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21.svg : The Origin Story

The genesis of the unprecedented design MFA thesis show

The 21.svg Manifesto

21.svg is more than just a thesis show. It’s a state of mind. It’s the concept that represents the 4 of us as a group, each of us as individuals, and demonstrates how we collaborate. It highlights the uniqueness in our individual interests and skillsets.

The Squad


If we had the time and energy, we’d dig up and show you all the Slack messages we sent each other with random ideas for what to do with our show. But, take our word for it, we had many, many ideas (as a compromise, a screenshot of our ridiculous, chaotic, enormous Miro board is below). In the end, we decided on three main factors:

  • Variety Show ⇒ Because these times and grad school were so stressful, we wanted to keep the mood light while highlighting each of our personalities, interests, and designs.
  • Website + Social Media ⇒ For ease of access during the pandemic, we just decided it was best to forgo an in-person thesis exhibition and have our work showcased on tylerdesignmfa.com/2021 and @tylerdesignmfa Instagram.
The Chaotic Miro Board


When we say that we are interested in design process, we really mean it. We even begged one of our professors (Paul Kepple) to talk to us about his design process for over an hour because we were so interested in learning more about how he approached his practice.

Variety Show

The term “variety show” was still just a twinkle in our eyes (we credit Paul Kepple for bringing up the term “reality show,” which then evolved into “variety show”) when we decided that we wanted the brand to underline each of our differences, unique interests, and unprecedented approaches to our design practice. This was important to us because, despite our differences, our strengths individually and collectively shine when we combine our forces (kind of like Power Rangers). It really came together when we thought about taking Buzzfeed quizzes, doing mad libs together, having title cards, and other silly things. These silly activities worked as a way to bond, relieve stress, and also show off our personalities in our show.

Deliverables (Website, Social Media, STELLA, and Medium)

Now, you’re probably wondering: What actually is 21.svg? It’s pretty simple: a website and a social media campaign. The website showcases our individual and group graduate projects while the social media would showcase us (individually and collectively) and our design process.


The Original Name Ideas


After lightly considering some other names for our show, we decided to jump in full force into the silliness that was our original idea: 21 Savage. (Not to mention that “Savage” seemed to be the word of the year in mainstream media — from Megan the Stallion to Jason Derulo.) But, to make sure we differentiated ourselves from the rapper and other mainstream media properties, we threw a bunch more ideas into the wind to see what stuck. In the end, Marisa’s spouse half-jokingly suggested, “What if you just took the vowels out of ‘savage?’” And so 21.svg was born.

Tagline + Verbiage

Everyone’s calling these times of the pandemic “unprecedented.” According to Merriam Webster, unprecedented means “having no precedent,” which is probably the most frustrating type of definition (using a variation of the word in the definition that in no way informs what the word means). Anyway, if you look up Merriam Webster’s definition of precedent you can infer that their definition of unprecedented is “of having no earlier occurrence of something similar.” Considering that there had never been a Tyler GAID MFA show solely online (much less during a global pandemic), it was entirely too fitting to include the overused word in our brand. So of course we had to use it.


We wanted to make a statement with our show and also needed to make a statement about our show. What better way to accomplish both goals than by making a manifesto?

The Main Logo


We went through weeks of logo sketches trying to think of a logo that would get the “ultra-supreme” energy across. How much did we want to lean into the file extension gimmick? How much did we want to emphasize “unprecedented”? What sort of graphic elements to include? Should it be “unprecedented,” “an unprecedented thesis show,” or “the unprecedented thesis show?” On the spectrum between calm and funky, how funky should we get? So many questions to ask, so little time.

The Variable Logos for the Squad
The Colors


We painstakingly worked to create a system that had the right “level of funk” to match the vibes we were aiming for. We needed the brand to be unique, flexible, yet cohesive.

The Typography
The Social Media Campaign

Social Media

Social media campaigns, by definition, run over multiple days. We decided to hold a 7-week campaign (starting on 3/21/21) as a lead-up to our website going live and to the end of the semester (AKA graduation!) with a total of 21 posts. The campaign consisted of a series of announcement posts, process posts, and silly posts. Making use of Instagram Reels, Stories, and posts. You can check it out at the @tylerdesignmfa Instagram.


We utilized the ideas of teasers and trailers to hint at what was to come. Phrases like “something unprecedented this way comes’’ and “loading…” came through and helped to garner attention towards our show.

The Logo Process Reel


To return back to the “process” theme, we wanted to provide sneak peeks of how we developed the brand, website, and Instagram posts themselves.

The Silliness
The Best Around


We wanted to have our bright and shining personalities come through with our campaign. This involved silly posts from iconic quotes, to highlight-reels of playing mad libs, to memes.


Something that we decided on a whim was to see how much we could grow the @tylerdesignmfa following. In February 2021, we had 552 followers. At the time of writing this article (May 2021), it grew to 616. 64 new followers over 7 weeks. Not bad, right?

The Website


Just in case there weren’t enough “21”s in this brand (and the bonus “4” for the 4 of us), we launched the 21.svg website on 4/21/21.

The Gallery

Gallery + Projects

Our primary goal for the website was to showcase our projects. Since it was meant to be a stand-in for an in-person gallery show, we wanted to have our designs come first. This resulted in the home page being the gallery space where visitors can learn more about the project.

The Profiles for Kat, Justine, Wen, and Marisa (feat. Spotify Playlists!)


Though we wanted to have the projects be the primary focus, we still wanted to inject our personalities into it. We created profiles for each of us accessible from the Squad page (curated Spotify playlists included!) showing our colors, graphics, and artist statement.


We wanted to leave our graduate experience with a bang. While we all work seriously, we are not serious people. Each of us likes to crack a joke whenever we can (even if it means privately sending it in our slack during class and watching each other in the Zoom call try to hide smiles) and can spend hours chatting about nothing, design, and anything in between or not in between.

✨✌👒🍡🙃 ️– Thank You – 🙃🍡👒✌️✨

All 21.svg links



Designers: Kat Brissette (‘21), Justine Kelley (‘21), Wenqing Liu (‘21), and Marisa Watanabe (‘21)



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