Design Works Exhibition at 19 Washington Square North

Erin Collins, Goffredo Puccetti

"Design Works: A Decade of In-House Design at NYU Abu Dhabi" was an exhibition co-curated by Erin Collins and Goffredo Puccetti, exhibited by the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute at 19 Washington Square North, New York City, from October 2022-January 2023. The exhibition was designed remotely, with fourteen poster pairs displaying over sixty design projects done by students and faculty. The exhibition was opened with a panel and workshop led by Puccetti and Collins, which had one of the highest attendances of the year.

"The words “graphic design” are nowhere in the first NYU Abu Dhabi Bulletin, the handbook of courses and majors that guides all students through their academic journey. Design practice first entered the curriculum of our university in January 2012 with an elective class named “Designing Abu Dhabi.” The class attracted a cohort of students who embraced it to the point that once the class was over, they organized themselves into a student design collective devoted to implementing great design within NYUAD. 

Since then, in-house (or in-school) visual design has continued to grow, playing a major role in establishing NYUAD’s visual identity and community. Student-driven design has not only supported the institution’s needs in many outstanding ways, but also–perhaps more importantly–it has helped it to define its mission and vision. 

Students have supported faculty and staff in ensuring that the quality of everything we did was properly reflected in our designed material. They highlighted our strengths and even corrected our mistakes. To give but one, quite significant, example: we did not have an Arabic logo for NYUAD until the students designed one! 

Some of their work is now gone for good, and some only remains in a blurry photo taken with a smartphone camera. But many other designs are here. And they are here to stay: in the Arts Center, the corridors of the theater and music departments display beautiful posters designed by students. Even the fire doors have been transformed by the students into memorable landmarks. And every time we welcome new students at Marhaba Week, every time we cheer for our athletics teams, every time our seniors get to hold the silver Torch on Commencement day, the legacy of student-driven design is apparent. Moreover, the outreach of their work has gone far beyond the “Saadiyat bubble,” with projects of national and international relevance such as the visual identity for the World Wildlife Federation in the UAE, or the ArabWIC organization, now present in more than 20 countries.

Design at NYUAD has grown to be marked by a willingness to dive into new territory, a focus on projects with real consequences, and connection with the wider community and context of its projects. This approach has drawn hundreds of students to get involved in design on campus over the past decade. Dozens of students work in design-focused assistantships every semester. Design classes draw students from every discipline on campus. Vibrant student interest groups tackle design challenges from publications to user experience. NYUAD now offers a formal design minor. In this year’s academic bulletin, “design” is mentioned 423 times. 

In January 2019, the show DESIGN WORKS was exhibited by the NYUAD Art Gallery. Curated by the students Diego Arias and Van Anh Bui, with the assistance of Erin Collins and Goffredo Puccetti, it presented an overview of all the visual design works carried on in-house, by students and faculty from 2012 to 2018. It served both as an archive and as a celebration. Now we are bringing to New York a small section of that show, enriched by the most recent works designed in-house between 2019 and today to give you an opportunity to appreciate the story of visual design at NYU Abu Dhabi.

This show is articulated around fourteen significant design projects. Some are award-winning designs with public audiences; others are hidden gems such as the poster “Ballet” by alumna Van Anh Bui for the student dance club, where all the magic of classical ballet is expressed by tilting two letters and making them dance. Below each of the fourteen projects are images of other works belonging to the same theme, in an attempt to do justice to the hundreds of visual design projects created in the last decade. While the whole corpus of visual design work cannot possibly be shown here - an online archive is in progress at - we hope that the works presented in this show will give you a sense of how much design works and grows at NYU Abu Dhabi.


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