Virginia Shou | Thesis Book Project

Thesis Book Story: Virginia Shou

My thesis—MISCOMMUNICATION—visualizes the communication challenges, both latent and obvious, in my daily life as a hard-of-hearing individual. The prints, objects, and videos that I have created for my visual thesis aim to enrich the understanding of a broader public on issues regularly faced by deaf people. 

I immensely enjoyed working as a teaching assistant for my primary advisor, John Malinoski, during my 2nd year. Seeing how his collaboration with others drives his own process and astute observations of other design ideas inspired me to develop project opportunities based on my my research and life experiences. 

The book was designed with a red translucent vellum jacket, which needs to be taken off to form a legible “WHAT” on the cover. On each side of the jacket is a portion of the word and certain parts of the letterforms are missing. The jacket has to be removed and placed together for not just the word, but the concept, to be completed. I felt that the tactile experience of forming the two sides of the jacket together was important considering the nature of my thesis. 

Shortly after graduate school, my deaf friends working in the hearing world came to me, requesting that I design a pamphlet to educate their hearing peers. I think that was the last thing I designed related to my thesis. It has the potential to lead to a new project: designing sensitivity training materials for different types of deaf people, as not all deaf people have same needs.

The design pieces I created are idealistic, short-lived, and so far, exist only as components of my thesis show. I remember clearly, during my thesis defense, one of my advisors asked me an important question: “What makes you stand out as a graphic designer?” I answered that “I am a graphic designer that specializes in advocacy and increasing deaf awareness.” He responded,  “No, you are a graphic designer with great eye. Designing specifically for advocacy and awareness are a small part of your visual communication skills.” That stuck with me and has helped me to expand my understanding of what a master’s thesis exploration can be about; an opportunity to live and work with a dedicated idea, but I came to understand it doesn’t define my career—it helped me to develop all of my skills around a central idea.

You can see other Thesis Book Stories and learn how to participate in The Thesis Book project here.

Posted in: Education , Media

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