For his thesis project in the MFA Graphic Design program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Yu Chen wanted to explore graphic design beyond the two-dimensional plane. His installation Fragment was part of a three-part interactive series Type Between the Spaces, an exploration of 3D typography, light and shadow.
Yu’s explorations of shadow were inspired by MICA’s Brown Center, a glass structure that he first noticed upon arriving in Baltimore in 2013. “I used to observe the refracted, charming light as well as the shade on the building as those phenomena shifted and changed throughout the day’” he recalls. “When I was making signage for the department in the fall of 2013, one of my design plans was to conceive of light-changing signage, but I failed to capture the difficult angle of the building and sunlight. Then in a studio course called Imaginary Museum, I designed an identity for the ‘Museum of Natural Light.’” In this project, Yu continued a previous design concept, using the character of light to depict the identity.
Both projects ultimately informed his senior thesis.
Fragment is a wall installation consisting of letters and shadows. The work was driven by the concepts of actuality and virtuality, light and shadow and a combination of two dimensions and three dimensions. Says Yu, “From the viewpoint of homomorphism as relates to Gestalt psychology, viewers can read the letters in space autonomously even though the 3D letterforms are only partially rendered; the remainder of the letters are in shadow form.”
Yu mounted CNC-routed letterforms to the wall of MICA’s Decker Gallery and conducted tests using various lighting sources to determine the ideal continuous source. After extensive trials, he chose a warm 500-watt light that creates subtle shadows from the letterforms, creating an installation that integrates architecture with typography, light and shadow.
"Fragment is an excellent display of thoughtfulness both in how each letterform interacts with the wall and the delicate treatment of the light used to cast the shadows. The shadows complement the existing letterform, but add a unique element to each of them that sets them apart."
"This celebration of letterform fragments in light and shadow is simply stunning. Fragment is a fundamental environmental design experiment that provides profound and poetic inspiration."
Yu Chen (designer)
Ellen Lupton, Jennifer Cole Phillips, Abbott Miller, Andrew Losowsky
dFab (CNC letterforms)