The entire graphic design program at CalArts is made up of individuals with endless potential and the drive to do great things. Our team wanted to make this year’s gallery a showcase of what our program is truly capable of. We tried not to place limitations on what work could be included. We just wanted the designers to be excited to share the work they had created through the year.

Following a couple weeks of back and forth, sharing ideas for the gallery, we began looking at spaces that utilized forced perspective and construction of props to tell a story. What started as all of us joking about crafting huge tools used in design, quickly became a discussion of how CalArts fits into the world of contemporary design. Our program is relatively small, but graduates have proven that we are capable of BIG things.

And so “Make It Big” was born. It was to be a larger than life experience with modular structures constructed to showcase work and the process that led to the final product. The show’s identity was built out of a design we voted to pursue. We decided on a set of huge props to have throughout the space, including computer keys, push pins, and even a giant head with a pencil behind the ear. Some half size models were created to get proportions and materials prepared for the construction phase. Coveralls were ordered as a team uniform to customize, work in and present the show in. There were even discussions of possible publicity stunts to create some hype around the event.

Everything seemed to be going according to plan until the evening of March 10, 2020 when students and faculty received an email stating in-person classes would be suspended temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After a period of uncertainty, classes were moved to a remote setting for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, which meant we could no longer host our show in person.

Early discussions of where this project could move included ideas of a publication, a virtual space, or what we decided was our best bet, a website. We collectively agreed that while everything felt unsure and hectic, we still wanted to give the work and people a reason to celebrate as it felt more necessary than before. We traded gallery design and construction for asset design and website coding. Our team felt it was important to show our ability as designers to adapt to whatever the given circumstances are. As a community, we kept creating through this difficult time and this feat needs to be documented. It is more obvious than ever that this program prepares its designers to tackle any situation, and it is clear we will all make it big.

Make It Big is brought to you by Ada Qu, Alex Cerutti, Allison Hsiao, Bryan Gelderbloom, Jessica Peng, Oona Lei, and Tiana Li.

Web development assisted by Roman Jaster, Chandler Sutton, Max Sutton, and Ethan Östling. Additional assistance provided by Lyla Zhou, Marshall Wang, Sarah Lee, and Joe Suh.

Thank you to Gail Swanlund and Roman Jaster for the never ending help and support. Where would we be without you?