibit,” says Prof. Berger.

To learn more about FIT’s Spatial Experience Design program (formally called Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design) visit: Spatial Experience Design at FIT.

FIT’s Pomerantz Center Art and Design Gallery is open to the public every day from 9 am to 5 pm. The gallery is located at the northwest corner of Seventh Avenue and 27 Street.

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