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A few years before my mom died, my best friend Elizabeth came home from college and taught me how to knit. The utter obsession with textile-based making didn’t kick in right away, but later, after my mother died, I latched onto fabric like burdock to a sheepdog’s fur. Knitting has wound its way into every area of my life, including my graphic design work. 

Both grief and graphic design projects are never really finished. There’s always more one can figure out, change, improve, and contemplate, and it never feels done, but at some point one just has to let go. Eventually it’s time to send the files off to the printer; eventually it’s time to open one’s heart back up to a world that has caused great pain. But in both cases, we may continue exploring, iterating, and dealing with the work for the rest of our lives. Despite this truth, there is a commonly held belief that both design projects and grief processes do need to be finished and perfected at some point. I challenge that belief. 

My thesis, Unfinished: Communicating Grief and Healing Through Handmade Textiles, documents my research into the historical and contemporary work that links grief, healing, textiles, and design, and thereby emphasizes the value of sharing space for quiet creation and community among those who have experienced grief similar to my own, allowing room for the unfinished and imperfect, and expanding the materials and techniques we think of as graphic design. It includes personal writing (journal entries, letters to my mother, and other materials) to lay bare my own experience of coming to terms with grief and the ways that textile making has enriched and enabled that experience. The writing is raw, and it interjects itself throughout the document in the same way that moments of raw grief interject themselves into the flow of the everyday.

Angela Paladino (she/her) is a fiber artist, musician, graphic designer, and editor. Her work has been shown in exhibitions at Studio Place Arts, Vermont College of Fine Arts, the Fletcher Free Library, and elsewhere. Angela and her two dogs live in various locations around the country in their camper van, Vincent Van Go. When in Vermont, Angela is one quarter of the indie rock band Anachronist. No matter where she is, she spends a lot of her time making textile-based art and design (knitting, crocheting, weaving, sewing, embroidering…), doing freelance graphic design, riding her bicycle, reading books, and hiking with her dogs.


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Material is ubiquitous. It’s everywhere and it’s everything, almost as if the word has become meaningless. The kind of material that I’ve explored in this thesis is the kind with a magical essence, charged with human touch, presence, and mystery—the kind that stirs curiosity, creates questions, and encourages us to keep seeking. 

When I began to knit sweaters last year, I was struck by how quickly I was seduced by it: Why do I like to knit? Why am I spending so much time doing it? Why does this matter? The questions began to accumulate into a mystery and led me to explore deeper, complex constructs of reality, pedagogy, history, gender, design and process.

As designers we’re always striving towards a final product. But once it fulfills a need, that product quickly becomes a shell. Placing value on the process, especially a textile process, shifts the paradigm of what is expected for graphic design. The act of making is a way to rest in the midst of unanswered questions. The process breaks the spell of the inevitable—death, a finished sweater, the final sign off from a client.

One place that encourages designers to hack the outcome-based paradigm created by capitalism is within a maker-centered pedagogy. A practice rooted in the process of discovery instead of control is at the core of a maker-centered learning model, and taking a speculative approach to design opens possibilities for changing the practice itself and reworking it from the inside.

My research carried into the concept of the binary, central to weaving, early computing, and later knitting machines. Figuring out how to hack the knitting machine to knit my own pattern became just another piece in a much larger puzzle that I wanted to know more about, involving women, life, death, technology, design, and materiality—and their tangled role in the past, present, and future. 

What would graphic design look like if it embraced the outsiders and the hackers? What would it mean for the field of design, for society, the world, and the future? Outsiders have a unique perspective to challenge the paradigm without the prejudice that comes with a traditional graphic design education, but what do we need to do as designers to embrace this within our discipline? 

I am a designer, writer, and former journalist who finds the most joyful delight in unraveling a nice, complicated knot. The aim of my graphic design practice is to engage in speculative work that draws on materiality, expeditionary learning, film, technology, and fiction literature. You can reach me at


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Artists and designers on the introvert spectrum are often misrepresented and misunderstood. This experience begins during an introvert’s formative academic years, continues through their career journey, and is also reflected in their practice. There is an intangible space that needs to be designed in the artist and designer community for more introverted types. How can the quiet people be afforded the same opportunities as the more vocal ones? Also, how can structures of education, careers, and practice change to create more equity? This thesis explores the history and scope of introverted and extroverted personality types; how introverted artists and designers have been affected by the expectations of society; and how we can begin to design a space that is considerate no matter where you fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum.

Keri Dennison-Leidecker (she/her/hers) is a radical introvert and a fearless observer. She is also a photographer (AFA, BFA) and graphic designer (MFA) whose aesthetic balances a love of nature, a passion for skateboarding culture, admiration for the mighty pencil, and a keen eye for subtle beauty. 

In her MFA thesis at Vermont College of Fine Arts, she focused on designing space for introverts in working and learning environments and expanding our understanding of introverts beyond simple stereotypes. Living that example, she has devoted much of her time to working within her community, serving on the board of Riverzedge Arts in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and with various community organizations in Providence, including City Arts, RIOT, and RHDRI. 

She teaches art and design at the Community College of Rhode Island and Roger Williams University and has done freelance design work for Youth Pride Inc, BCBSRI’s Diversity & Inclusion Council, and other organizations. Her photography and design work have been featured in Hunger Mountain Review and Providence Monthly, on WJAR, and in gallery shows in Bristol, Providence and Warwick, Rhode Island; Dartmouth and New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Montpelier, Vermont. In a previous life, she worked for Anthropologie and traveled widely, opening new stores and creating visual design.

A lifelong resident of New England, she spends as much time as possible hiking and running around in the woods, but she always returns home to her ever-growing pack of senior rescue dogs. »


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During my time as an MFA candidate in graphic design at Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA), I experimented with video, digital, and analog making. A few mediums I worked with were paper, thread, ink, paint, photography, and collage. I traveled and referenced it extensively prior to Covid-19 in my packets. When the world was grounded, I was one of the first to lose my income which meant I had to pivot from physically traveling, although it was essential to me. What would my thesis tackle when travel had been a significant part of my life and work?

As I pondered how my voice would resonate in prose, shape and form, I remembered some of the notes from my critiques. Common themes began to emerge, including connecting dots, history, travel, circles, and global awareness of Blackness. Why have we been hated for so long? What is the true reason? The boiling over of attitudes that should have been laid to rest with the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Eras snowballed once again onto our screens with the untimely murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. I felt like I was gut-punched repeatedly with no recourse—Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on steroids. Seeing a movie or reading about a murder was not the same as watching it and knowing that the real-life body going limp would no longer house that person’s spirit. I WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. I wasn’t asleep before, but I am wide awake now.

With this awareness, a fervor to understand history and its connection exploded within me. I wanted to know the answers to questions I didn’t even know I would have and will yet have. As a starting point, I began researching my lineage with two of my family’s surnames. By doing this, it allowed me the ability to travel again, not physically, at first, but through time while diving into the annals of African-American ancestry for my thesis.

The research has not been easy. At best, it has been quite tricky and frustrating. With each discovery, there are twice as many holes. One of my professors even suggested this work would continue for the next ten years. Honestly, I had already decided to give myself five years post-thesis to continue, but another five?, Tuh! I didn’t expect that. Yet, I know me, and I’ll do it. Nevertheless, what I have assessed about this type of research, is that it does take time to be thorough, especially when oral history is suspended within a time continuum, names are misspelled or duplicated, dates have fallen into wormholes, and information jumps states like beaming into different galaxies. 

As you travel within the three main sections, I hope you experience my family and me through the lens of humanness, not from an alternate reality, but on equal footing worthy of a designation other than “animal.” With this first offering, I hope you allow yourself to be open to uncomfortable truths, broad inferences, and poetic nuances that oft time required irregular and obscure structures, visuals, and addendums. 

By excavating history, I was able to fill some of the gaps even realizing that this work embodied the Ghanaian belief of Sankofa. It is a word from the Akan tribe that means “to go back to the past and bring forward that which is useful” or “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” For the generations to come, I hope this work will be viewed as an informative departure from the typical genealogical format. I hope to house knowledge that would be lost as the family patriarchs and matriarchs continuously transition.

So, if you have more questions than answers, it’s done purposefully. If you feel empty, this is how I have felt during this process. If you are perplexed, imagine being Black with a scraping of answers. Glean what could be helpful for your life while keeping in mind that some of us have to wade in deeper waters for longer simply for ONE NAME to eventually and ultimately have no names past a specific date, by design. 

Mony Nation is a published photographer, writer, and designer based in New York City. She has written travel stories for MITH magazine, contributed travel tips for Travel & Leisure, co-editor for Black Female Photographer’s new magazine, The MelaninLens, and has been published in the VCFA (Vermont College of Fine Arts) Hunger Mountain Review #25. She has traveled Europe, Asia, and the United States as one of the “Faces of Norwegian” airlines. Privately, her other travels have taken her to Africa, across America, to the Caribbean, and the Middle East. 

Mony has worked as a guest director, videographer, and photographer for Berlin-based fashion vlog, Suit Yourself with Paige. In addition, Mony was chosen to display her digital artwork for a group exhibition at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, LACDA. In 2021, she partnered with Venn.Bushwick to host a solo photography exhibition entitled “Kenya: From Both Sides of the Glass.” 

She has served as the graphic designer and photographer of Our Family Dinner, a non-profit that emphasized connection over the dinner table, in both New York and London. Moreover, Mony recently released a colorful graphic fashion collaboration with eponymous label Sherie L. Nevett, a fashion house based in Atlanta. 

Presently, Mony is working towards her MFA in graphic design and writing her first travel book. You can view more of her work at


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Thesis Site:

My MFA work explores the creative networks between a graphic designer and their collaborators, both human and non-human (other designers, but also software, papers, inks, presses, cameras, the internet, design history, cultural knowledge, language, etc). My thesis project examines how the interplay of control and trust in a designer’s relationship with their network of tools (creative, cultural, technological) can be attended to, challenged, and reimagined. The black boxes which envelop our tools obscure the complexity and scale of the collaborative and relational space we work in. My work reconsiders the designer as one among many in a creative and collaborative network of active participants full of agency and potential.

My thesis seeks ways to give the tools of my creative network fully agented status as collaborator by foregrounding instead of avoiding their active participation in what we create together. Through coding in various languages (javascript and Processing programs, InDesign scripts, and machine learning models) I created new digital tools in which the agency of the tool itself is highlighted. I use these new tools to undertake an intentionally nonhierarchical mode of making, decentering my role as designer to create a vast and potentially endless series of posters, zines, album covers, music, and poetry. Each of my projects pushes me further away from a mode of control towards one of care and trust in the creative design process, anchored in a belief that as long as there is collaborative care, respect, and trust (love?), the work we make together is worthwhile.

I am a full-time practicing graphic designer working in higher-ed for the past eight years. I have taught graphic design in Canada and the US for the past decade. I recently taught courses on letterpress printing and color (focusing on Risograph printing) at Rhode Island School of Design.

My main interest as a graphic designer is an exploration of the collaborative creative networks we work within. These networks can be large and complex but are often overlooked or ignored by designers who may not recognize the collaborative network in which they find themselves. My research and creative work seek to highlight these networks and to consider the impact of seeing ourselves as one among many in a collaboration of agential objects. This work has primarily been in a code-based space, most recently focusing on machine learning and artificial intelligence.

My latest project is titled Speculative Anthropology of the Unknown and Maybe. The project explores creating with machine learning models to imagine a new collaborative design process that decenters the graphic designer as the primary maker. The works explore the relationships between objects in a creative network (human and non-human), ways of knowing, nostalgia, and is an attempt to work through the very human impulse to try to — or assume you can — control the non-humans we work alongside and with.


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This thesis presents one idea answering the question “How can we build a socially responsible communication design practice that stimulates collaborative empowerment?” Graphic design is no longer the singular creation of the designer. There exists a shared responsibility between the message owner, the designer, and the recipient. Focusing on this dynamic, the Ignite Designers website is a platform that removes the barriers of physical location to advocate for design teams to mirror the audience of focus and invite members of the audience to become members of the team. Transparency is achieved through detailed, whole-person profiles—the heart of the platform. Efficiency is maximized with control-center style dashboards. The future of communication design needs us to envision radical possibilities so that we may evolve beyond our social limitations. Ignite Designers presents one possibility.

Jeannie Guss is a communication design researcher, strategist and designer. She has worked with companies and brands of all sizes to help them realize their vision and meet their goals. During her time at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, Jeannie explored historical moments in design within the context of the cultural events surrounding them, analog design methods to develop deeper connection to the design process, and the role of social responsibility in evolving today’s design practice so that it may better serve the clients, team members, and communities impacted by communication design.

Want to talk? Email me at


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Many of us rarely consider the myriad of expectations that dictate our thoughts and actions. Often we go about our days feeling happy when our expectations are met and frustrated when the actions of others contradict how we expect the world to work.

As designers, our work also relies on expectations. We expect our audience to be able to decipher the visual language we use to create. We expect our tools to work as they worked the day before, our partners and coworkers to perform their project tasks, and the client to pay when the job is complete. But what happens when these things don’t work as expected?

This thesis explores how expectations impact the way we interpret our worlds. In this exploration, I analyze my professional experience in the creative field in light of these expectations, and seek to understand how both embracing and breaking expectations can foster or inhibit creative engagement.

Designer, instructor, musician, brewer, bird watcher, book hoarder, and general outdoor lover based in Warsaw, Indiana. Probably a few other things too. 


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When it comes to the creative process, there are forces at work that must be recognized. Whether they be the capital ‘S’ self, the act of procrastination, getting the process started, practicing creative autonomy, and more. This adventurer interviews brilliant minds to get to the bottom of these said forces and to truly understand the effect mental health has on the creative process. More than just question and response, delve into the adventurer’s inner thoughts as they process the answers from fellow creatives.

Design from Despair thesis book (PDF) »

Journey from Despair guided journal (PDF) »

Jasmine Platt is a graphic design graduate from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her practice includes watercolor and collage while appreciating the digital arts talents trusted upon her. Jasmine’s thesis work focuses on mental health and how it affects the design process. She interviewed several creatives, asking various questions that center around mental health and the design process.