Into, Through, + For: A Collection of Contemporary Design Posters, Exhibition, 2020–2021.

Can a poster design exhibition be participatory? Over the years—starting in the late 1990s I started collecting posters that are all in some way connected to “design.” Many are connected to our local (Boston) design history, while others are from all around the world. This pop-up exhibition features an eclectic selection of posters from my personal collection and new work by my Graphic Design students.

The poster has been, is, and will continue to be a globally celebrated vehicle for communication, expression, and cognition. In the twenty-first century, posters appear in both physical environments as well as digital ones. Posters are used to protest, persuade, celebrate, promote, inform, and delight. Through continuous advances in typesetting technologies, the poster and graphic design itself have increasingly become democratized. From the 1980s on—professional graphic designers could independently compose high-quality layouts with far less expense. This “desktop publishing revolution” unleashed typesetting technologies that were once only the realm of publishing professionals. Today, anyone with a laptop and any number of software packages is a “typesetter” or “imagesetter” and, thus, a graphic designer in some form.

This democratization may also help explain why design has become such a widely celebrated contemporary cultural practice. Amateur and enthusiast designers now join graphic design professionals in finding ways to both practice and celebrate design. Films, posters, and other artifacts concerning numerous aspects of design serve as cultural evidence. The posters in this exhibition showcase our tools, techniques, efforts, products, and innovations—even our typefaces. One way to frame these artifacts is through Sir Christopher Frayling’s three-part definition of design research,—which imparts three critical modes of inquiry: research into design, research through design, and research for design. In various ways and to different degrees, the posters in this collection exhibit all three of Frayling’s modes. Some of the posters are educational, some are informational, some are promotional—but most fall into several of these categories. In and of themselves, they are also beautiful examples of design. Design is one of our uniquely human abilities and pursuits. Into, Through, and For celebrates this pursuit while showcasing an eclectic collection of artifacts representing it in both a global and local context. The exhibition also catalyzes and inspires new poster creation—with eight newly created, limited edition posters designed by Merrimack College Graphic Design students on display.

Besides the graphics for the exhibition, there was one poster in the show that I had designed—a 2009 poster for the architecture firm Shepley Bulfinch. The poster won the 2009 AIGA Best of New England design award which made me quite happy at the time.

This exhibition ran from December 2, 2021–January 28, 2022, in the McCoy Gallery, Rogers Center for the Arts at Merrimack College. A gallery talk was held on December 2, 2021.


Exhibition Design and Curation: Dan Vlahos
Interim Gallery Director: Jonathan Latiano
Student Participants: Nicholas Andriotakis, Jeff Converse, Sahana Gorur, Charles McGarigle, Lily Seremet, Gabriela Terrones, Oliver Williams

FILED IN: Design Research