claire wu

Fifth, 2020

A Virtual Grad Exhibit Exhibition Design, Project Management, Experience Design, Book Design

How do we design an experience that adheres to quarantine protocols while preserving a level of engagement with the guests who would have attended the physical Grad Exhibition?



Design Opportunity

Every year, undergrad students in their final year at OCAD U create small task forces within their programs and volunteer their time to curate a graduate exhibition (GradEx).
This year, our plans for a physical exhibition were halted halfway due to covid. OCAD U’s annual GradEx garners local and international guests in numbers upwards of 20,000, a physical gathering that would have been unsafe to carry through within current circumstances

“Fifth” is our vision of what the fifth industrial revolution could look like, and a tongue-in-cheek nod to the fifth floor, where we made our home for the past four years. The team collected final projects from our graduating class and featured them on a virtual platform and in physical print. Finally, in an attempt to give our audience a small sense of congratulatory celebration, we also planned and hosted a live, virtual webinar with a panel of alumni and thesis professors to kick-off the website launch.


Check out our website here!

Student projects are divided into 5 different categories: Data Exploration, Everyday Life, Green Futures, Spaces, and Wellbeing.

We put up a countdown clock on the website ten days before the launch, and sent out eventbrite tickets to alumni, family, and friends.

After the live webinar on the day of the site launch, a credits page appeared as you entered into the site. 

Each photo was taken by the GradEx team in our thesis space, prior to school shutting down. 

Collecting information

We communicated the naming conventions
and file types we needed from the rest of our graduating class through Canvas.

Sorted in google drive folders so the files
were accessible by the entire team.

We tracked student project submissions
on excel, and documented word counts for text. My favourite part was chasing down individuals on facebook for missing information.

Team Structure

In the beginning, we split the team into smaller focused teams because this was a multiple projects within one project. There was a team for branding, exhibition, physical catalogue, and project management.

Pre COVID, we had a team of around 16 members. We held weekly meetings in the thesis space for check-ins and designated work time to make sure that teams were progressing in accordance to the deadlines.

Post COVID, we were down to 10 members.
We scrapped all of our plans for a physical exhibition, and met up every morning on Zoom to begin planning and executing the next steps for our virtual show.

GradEx Catalogue

We wanted to give our graduating class something to remember our last year by.
What better thing than a book?

The final book layout.

Test Prints
We tested a couple iterations of the book with different covers, played around with different layouts, bleed room and colour settings until it was perfect.
We tested a cardstock book cover, as well
as a soft touch matte, because we were concerned about fingerprints on the cover. But the cardstock material didn’t look as polished as we wanted.
Pickup and Shipping

We printed a total of 90 or so copies of the grad catalogue, wheeled the 3 boxes back home, and bought many bubble wrap envelopes.

The team collected the addresses of graduating students and thesis advisors, and input them into google maps. 

Then, we determined 3 pick-up points for the majority of students who lived in the downtown core, Markham, and Richmond Hill. The rest were shipped off to professors, and the students who had left town, or lived too far to pick-up the catalogue.


Social Media

We created an Instagram account to pique the interest of the public, and give short introductions to each student’s bachelor thesis projects.

Through the months we were running the account, we connected with a number of other Industrial Design programs from around the world, and were approached by a handful of design competitions and showcases.

On the night of the live webinar, we had a little fun, and tagged @bluefoamdust in all of our instagram posts, dominating their tagged page with our entire account. This resulted in a shoutout/feature on their story.

Live Opening Reception

Check out our webinar here!

We hosted a virtual webinar on the night of our website launch to give people a sense of togetherness, and excitement.

A panel of thesis professors and OCAD U alumni were invited on to talk about the future of design with the implications of a global pandemic.

The team sat together to write up questions for our guest speakers. Farzad and I spent a couple of days preparing the script to host the night’s discussion (green screen, ring light, mic and all).
We streamed the webinar on the Fifth website, YouTube, and Facebook. We had a total of 147 participants tune in on Zoom, and many more watching through or live stream.  

We closed the webinar feeling excited and hopeful. Not the grad exhibition everyone had anticipated, but we managed to create a memorable experience for ourselves.

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© Claire Wu Copyright 2021