Sharon’s Current and Planned Research, Creative or Scholarly Work

Motivated and inspired by my experiences in professional design and typography organizations, in which I am able to track reoccurring forms, detect shifts, and showcase leading work in the field, my research and practice is situated in defining the nature of contemporary graphic design, in two ways. First, when possible, I take on projects in which design itself is the subject matter. For example, instead of creating design to promote products and services, I tend to work on projects that involve design history, projects that exhibit design and typography, or projects that feature design and typography curricula.

Second, I seek to answer what design is by examining what it encompasses. To this end, I question: what are its media, its substrates? In response, I have delved into using less conventional means and, instead, explore fabric, paper sculptures, and technology/new media platforms for my design work. This investigation of the media of graphic design is central to contemporary practice.

In a current project, Chicago Design Milestones, I am creating work that investigates both historical and contemporary design work in the collection of the Chicago Design Archive. This archive consists of over 3,500 works that span 10 decades. I am reviewing works by the decade, identifying the repeated ideas and characteristics of each era. With the support of grants, this project will be exhibited at 150 Media Stream, a new venue considered to be a leading platform for new media, with its 150-foot wide wall of LED screens, located in one of downtown Chicago’s riverfront buildings. This team project is a key example of my efforts in defining and showcasing design and exploring its emergent media.

In Type Prêt-à-Porter and Viva Grammar, my collaborators and I create clothing items that utilize a single letter, word or phrase, as the main structure or feature. This project attempts to combine threads of personal identity, popular culture, language, and typography. Typographic structuring lends complexity and innovation to the construction of the clothing items in Type Prêt-à-Porter. With these projects as essential components of my recent solo show, as well as the Chicago Design Milestones project, plus others, I make works that sit on the periphery of the design profession, often extending beyond the boundaries of traditional graphic design to areas that reach across the discipline to fashion and craft-based making; to new media and art; to developing and creating design exhibitions; and to authoring, editing, and publishing.

With work in outlying directions, I aim to expand the conceptual space for graphic design. In other words, I participate in leading and staking out under-examined areas for design practice in the hope that these endeavors lead to a more enlarged definition of design, which widens the practice and is more inclusive to those who might not otherwise have engaged in it.

My research plan for the future is to continue creating type/language objects; to continue creating publications, or other forms, that privilege design as its own subject matter; and to pursue projects in the interactive new media arena.