The collection of works explores the “untold narrative” of women in the graphic design profession, according to the UW Art page. The pieces aim to ask more questions than give answers, prompting the audience to reflect on what tradeoffs on the path to victory look like.
Women have only been a significant part of the graphic design industry since 1989. Before the Apple-produced Macintosh computer made the field more accessible to all designers, it was largely male-dominated. A lot of the workforce was inherited from the print industry, which was similarly gender-imbalanced. The exhibit is specifically designed to explore the role women played in the history of graphic design in Wisconsin. A variety of design fields are highlighted, such as package design, branding, web design and environmental design.
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The exhibit is also paired with a website, which allows viewers to explore the interviews and research that accompanied McLean during the creation of her work. McLean’s artist statement asserts that the exhibit “seeks to bridge the intersection of technology and visual expression.” This bridge creates a metaphor for the cases in which art is tangible and when it is not, immersing the audience in the exploration of these questions.
McLean also seeks to explore the question of Artificial Intelligence’s role in graphic design, and many of the works in the gallery were co-created with those algorithms. The historical focus of the works is thus taken even further, pushing the limits of what is considered “traditional” graphic design and wondering what innovations modern and future design will bring.
Ultimately, McLean’s portfolio of works will be transferred into a website in which the audience can explore the stories of the women who shaped the graphic design industry in Wisconsin.
The artworks seem to range subjects, from the types of design that women would have contributed to the histories of these very same women. It gracefully portrays a story that has been hidden for half a century and puts the women who made important contributions to the advancement of the field at the forefront, while also tying them irrevocably into the modern day. I think it would be a valuable and worthwhile experience to read these stories and to support the artist who brought them back into the light.