A design graduation

A parent attending their child’s graduation is a time of joy, pride, and reflection. If their child is graduating from NC State’s College of Design, why not use it as a time to teach them about their child’s design process too?

Oct. – Dec. 2015


Lisa Wong




How might we see a graduation ceremony as an opportunity to connect family members to their student’s education?

Share the design process with parents

Degrees in design are new, its curriculum unfamiliar to the majority of family members. How might a commencement program help graduating students’ family learn more about the design process their student has mastered?



Communicate our process

Whether a Graphic, Industrial, Architecture, or Art and Design graduate, the most fundamental piece of every design student’s education is the process. We decided this is the most important piece to communicate to family: how we use the design process to produce our work. We adapted IDEO’s model to make each stage of the process more explicit for our audience.


First, go big

With a fresh stack of paper samples in front of us, our first prototype tried a bit of everything. We spread our design process model throughout the program, and used an alternating mix of clear, colored vellum and black paper, to test the approach.


Make design thinking personal

We knew an analytical model of an already abstract process wouldn’t work for our audience, and it wouldn’t be appropriate for a graduation program. For a parent, a commencement program is a keepsake, a treasured symbol of their child’s milestone. In order for our little design lesson to suit the context, it had to be personal.


We created six different maps of the College of Design campus that represented each phase of the Design Thinking process.

Connect it to the campus

Over four years, a student’s campus becomes a second home. Using the campus as a medium for learning about design seemed the most worthy option for connecting parents to their child’s education.


Second, try the taco approach

Instead of alternating the vellum sheets, which detracted too much from the graduate’s names, we opted for a “taco approach.” We stacked all of the vellum in the middle of the program, which created a small surprise for the reader and better connected all of the maps to each other.



Off to the press

The final booklet was a sturdy 16 pages, with 200 copies made for Fall Graduation. The transparency of the vellum allowed the other maps to shine through on each page, and literally connect each map to the next.



Establish a brand

I also created a series of short GIFs used to introduce each degree at the ceremony. Using similar elements from the maps in the program, I sought to both establish a consistent brand between print and digital, and encapsulate each major through a short animation. (4 of 14 shown)