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

What Might Be
by Olivia Schneider

I called my grandma when she decided to enter hospice care.
I cried and asked her if she was scared.
She said no, that she had a good life.

Three weeks before she died we went grocery shopping.
She bought three packages of butter
and they were in her freezer when she died.
I wonder what grocery shopping is like when
you know you might die next week.

I’m fixed on death. Will mine come with pain or peace,
or come in an instant as part of a catastrophe?
What about the ultimate catastrophe,
the one that sweeps us away into extinction?
When will that day be?

How do we come to terms with the mysteries of our lives?
How do we live knowing that we will die?
Is there any solace in the void of   w h a t   m i g h t   b e ?

What we ignore now lies ahead of us as fate.


(AI song reference: “Immigrant Song” by Karen O with Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross)



My thesis book, 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.

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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.

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This thesis has been the medicine that has broken down and will continually break down the phlegm that obstructed the life-giving oxygen needed for me to breathe. This work has stretched and pulled me in many directions. I wanted to know my roots. I wanted to know how far I could travel into the archives. I wanted to know if I could do something as simple as locate my ancestors’ names beyond the second generation. Within this wading, I have learned many things about the exploration of lineage and documentation. This synthesis has spoken to the slivers of hope and the gaping holes in the history of America’s true builders. It is a work that speaks about my experience during this discovery and expresses it through the visuals as I attempted to fill the gaps of my familial past.

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Reconsidering the designer as one among many in a creative and collaborative network of active participants full of agency and potential.

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Imagine a world that celebrates our differences, tears down walls, welcomes outsiders, and stimulates collaborative encouragement—this is the revolution—this is Ignite Designers.

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Observations about living and designing in a world of clashing expectations.

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“This ain’t a scene, it’s a goddamn arms race.”

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