Featured Portfolio: Yvonne Wu


Every week we created five postcards to be presented and discussed in class. Each postcard features a new and different word of the day from the Merriam Webster website. The goal is to bring the word to life by suggesting its meaning visually through the use of formal design elements.

Each postcard features a front and a back – the front showcases the visual interpretation of the featured word, and the back implements a common template for all postcard backs inclusive of postage and address content areas as well as the word, its pronunciation and its definition. Postcards are measured 4” x 6” each, printed front and back. The book also features a front cover with the title “Word- a-Day”, and a back cover that includes my name and a publisher logo.

The first five postcards were the most time-consuming and difficult to create. The initial illustrations did not have a common theme – although the colour palette was limited to unsaturated colours, the illustrations ranged from being a single object placed in the middle of the page to an en- tire landscape or pattern that covered the entire postcard.

As we continued to design more postcards week after week, we were able to develop a consistent style through- out the designs. In this case, every postcard illustrates a minimalistic drawing in the center of the page – the drawings consist as little detail as possible, and are made up of shapes with no outlines.

To reflect the minimalistic style, the number of typefaces used was reduced from using both Bodoni and Helvetica, to only the simpler sans serif – Helvetica.


For this project, we were instructed to choose a tool, kitchen implement, mechanical device, or another hard object – in this case, I chose a hairbrush. We started with photographing the object from many different points of view. After choosing the optimum view, we drew translation drawings of the object in black and white. After many revisions, we decided on our best translation drawing in an advertisement.


We created three posters with a different US national park as a subject for each poster. After researching the parks we chose, we made a list of three potential icons that represents each US National Park – I decided to go with an activity, a plant, and an animal for each park. In our final posters, we had to include icons, text, and graphics as a third element.

My final posters were for the following National Parks: Sagauro, Joshua Tree, and Petrified Forest.

The initial posters were designed with an unsaturated colour palette, graphics with white outlines, with a featured plant as the main focus of each poster.

The icons for each poster are moved out of the frame with graphics to the bottom of the page. All text and icon colours are now changed to white in order to match the white outlines in the illustrations. The typeface is also modified in order to reflect textural white lines in the focal plants.

More textural lines were added to the Joshua Tree as the initial design of the tree was too plain in comparison the other plants. More details were added to some icons so that the amount of detail is consistent throughout all of the nine icons.

National Park Posters

Our Graphic Design 1 class was tasked with creating posters for National Parks throughout the United States. The results were beautiful pieces of design promoting nature and organizing information appropriately on the page.


Work in Progress

Any designer will tell you that while the end product is a rush it is the experimentation and discovery process that feeds our day-to-day desire for this field. It is also exciting when students tackle the complicated issues that we face today as a society with great respect and care. What follows are just a few examples of what we are working on this semester. Much more to come in a few weeks, stay tuned.

Black Lives Matter By Michelle Lee


Eat Local By Hope Luria


Senior Thesis: Exploring Human-Centered Design

By Colleen B Murphy

After a very long (and freezing) four months, I’ve successfully redesigned the Bootstrap Brand Identity and the Bootstrap Coding workbook. The best news is that Bootstrap is going to use my designs in the upcoming year (with a few edits, of course).

I tackled the redesign by taking a human-centered design (HCD) approach. The basic philosophy behind HCD is that the people using the product are the most important in the grand scheme of things. A designer must focus on a users needs, desires, and aspirations. The shift in view point allows the designer ask critical questions that have the potential to shape the design or uncover new avenues of growth.

I used HCD to design Bootstraps’ coding workbook. The students write in the workbook before using the computer. It is important for them to learn to write in code in pencil before bringing it to the computer. I needed to understand the Bootstrap curriculum in depth and see it in action in every dimension to be able to make the correct design decisions. I attended Bootstrap after-school classes, asked students for feedback, and spoke to teachers. I attended teacher-training programs to understand how they use the workbook. Throughout the semester I had multiple experiences that shaped my design.

I started with secondary research. I researched in depth how the book was printed and distributed. The workbook can be downloaded and printed by any teacher in the country. It is also more commonly printed in black and white ink. The assembly of the workbook is the teacher’s choice, so it could be printed as a whole book or sections for each class. Because of this research, I made restrictions before I started to design. The book is not in color, each page can function without the rest, there are page numbers and titles at the bottom for teacher’s reference, and if it were to be bound the margins are appropriate for it.

I started primary research (on-the-ground research) in November of 2013. One of the first sessions I attended was a sixth grade class in Roxbury Mass. at Orchard Gardens School. I took notes about student behavior, how the workbooks were being used, what made them excited about Bootstrap, what made them bored, etc. I spoke to some of the teachers and asked them questions like, “What is the hardest thing about teaching the Bootstrap Curriculum?” The answers were really helpful. They said the one of the hardest things to do is get the students to write in the workbook. One reason students may not want to write may be that the space to write is not big enough for kids handwriting; 6th grade handwriting is still a little larger than adult handwriting. This was one of the changes I prioritized; the workbook now has large space that allows the students to write comfortably. Below on the left was the workbook before, on the right is the new design.


In January 2014 I went to a Bootstrap teachers training program and I learned the elements of the workbook. I sat with a bunch of Computer Science Northeastern Students who didn’t know that I was actually learning from the mock teaching classes they were presenting, taking notes about the way they taught but also notes on racket code. It was important for me to understand the elements and tools. I had started off not understanding any computer coding, and now I can use the tools from Bootstrap to write in Racket Code! While learning, I realized that the workbook needed visual imagery to help students understand important tools. I created icons and symbols that help with memorizing important steps. Below on the left is a Circle of Evaluation, an important tool that takes a function and translates it into Racket Code. To the right are the symbols I came up for the Design Recipe; Step 1 is Contract, Step 2 is Example, and Step 3 is Definition. Together they make the Design Recipe. bootstrap-article_4

The design recipe was the most important tool. I needed to make icons that were appropriate. I came up with a few different icon designs and I brought them to a sixth grade Bootstrap class to get feedback. Turns out, the mac n’ cheese symbols were not “mature enough”. They said the three steps were better represented by the design recipe loading symbols and not the mac and cheese.


By showing the students my designs helped me see through their eyes. I had forgotten that in sixth grade you were a “big kid” but treated as a “little kid” by adults, which can get so annoying! My mac n’ cheese idea was not that funny or cool to them at all. One small detail I added is an animation at the bottom of the workbook, so that when you flip through the corner pages a coding superhero flies into the book. Emma Youndtsmith, a regional manager who helped me throughout the semester with insight on coding and the curriculum, gave me the idea to add it after brainstorming with a few teachers. Such a great idea!

This process was very new to me, but after it really brought my designs to the next level. It has become very clear to me why HCD and design thinking are important to make functional and yet beautiful design.   You can check out the final Bootstrap Workbook by clicking this link.

Download the Bootstrap Brand Identity Guidelines to check out the final Brand Identity.


Colleen Murphy
Northeastern University
Graphic Design
Class of 2014



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Change, Design, Passion

By Colleen B  Murphy

When I entered Northeastern University in 2010 and jumped into the world of graphic design, I immediately started to question my role in this world. I felt as though I was missing something in the work I was producing. I could never pinpoint the missing element, but I could feel it. I wanted my work to have more meaning and impact but I really didn’t know how that could be a possibility in design. I did a lot of self-exploration, even declaring an Environmental Studies minor at one point (I quickly realized chemistry was not my strong suite it was dropped it). I had been reaching out for something more, but I never felt like I quite got it.

In the fall semester of 2012 I signed up for Graphic Design 2, a class that focused on created a campaign for a social cause. Margarita Barrios Ponce, our professor, exposed us to a new world of graphic design. I had a narrow vision of the design world, one in which I did not feel totally comfortable with, but after this course I started to see another new, emerging social design world. I felt like this was the realm of design I wanted to exist in and that the element that was missing before in my work started to take shape and become tangible.

This fall (2013) I decided to take advantage of the freedom of Northeastern University’s Senior Degree Project (thesis) and use it as an opportunity to make positive change. After a lot of collaboration and trial and error, my final degree project is to redesign the branding of a non-profit computer science program called Bootstrap, along with redesigning the computer science workbook used in the program.

Inspiration for this project came from a reflection of graphic design’s role in my life. Graphic design had uncovered “design thinking”, an important tool when it comes to problem solving and communicating. It occurred to me that I had never been exposed to this way of thinking until college. How could I have had twelve years of education where I did not learn these important life skills on a higher level? I connected this to the lack of critiques, communication, and projects in the classroom. These activities in the classroom are such vital skills for LIFE! This one thought in my head led me to research about our education system, design-thinking, and human centered design. I read books that pertained to creativity at a young age and project-based curriculums, and interviewed people who were knowledgeable in the subject. It expanded into a ton of different ideas for my degree project and led me in so many different directions, but through refinement I figured out which direction to go in.

During my research I came across Bootstrap, a computer science program that functions throughout the United States and uses a project-based curriculum to put math into context for students in middle school and high school. It gives students an answer to the question regularly asked in math classes “Why do I need this?” The program teaches them to create a video game through coding (math and algebra). Not every student is destined to be a coder, but it allows all students to see math in context, critique their work, and learn how to communicate with each other. So many benefits come from Bootstrap, but their branding and design doesn’t reflect it.

I realized there were strong design needs for Bootstrap and after I contacted them, they were more than happy to get some help.

My goal is to explore human-centered design by conducting on-the-ground research and to take advantage of design thinking to create a brand identity and math workbook that reflects how important Bootstraps’ program is. I am hoping that through this redesign, more teachers will want to utilize the six-week curriculum in their math classes and that students will start to be excited (or at least a little excited, better than nothing right?) about math.

This is my opportunity to do great design and create a small but important dent in the universe. I feel as though this is only the beginning.

To read more about Bootstrap, go to www.bootstrapworld.org.

Click here for the PDF of my degree project proposal where you can read more about my inspirations and interviews and read further into what I will be doing for Bootstrap.


Colleen Murphy
Northeastern University
Graphic Design
Class of 2014




The Sensitized Viewer

By Julia Wilson

According to Kate Hale, the fine arts world and graphic design world are connected through the ability to sensitize the viewer. Hale, who is a fine artist and former advertising account executive, spoke about implementing fine art techniques into graphic design work.

Caked – Kate Hale

Caked – Kate Hale

She presented the work of fine artists such as Sophie Calle, Thomas Hirschhorn, William Pope L., as well as her own work, an installation entitled “Caked.” The work of these artists focus on identity, space, consistency, and the embodiment of the viewer.

Thomas Hirschhorn – Photo by Steve Payne

Thomas Hirschhorn – Photo by Steve Payne

William Pope L – Photo by Pruznik/Grey, 2001

William Pope L – Photo by Pruznik/Grey, 2001

“Most contemporary artists today have interdisciplinary practices,” Hale said. “It’s becoming less likely that fine artists use just one means of connecting with an audience. “ Most artists work in a wide variety of mediums such as sculpture, film, photography, graphic design, animation, painting, and onward. Calle is an example of this, as her work exists as books, performance, text installation and photography. Hale said that “boundaries between worlds of corporate graphic arts and fine arts overlap and disappear in her work.”

Sophie Calle – Photo by Melanie Biehle

Sophie Calle – Photo by Melanie Biehle

Hale said another artist who toes the line between graphic design and fine art is Shepherd Fairey, the artist best known for his Obey clothing line. His street graphics began as a response to advertising but transformed into stickers, posters and murals, and eventually a clothing line. While his work maintains its raw nature and still exists as street art, it also exists as clothing and consumer items, and is featured in exhibitions.

Shepherd Fairey – Photo from LA Times

Shepherd Fairey – Photo from LA Times

Applying fine art tactics to consumer items is one thing, but how does one apply them to a corporate campaign?

Professor Margarita Barrios Ponce said that a successful campaign must have a point of view, and cannot be passive. “A print ad can soothe, assault, or shock as much as an installation can,” Hale said. She explained that both artists and designers can create a space of interruption that allow a viewer to reflect on themselves, the artwork (or campaign in this case,) and the world at large.

If the connection between fine arts and graphic design is the ability to sensitize the viewer, then Hale hopes students will push that boundary. Hale, who called the students campaigns “well developed and thoughtful,” reminded students to think big and not get bogged down with logistics. She argued that while a point can be made with five flyers on a bulletin board, having five hundred posters taking over walls, floors and ceilings would have a bigger impact.

Hale’s last words of advice to students?

“Please don’t edit yourself and continue to take risks.“


JuliaWilsonJulia Wilson
Northeastern University
Graphic Design and Journalism
Class of 2016
Fueled by coffee, Julia enjoys design, writing, running and consuming absurd amounts of chocolate.







A Fresh Set of Eyes

By Julia Wilson

Sometimes all you need to improve your work is a fresh set of eyes.

It doesn’t hurt if those eyes belong to Erica Lewy, the Senior Interactive Designer and Web Developer in the office of Marketing and Communications at Northeastern. Lewy was kind enough to critique students campaigns in class, with a particular emphasis on logos.

Lewy said the relationship to the logo is the most crucial part of the campaign, because the logo at times has to embody everything the campaign stands for. For Becca Yukelson’s “Pull the Plug” campaign, Lewy suggested integrating imagery into type to make the logo more cohesive and environmental. She stressed the importance of sketching ideas out first, and using the edges of the composition.

Pull the Plug - Before

Pull the Plug – Before

Pull the Plug - After

Pull the Plug – After

For Joseph Stella’s “Parental Pause” campaign, Lewy explained the need to do market research and make sure the logo does not resemble one already being used. While she said Stella’s logo is fantastic, she suggested changing the color or shape so it does not resemble the marriage equality logo. Stella followed up with Levy’s advice and rounded the edges of the logo to differentiate it.

Parental Pause - Before

Parental Pause – Before

Parental Pause - After

Parental Pause – After


The campaigns that students are working on vary greatly in both content and general aesthetics, but Lewy was able to offer advice across the board. She warned students against trying to be too sleek, and said that it is important to make it obvious that the work is a campaign, without actually saying it is a campaign.

Lewy also pushed students to try to take a more organic approach and try as many materials as possible. For Vendela Larsson’s “Dip Out” campaign, Lewy liked the realistic elements, but suggested she try different materials and methods. “The execution is so important, and it’s what will make your campaign really original,” Lewy said.

Dip Out - Before

Dip Out – Before

Dip Out - After

Dip Out – After


Despite her expert design advice, Lewy has not always been a designer. She started in event planning at a youth hostel in Portland Oregon, then took a job as an assistant in the Boston University Alumni Relations office. What started as customer service slowly morphed into updating websites, and eventually design work. She is now responsible for creating site maps, reorganizing sites, conceiving social media campaigns, and designing web ads.

Lewy’s critique was crucial to the development of the campaigns, and helped students shape their logos so they perfectly embody the campaign. “I was very impressed with the student work,” Lewy said. “It’s not so easy to create a campaign on the fly for something you may or may not have passion for. It’s good practice for the real world. Logos aren’t easy.”

If there is one piece of advice that Lewy would like to leave with students, it is this: “If you’re on a roll, stop. That way, when you come back the next day, you can pick things up right where you left off and you’ll never come into a blank slate.”

Northeastern University – www.neu.edu by Erica Lewy

Northeastern University – www.neu.edu by Erica Lewy


JuliaWilsonJulia Wilson
Northeastern University
Graphic Design and Journalism
Class of 2016
Fueled by coffee, Julia enjoys design, writing, running and consuming absurd amounts of chocolate.






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Aaron Levanthal

Design Is How Things Work

By Julia Wilson

Design is how things work. For Aaron Leventhal, design is how things work for everyone.

Leventhal has a special interest in designing for accessibility. He specializes in making the web easier for people who have difficulty with things most people take for granted, such as seeing, thinking, hearing and speaking. He started as a software engineer for a braille publishing software application, and later worked for Netscape and Mozilla. His latest project is Sitecues, a startup within Ai Squared.

Sitecues is an application that helps people with visual disabilities use the web. It is an unobtrusive plugin that can be added to any webpage, and features both zoom and voice options.

“I want content to be accessible to all people,” Leventhal said. “There are a lot of amazing people out there who can’t use computers or the web for whatever reason.”

Our graphic design class was lucky to have Leventhal as a guest speaker. He spoke to us about the parallels between design for disability and universal design, and inspired students to learn more about accessibility design.

“I didn’t really know accessibility design was a thing,” student Vendela Larsson said. “It’s definitely something I could be interested in, it’s cool to know people are working on projects like that.”

Leventhal came to our class because he thinks students offer fresh eyes and fresh minds. “To improve you have to forget what you know,” he said. As students, we are at a point in our young design careers where we know some of the restrictions of design, but have not yet developed our own concrete style. This allows us to be more open to both creating and critiquing ideas.

Our class is working with Leventhal via Google Groups to improve the design of Sitecues. Students have submitted new designs to improve the look of the icons, to make the links more obvious, and to change the icon when the voice feature is on. Students have also come up with ideas to implement keyboard shortcuts for the more computer savvy.

Leventhal discovered his own passion for accessibility design while attending college at University of Wisconsin at Madison. He studied computer science but dropped out because he decided he did not want to be a cookie-cutter programmer, and instead wanted to “contribute to society.” This pivotal turn came when he discovered an old house on campus with a sign that said “computers to help people.” Inside was a deaf and blind man typing using a braille display to type. This man runs his own not-for-profit and was working towards a PhD. Inspired by the braille display technology, Leventhal decided to pursue accessibility design in a pursuit to help others.

 “I’d rather save thousands of lives than slightly change millions,” said Leventhal.

To find out more about Aaron’s work visit sitecues.com and watch this informative video about truly equal access.


JuliaWilsonJulia Wilson
Northeastern University
Graphic Design and Journalism
Class of 2016
Fueled by coffee, Julia enjoys design, writing, running and consuming absurd amounts of chocolate.






On Choosing my Campaign

By Julia Wilson

As a young and seemingly inexperienced designer, I can confidently say that choosing one topic to commit to for an entire semester is one of the more anxiety-inducing decisions I have had to make thus far in my career.

After spending a couple of days flipping between ideas, I was feeling lost and defeated. The questions started racking up in my head. What if everyone else has a more interesting topic? What if I want to change my topic half way through? What if I simply run out of ideas? Positive that everyone else had a killer idea while I couldn’t find one that remotely excited me, I did the last thing anyone would recommend, and went on Facebook.

After completing my normal Facebook routine, I came across an article posted by a friend about the recent drug-related deaths at the Electric Zoo concert. The culprit was a mix of dehydration and the party drug, Molly. Perfect.

I wanted my campaign to be relevant to my peers, a generation obsessed with technology and social media. A generation that, like others before, loves to have fun and go to concerts and travel and experiment. But unlike generations before mine, drugs are constructed and manipulated in labs far away containing substances that most people cannot pronounce, let alone describe. After feeling stunted and uninspired by my other campaign ideas, I committed to an anti-drug campaign called Naked Drugs.

Before considering anything else, I thought about the audience I want my campaign to influence. As a member of the targeted generation, I know that a nagging “drugs are bad for you” campaign is a waste of time, and will be ignored and illicit eye-rolls. Instead of simply telling people that drugs are bad, I intend to show them. After spending a full weekend researching ingredients that drugs like Molly as well as Cocaine, Speed, and Marijuana are oftentimes cut with, I was horrified. Paint thinners in marijuana? Horse tranquilizers in Molly? Do people even know what they’re taking into their bodies?

My 2D campaign will focus on the real ingredients in drugs. I am picturing an extremely sterile surface with the most disturbing ingredients I can find, perfectly divided up as if in a science experiment. My 3D campaign will focus on connecting visual items with facts. For example, an ice cream scooper accompanied with a fact describing that memory loss from Molly is equivalent to an ice cream scoop taken out of your brain. This campaign will be different from other anti-drug campaigns because it is not a plea campaign. It is simply informing the public of what they are actually taking, with the hopes that they will make the wise decision to not ingest battery acid or meth, which are in their drugs.

To have a successful campaign, I think you need to choose a topic that both excites you and strikes a chord. While I am lucky in that I do not personally know anyone that has died from a drug overdose, I do know of a lot of people who have taken seemingly harmless drugs, “just one time,” and party drugs are certainly a mark of my generation. My own peers are exactly the audience that I hope my campaign would reach.

JuliaWilsonJulia Wilson
Northeastern University
Graphic Design and Journalism
Class of 2016
Fueled by coffee, Julia enjoys design, writing, running and consuming absurd amounts of chocolate.





Cause Inform Logo 500×500

Cause Inform Launch

By Colleen Murphy

Cause Inform is finally up and running! This website is designed to showcase brilliant student projects while raising awareness of the social causes featured in the campaigns. The Cause Inform logo was created based upon the idea that these campaigns not only inform audiences about a variety of social causes but they are also creating a visual expression, a form, of that social justice message. Thank you for visiting this site. Stay tuned for weekly updates throughout this Fall.

The Cause Inform visual identity was designed by Colleen Murphy in collaboration with Margarita Barrios Ponce.

Cause Inform Logo





0a5a1daColleen Murphy
Northeastern University
Graphic Design
Class of 2014




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A Big Welcome to Our Students

The time has come for us to begin social cause campaign selections for this semester.

But what is a campaign?

A campaign is systematic course of aggressive activities for some specific purpose—Synonyms 2. drive, effort, push, offensive. In other words there isn’t any  “middle of the road”, “meh” or “maybe” about this choice. It is entirely about your view of the world, it is about a perspective, it is 100% about seeing your message through to the end, and it has a point of view.

Be decisive, be creative, be fair.

Let the selection process begin!

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Art + Design Website at NEU

Northeastern University College of Arts, Media and Design launches new Art + Design website.  This wonderful resource centralizes information for students, staff and visitors alike. Visit the News & Events section often to stay on top of all Art + Design happenings or the community section to get to know our faculty, alumni and visiting artists a little better. Enjoy!


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Visiting Artist Hou Liping

While completing research for her PhD (Comparing Undergraduate Design Education between China and Other Countries) we had the unique pleasure of having Hou Liping as a visitor during our 2012 school year at Northeastern University. Hou Liping is a Vice Dean and Vice professor at Shandong University of Art and Design as well as a PhD student at China Central Academy of Art in Beijing.

Hou was able to observe our very unique class and was able to share in many discussions with our students. Upon her departure she thanked us for our openness and we thanked her of course for her desire to participate and collaborate with us. We wish you safe travels Hou and look forward to future collaborations.

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