A semester in review, with a peek at some thesis project ideas.

I’m almost done with Fall 2020 Senior Studio, cosigned with a fat dose of group projects. A disclaimer: for me, it was collaboration in all the best ways. As I look back at the projects I’ve completed in this class, I’m incredibly humbled having worked with a bunch of intelligent, passionate, and talented designers.

The negative was easily apparent. Taking Zoom class with the sparse in-person kids off our own PCs in the studio room was dissonant, a dizzying split half-second lag when they spoke. Critique, once in…


Is inspiration research? Do we sacrifice process for progress? Where style is king, can designers also tap into the past to make new?

Inspiration

For this research project, I was inspired primarily by Leland Maschmeyer’s 2020 Insights Design lecture at the Walker Art Center, just before COVID-19 really hit the States.

I really appreciated the meta-conceptual approach on patterns in terms of culture and behavior as well as a personal absorption and adaptation of history, as these are themes that have intersections in what I’m interested in with design: language, storytelling, and community-building. It was doubly-added value since I’m super enamored with the Chobani rebrand case study, and I was always curious how they were successful with connecting with their audience.

One pattern…


A PizzaKucha. The word ‘data’, a whole lotta times. Authorship, impact, process, and delivery (not pizza). An honest peek into 7 weeks of designing, together ✺

Written collaboratively with Chinwe Oparaji.

The Scene

A painted cardboard panel with the words ‘ur watching me’
A painted cardboard panel with the words ‘ur watching me’

The year is, well, this one. AirPods buzzing in ear, Jay Li sidesteps one-way traffic into what he always knew as 808.

Tucked away on floor four, the design studios were grounded with the same swank, with a few more pointers and annotations. As always, the view felt otherworldly to him. Seated at his new desk after Zoom class #2, Jay looked out on blue. Dawdled with birds, faced…


To provoke the complex scale of community, as a practice in criticism and celebration.

Project Brief and Final Videos

For the final project for James Grady’s Motion Graphics elective at Boston University, we had to create a vignette series of three video clips (30–45 seconds) exploring non-linear narratives based on a vision of community.

Project Requirements

  1. Interpret the word ‘community’
  2. Create three 30–45 second videos
  3. Videos must intentionally loop
  4. Square format 1080x1080
  5. Stay away from stock footage — use video you have captured and/or animated in After Effects
  6. Videos will be posted to shared Instagram page @bu_gd_576

We had to one or all of these…


A process and final result for interpreting a vignette of Gertrude Stein’s ‘Tender Buttons’

Introduction & Project Brief

The second project for James Grady’s Spring 2020 Motion Graphics elective is ‘Tender Buttons’.

From the project brief:

Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein is considered one of the most innovative pieces of Modernist writing. Published in 1914, this collection of experimental verses is celebrated for its abstract qualities — the sounds and rhythms of the words. Most of her descriptions of objects, food, and rooms have no relationship to the meanings of the words themselves. …


Explode expressed in 33 1/3 seconds, explained in 3 minutes

The first project for James Grady’s Spring 2020 Motion Graphics elective is ‘1 Word, 1000 Pictures’. A play off of ‘a picture worth a thousand words’, we were each assigned a simple word and tasked with conveying a narrative responding to the word as a noun/verb, without audio or typography.

The requirements were:

  1. It must be exactly 33 1/3 seconds long (1000 frames at 30 frames/sec)
  2. It must be a seamless loop.
  3. The assigned word doesn’t appear.
  4. Conveys a personal aspect about yourself.
  5. No audio; black and white, 1080x1080 px.


How does a hungry student arrive at a manifesto for great design, by procrastinating with a cooking documentary? Fans of ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’, kerning, and poor time management, rejoice.

Portrait of Samin Nosrat photographed at Neighborhood Studio in Brooklyn, NY on September 25, 2018. Cole Wilson for TIME.
Portrait of Samin Nosrat photographed at Neighborhood Studio in Brooklyn, NY on September 25, 2018. Cole Wilson for TIME.
Look at that infectious smile! Samin, grating and cheesing. | Photo by Cole Wilson for TIME

I think it’s important that, like good wine, a design has a lingering flavour.

— Karel Martens

TLDR: The lead-up to 6 minutes of unhinged Martha Stewart & Snoop energy.

7 o’clock orange shimmering a warning from the late March dawn, New England whispering a morning chill. I’ve set up shop in the colder grad studio classroom for over 7 hours, strategizing for impending danger.

“Another day, another way to make a fool of myself,” I grumbled as I stumbled along the script for the tightest six minutes of my design career. …


you came from a flower!
and how could you not know?
if you were once a nectarine pit
and grew into a full-fledged
smooth skinned stone fruit,
you should realize

you came from a flower!
unfurled petals of a bloomed tree,
you swooned me — a bumbling boy
embellished by black fuzz and yellow skin,
your name leaves my mind a-buzzing
with abundant blame for thinking about
nothing.

you came from a flower!
if you break down nectarine’s etymology (advanced apologies), you’d have a base word nectar and a root word -ine, of which your root means ‘of the nature of.’…

Jay Li

May 1999. Here for what’s been done and what’s to come. jay-li.org

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store