Manhattan Street Performance: A Photo Essay

The process of developing my photo essay over the course of two months was an interesting one.  For worse or for better, very little of my original idea survived to the final stages of the process.

If this project taught me anything (in fact, it taught me many things), it is that sticking to your original vision of a final product can actually limit its development. As my Digital Layout professor KC Witherell says, “Don’t get married to an idea.”  This project, like all others at Parsons, put me to the test: could I gracefully allow my ideas and my work to change from my original vision?

When we were first assigned the project, I had my heart set on photographing the performers who jump on the subways and dance on the poles; I saw them everywhere I went during my first month in New York, and I thought that the way the performers affected the body language of the subway riders was very interesting.  People immediately cast their eyes to the floor, to the wall, anywhere but at the performers.  By betraying even the slightest hint of amusement or attention, it was as if the subway riders were entering into a contract with the performers: you must tip us.

Alas, the very day I decided to photograph the contrast between the performers’ body language and the subway riders’ body language was the last day I saw the subway performers until–get this–3 days after the final photo essay was due.  I spent the first weekend of the project riding around the city for hours until finally I decided to cast a wider net and photograph performers anywhere I found them, and any form I found them.  I photographed violinists, break dancers, saxophonists, children’s entertainers, bands; everyone I could find.  I tried to get close-ups of the performers’ faces and the spectators’ faces, looking for contrasts.

After the first critique with Michael Durham, former photojournalist at Life Magazine, it was decided that the close-ups weren’t really working, and in fact the most interesting photos were of the breakdancers.  Photos from days of photographing were discarded.

At that point, too, I needed to come up with a concept for the text that would accompany my photos when they were bound into my final book.  Luckily, with inspiration from Michael Durham, the idea to interview the breakdancers for my text came quickly, and the following week I went back to City Hall where I had initially seen the street performers to ask some questions.  After weeks of observing street performers, I had grown very curious about the lives they lead.

When I got to City Hall, I saw that many of the performers I had originally photographed were there again in the same spot, nearly a month later.  I watched a performance, took some photos, and then approached some of the men for an interview.  I am naturally shy, so the thought of choosing people as my subjects in the first place had been a bit nerve-racking; the thought of interviewing my subjects was even more so.  Ultimately, though, I’m so glad I chose to do these things for my work, because the results were so rewarding.  This is the work that I’m most proud of (so far) at Parsons.

With my photos taken and text written, I set about the task of laying out my book and then binding it.  This took some weeks of revision as well.  Some photos of my mock-ups:

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I decided to make my book into a circle accordion.  That way, my book would fit neatly into a cover and could be pages through as an ordinary book, but could also be displayed in a circle to mimic a street performance: photographs of performers in the center; spectators circling around.  I had to scale my book down slightly for practical reasons. Finding reasonably priced and manageable ways to print a document that’s 6.25 inches by 85 inches was unsurprisingly a bit of a mission!

Here are some photos of the (almost) final version (small refinements will be made before the end of the semester):

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Though the process was long, this was a project that I enjoyed from start to finish, and learned many things along the way.  I discovered that I love bookbinding, and that interviewing subjects isn’t half bad either.  I’m looking forward to producing many more photo essays in the future!

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Oliver Munday: Makes Great Stuff

I recently discovered that the person whose illustrations I keep gawking at in the New Yorker is Oliver Munday. So I looked up Oliver Munday, and it turns out he’s hugely talented both as an illustrator and a  graphic designer. First and foremost, thanks to the internet for letting me in on that secret, and secondly, thanks to Ollie for making such great stuff.

Part of what makes Oliver’s illustrations so successful has to do with execution. While I’m not a proponent (or certainly my professors at Parsons wouldn’t want me to be) of styling an image in a certain way just because ‘it looks cool,’ the distressed texture of many of his images gives them a unique, almost tactile look. It’s nice!

This technique is also applied to photo-based illustrations, typically adjusted for high contrast or a halftone filter first. And it works incredibly well, especially with the addition of a bold but limited color palette. Oliver pieces these elements together much in the way we might expect to see a physical collage on paper. And maybe that’s what he does? I wonder about his process.

Beyond the artistic merits of his illustrations, however, Oliver is clearly adept when it comes to content ideation. In a recent piece for the New Yorker, he shows the relationship between firearms and schools by manipulating a single element from the built environments of schools throughout the country. The result is simple and profound.

Add to all of this Oliver Munday’s stalwart record as a book jacket designer.

These are only a handful of a number of powerful, graphic titles that Oliver has designed. The jacket above is particularly telling not only of his ability to integrate image and text, but also shows a developed understanding of printing methods and their potential as a secondary form of communication.

In short, Oliver Munday makes great stuff.

Or did I say that already?

A Career Grows in Brooklyn | Ingrid Carozzi | AAS GD 2007 |

ingrid_spreads_3We are proudly announcing the launch of Ingrid Carozzi’s new book “Brooklyn Flowers”. It was released on May 5th and was produced by one of largest publishers in Sweden, Massolit Förlag. It is a beautiful and highly informative instructional book containing simple flower arrangements made with methods used at Tin Can Studios. There are also lots of images from the Tin Can Studios as well as street scenes from the Brooklyn neighborhoods around the Studio such as Red Hook and Williamsburg. The gorgeous photographs were all shot by the critically acclaimed photographer Paul Brissman who used a Hasselblad, the professional photographers’ favorite tool. Eva Nyqvist was the co-author, who writes for a wide variety of publications such as Elle Decor and Gourmet. Sadly for us New Yorkers it is only available in Sweden for now but is being currently translated into German. There is already talk about books two and three…

Conversation with Ingrid Carozzi

Ingrid Carozzi has been gaining momentum since she graduated from Parsons and shows no signs of slowing down. Her successful flower design studio based in Brooklyn, with a second location coming on line in her native Stockholm, has orders through next year. She is currently booked through 2016 with TV appearances, an executive women’s conference, and an event for the largest auction house in Sweden. Some of the country’s highest profile companies are among her clients.

Ingrid Carozzi in front of her studio in Red Hook in Brooklyn
Ingrid Carozzi in front of her studio in Red Hook in Brooklyn

Ingrid credits Parsons for a great deal of her success. “Without Parsons, I would be nowhere,” she says. “I learned how to communicate well and how to critique work without offending others. This helps me with business because talented freelancers are very happy to work for me.” Her Parsons training also fortified her color strength, an essential talent in working with flowers. “I understand the properties of color — hue, value and intensity — after taking a great color theory course with Kelli Glancey.”

Color Theory Applied
Color Theory Applied

She also was able to improve her sales and marketing efforts as a result of becoming a solid photographer at Parsons in my Process and Skills class. “You can create the most beautiful floral arrangement in the world, but if you cannot capture it, it won’t matter how good you are.” 

 “You need to know how to brand yourself,” explains Ingrid. “My experience in graphic design was essential for my success. I am able to design, build and update my website as my business blossoms. As a former PR person I know how to market myself, too.  These are all things that Parsons helped me to understand. It really is one of the best design schools in the world”.


After graduating from Parsons, Ingrid was presented with a slew of freelancing opportunities. It was a request from a former colleague from the Swedish Chamber of Commerce (SACC) that led to her watershed moment. “SACC asked me to come up with some ideas for floral arrangements for the Royal Green Award Gala Dinner at the Mandarin Hotel which was attended by the King and Queen of Sweden.” At the time, she had been designing business cards and branding for a salvage wood company called Recycled Brooklyn. Since she had access to a plethora of farm crates she had the idea to use them as the vessels for her flowers. When Ingrid brought in her arrangements, fate intervened: the executive chef had, unbeknownst to Ingrid, created a menu that matched her arrangement, even using some of the same ingredients such as crown dill and rosemary.

“I was hesitant, because at the time I wasn’t a florist. I was a designer, but I never say no to a challenge. After that I realized this was something I really love 100%,” says Ingrid. “Once I got started, I knew this was something I should have been doing all along. I launched Tin Can Studios a year later.”




Ingrid Carozzi, who sources her dahlias and anemones from tristate farms, leans wild and loose, using “blender” flowers like ranunculus to unify her high-contrast bouquets. To contain them, she forages vintage measuring cups, test tubes, and wine bottles—often from Dead Horse Bay. While Carozzi focuses primarily on weddings and corporate events (Cointreau and the Pierre Hotel are clients), she’s more than happy to accent your desk or dinner table. All South Brooklyn orders are delivered by bicycle.



Upcycling is the M.O. of Tin Can Studio’s Ingrid Carozzi, based in Red Hook, who recently published Brooklyn Flowers in her native Sweden. Some of her most collaborative wedding projects have been with clients who have provided vessels from their personal collections for her to work with. “There’s more character, and history [that way],” says the florist who regularly transforms everyday objects like wine bottle or tin cans into vases, and who’s been known to handcraft wooden crates from repurposed wood and dig up old bottles from landfills. These choices are responsible as well as aesthetic. “I love the contrast of the patina of something old with new, fresh flowers that are so alive,” says Carozzi whose services include arriving at the end of a wedding to disassemble arrangements and “turn them into mini bouquets to be passed out when guests leave. It is so lovely when people can bring a little piece of the wedding with them.” Here, from Tin Can Studios, wedding flower inspiration for brides-to-be with a feeling for history.


Ingrid TV_1

TV4 Sweden

Interview and edit: Katarzyna Gruda
Guest Editor: Certainly Studio
Photography: Paul Brissman, Ingrid Carozzi & Katarzyna Gruda

Spotlight | Jennifer De Klaver | Featured on NBC Today Show | AAS Graphic Design Alumna

After graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in Business Administration, Jennifer began working in corporate events. However, it was during her time as a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines, that her interest in design became re-invigorated. She started working on some of her own design projects and realized she wanted to formalize her education. After some research, she found and was accepted to the Parsons AAS program and headed to New York. “I was riding by in a taxi”, she said, “and as we passed Parsons I said to myself, I’m going to go there”. And sure enough she did!

Shortly after graduating from Parsons in 2005, Jen started her own design company in New York and quickly gained a following of clients such as Colette Malouf and the Chelsea Art Museum. With her increased notoriety, she was contacted by Target, who offered her a job as senior art director at their headquarters in Minneapolis. It was there that Jennifer found her stride. Working at Target gave Jennifer the opportunity to have a hand in many aspects of design, including creating catalogs, directing of photo shoots, collaborating with designers and leading castings in New York and Los Angeles. She also headed up some of the larger campaigns such as Club Wed, and was a part of the “Big Idea” committee.

Target catalogs
Target catalogs
Target Valentine's Day
Target Valentine’s Day

With all the expansive knowledge she gained while working at Target, and after a brief tenure as VP of operations at an online invitation company in Los Angeles, she became Creative Director for the Canadian clothing company Joe Fresh. It was her team that was tasked with launching the brand in the US, and she oversaw the re-branding of the website, gave extensive photo direction, and made Joe Fresh a staple in the US, all in less than six months!

Joe Fresh web
Joe Fresh web
Joe Fresh home
Joe Fresh home

In her next position as VP of Creative at West Elm, Jennifer led a team to develop monthly catalogs, digital design, packaging and signage.

West Elm Catalog

Most recently Jennifer’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and she launched together with business partner Jen Worthington, bella j.  , a lifestyle beauty / gift brand of over 25 beautifully packaged products that are sold online, at Nordstrom and various boutiques. The brand is playful and colorful and comes to life with Sujean Rim‘s illustrations (another Parsons alumni). Inside each product is a hidden charm with some of the candles even containing a $10,000 diamond necklace – its the Cracker Jack / Willy Wonka of beauty gifts! They even sell notebooks in some beautiful patterns which are great for sketching! Parsons students take note!

bella-j. advertising campaign
bella-j. advertising campaign
bella j. advertising campaigne
bella j. advertising campaign
bella-j. packaging
bella-j. packaging

Here are bella-j. candles on the Today Show as Jill Martin’s featured choices for Mother’s Day perfect gifts!



For those people who are interested in taking a left turn in their career, Jennifer is a shining example of what can be done with a little bit of bravery and a lot of creativity. “I learned so much at Parsons AAS Graphic Design and was inspired by some so many of the professors”, she said. When asked if she had any regrets, she simply stated “No regrets!” !

Q: I wish I’d known before I started… 
A: That you didn’t need to know anything about graphic design before you start! The Parsons AAS GD program is so comprehensive.

Q: What is your favorite typeface?
A: It’s a really hard decision, but right now I’ve been loving the clean lines of Brandon Grotesque Light. 

Q: What advice do you have for students who are just starting out? 
A: Do as many internships as you can. You’ll learn so much in the classroom but it’s just as important to know how to apply your skills in real life.

Interview by Kiel Guba, AAS GD
Photography and edit: Katarzyna Gruda

Spotlight | Jason Booher | Book Cover Designer | AAS Graphic Design Faculty & Alumnus

Parsons AAS Graphic Design Alumnus (’05) and Faculty Jason Booher talked with current student Kiel Guba about how he came to Parsons, how he got his first
job, and his experience as a book cover designer and teacher


After obtaining a degree in English Literature
at Princeton University, Jason pursued his childhood dream of becoming a high school English teacher. His career started by teaching
at Eton College in England (he had to wear
a tuxedo to class!) and then Trenton High School (NJ). While he enjoyed teaching, he felt that something was missing from his life. He
quit and bounced around for a few years living in England and Australia where a friend hired him as a personal chef. Despite Bondi Beach beckoning him each day, Jason continued to paint and draw (something he has desperately tried to fit into his schedule as an undergrad) and attempted to make a graphic novel.

When he returned to the US, he took a continuing education course at Parsons on a whim, and through it found out that graphic design existed everywhere and about the Parsons AAS GD program, which he chose as his path into the design world.
“I never really knew about graphic design, let alone considered it as a career,” he says, “but when I started attending classes, I knew immediately it was what I should have been doing all along. Parsons’ AAS Graphic Design was perfect and intense; it really felt more like an MFA program”.

After graduating, Jason started designing book interiors part-time at Dubé Juggling. This freed him up to shop his portfolio to designers he would want to work for, specifically looking for book cover design work. “By the end of school, I figured out graphic design is about selling something”, Jason says “and I knew I would only be able to design well if I was selling something I believed in—I believe in books”.


02.-Gone-away_angelmakerUltimately he landed a job in the art department at Penguin, and soon after found himself in his dream job designing book covers at Alfred A. Knopf. His wife, Helen Yentus, is also a designer and they collaborate often on projects, although he admits with their current jobs they have less times to work together. Jason is currently the Art Director at Blue Rider Press as well as a part-time History of Graphic Design professor at Parsons.


Jason’s work is evocative without being heavy-handed – his covers have just enough information to draw the reader in without revealing too much. They are beautifully and thoughtfully designed and speak both to his great understanding of literature as well as his talent for design.


Q: How do you come up with a cover design for a book?
A: It’s different every time. Reading the book is important. Sometimes I sketch starting with the title and author. Sometimes I am making thumbnails from the very beginning. Sometimes I have a clear idea immediately of what I want to do and start there. Sometimes I read the book and then wait for months until I start really coming up with something. Most of the time I have some idea that I then work through and throw away and move on from there. But I love the process. I get to fall in love with each book and work to find something visually interesting that connects to it’s soul.


Q: What is your favorite typeface?
A: I don’t have one. Type is contextual. But maybe Futura.
Q: What is some of the best advice you received from a Parsons professor?
A: Something I learned very early in my first graphic design class with Julia Gorton has always stayed with me. In the critique of our first projects she burned into us that your design should not be like everyone else’s; it should be unique within its context. That’s something I try to keep in mind each time I start a new project.
Q: Who is your favorite graphic designer?
A: That’s an easy one—Helen Yentus.


Q: You have been teaching design in the AAS program now almost as long as you have been designing, has that affected how you design?
A: There has been no experience or thing that has effected my design or how I think about design as deeply as teaching the History of Graphic Design. Beyond the exposure to great historical designs and soaking in the relationships that I find within them, I was forced to develop a language of design that moved beyond critiquing contemporary designs (either my students’ work or my work in progress). I had to find a way to speak about or discuss design outside the glossy historical narrative with students, a way to move into designs that weren’t their own. Most examples of this kind of dialogue I have found in books have not been helpful to me, because the language used doesn’t relate to how I think about design. However, Paul Rand’s words from his Conversation with Students have. “Design is relationships.” That’s were I start, and it opens up designs in almost any direction I want to push myself and the students.


Through teaching, as much as designing, I quickly came to believe innovation in formal execution to be as important (or perhaps more important) as conceptual expression in most design. Certainly in book packaging. Looking at formal relationships in historical designs as a way to find a unique visual moments in contemporary designs is what my class is about. And it is what I passively and sometimes actively do in my own work. At the very least, I certainly benefit from an accumulation of discussions of various effective relationships. And because I have had to verbally express why I think things work, I can look at something I am designing and not rely on intuitive instinct as to why any given relationship is or isn’t working. Surely I use intuition when I design. But for some reason being able to talk about the decisions I am making intelligently (as in it is intelligible) with another human designer has given me a way to push things further.


Editing and photography: Katarzyna Gruda

Spotlight | Žarko Dumicic and Vaishnavi Mahendran | AAS Graphic Design Alumni

Žarko Dumicic and Vaishnavi Mahendran graduated of the Parsons AAS Graphic Design Program in 2012.


Vaishnavi completed her Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Mumbai and has a Masters degree in Marketing from the UK. After her Masters, and finishing a summer school course at Central Saint Martins, London, Vaishnavi was urged to apply to Parsons, by a former boss while training at design firm Red Lion, Publicis, in Mumbai. Her boss cited Parsons as one of the best schools for design, as well as mentioning that, being located in New York City, one of the most exciting cities to be a creative in, it would be an excellent choice for her future career aspirations — her boss was definitely right!

While completing his Bachelor’s Degree in Economics in Zagreb, Croatia, Žarko was introduced to the New School after a brief encounter with an inebriated Polish man in Sydney, Australia, who after a short discussion about their interests randomly urged him to continue his education there. Realizing that the New School has a strong design program and with the prudent advice of this friendly stranger to embolden him, Žarko applied and was accepted into the Parsons’ AAS Program and moved to New York. Despite the fact that his path to Parsons was less than traditional, it was clearly one of the best decisions he has ever made.

Vaishnavi and Žarko met at the second day of school waiting for a class to begin and the rest is, as they say, history… They both credit much of their design success to the comprehensive and challenging curriculum at Parsons.

After graduating and working in New York, they recognized the strong potential and opportunities for design in an emerging market such as India, Vaishnavi’s home country. They currently work together between Mumbai & New York through their new design studio, BLŌK, and are presently designing for a number of local & international clients. The Studio’s work spans a number of different mediums, from visual identities and package design to commissions by companies to curate the spatial design both in and outside of their offices.

Marco Argiro, vinyl cover
Marco Argiro, vinyl cover
Global, print design

In addition to their corporate work, Žarko and Vaishnavi have completed a variety of very exciting and creative self-initiated side projects over the course of their partnership. During the summer of 2013 they created an alphabet series constructed by projection mapping typography onto cardboard building blocks. Each of the 26 letters were made into a poster and subsequently hidden in bookstores, libraries and art galleries around the world. All of the posters contained a small description of the project, as well as their contact information. As these posters were located, they were able to make connections with fellow designers around the world, some of whom they are still in contact with.

BLOK Alphabet installation, letters A,B,C

While many of their projects have been highly conceptual, they also take as much care and use as much creative intuition to the more practical projects they have designed. When faced with the challenge of the limited availability of typefaces in Hindi, they simply created their own!

BLOK Business Cards, custom made 'BLOK Hindi' typography
BLOK Business Cards, custom made ‘BLOK Hindi’ typography

The geometrical typeface that the studio uses for Roman letters was re-appropriated for Hindi use. It is this kind of attention to detail, recognition of gaps in the design market, and creative problem solving that has made Vaishnavi and Žarko a dynamic design team, and Parsons is undeniably the vehicle that has guided their passion.

Hicare Happy Home 1
Happy Home, package design

Hicare Happy Home 2


Hicare, office space
Hicare office space, spatial design

The interview was conducted and edited by Kiel Guba

Žarko & Vaishnavi were also gracious enough to answer some questions, below are the transcribed questions and answers:


Q: What was your inspiration to go into the design field…

V: Growing up I loved to draw and paint, but I think it was through music that I really discovered design and wanted to pursue it as a profession. I used to play drums in bands during school and college and it was during that time, that I fell in love with vintage vinyl cover art & poster design. From iconic works like Milton Glaser’s Dylan cover, Klaus Voormann’s Revolver album cover, to handmade typography of Fillmore posters from the 60s, the visual aspect of music inspired me to begin exploring graphic design.

Ž: I knew I wanted to go into the design field the moment I discovered the work of the French graphic designer Jean-Paul Goude – especially his collaboration with Grace Jones. Another endless source of inspiration is the brilliant Russian graphic designer Alexey Brodovitch.

Q: Share some of your experience from classes at Parsons…

V: Our Tamara Maletić’s class on Typography really opened our minds up to experimenting with form and function in type. My class with Juliette Cezzar (GD2) was an excellent experience and I remember her advising our class once, on growing as young designers, to challenge ourselves by taking up a variety of design projects that may sometimes require new skills that you may not be totally confident about at first, but will end up learning over the course of the project out of practical necessity, with the results often being pretty rewarding. This really resonated with me and has helped in times of doubt as a working designer.

Ž: Our Graphic Design + Silkscreen class with Katarzyna Gruda and William Morrisey was incredibly important and has solidified our typography appreciation and expanded our skills in composition and color. Katarzyna Gruda has also helped me a lot during school and post-graduation in finding internships and work in the city, which was essential for developing my overall skills as a designer. What is also great about Parsons is that we were also able to take classes in other creative fields that went beyond the core graphic design curriculum. We both took Photography as Expanded Media, Projected Environments and Experimental Video, and collaborated on art installations in these mediums.

Q: How has your perception of design changed as a student and after graduating?

V: I definitely see that the process of learning never ends, even after finishing design school — and more importantly that it should not end. As a designer it’s extremely important to keep challenging oneself. Once you get out of design school, you’re suddenly very aware that you don’t always have your professors to keep guiding you to push your limits. So it’s been a conscious effort to remind myself to keep doing so, which is critical to stay relevant as a designer.

Ž: Also I feel it’s incredibly important to generate both artistic and commercial pieces for your portfolio as a student—it shows that you are a well-rounded designer. While studying I was actively denying to produce designs for the mainstream, but working on projects in the market that you assume you won’t like, can be one of the most rewarding experiences—it requires a lot of effort and design thinking to create something that works in the mass market and that is also aligned to your personal aesthetic and comprehension of design.

Q: Now that you are in the design field, what do you feel is the most important advice to interacting with your clients?

Ž&V: One of the essential aspects of working with a client is to include them in every step of the design process. When you include them in the conversation from step one, the final work you present is stronger as a result of truly understanding the client’s desire and vision.

Q: What would your advice be to current and prospect Parsons students?

Ž&V: One of the best things about being in this industry, and its design community, is the fact that it’s so open and collaborative. We would urge students at Parsons to collaborate with their peers, as well as seek advice and feedback from established designers in the industry. We’re always grateful for the advice and guidance received from other designers that we consider our mentors, and some of whom we’ve worked with, such as Katarzyna Gruda, Mirko Ilić, Jan Wilker & Hjalti Karlsson, Tamara Maletić, Julia Gorton, Thomas Bosket, Alex Lin, Langdon Graves.

Global Magic Numbers Calendar 2015, April spread
Global Magic Numbers Calendar 2015, April spread’

Editig: Katarzyna Gruda