KPU Wilson School of Design showcases virtual exhibit reflecting on the pandemic

The exhibit includes 15 projects from students and instructors featuring a post-pandemic world

KPU Wilson School of Design / KPMB & Public Architects

(Flickr/ KPU Wilson School of Design)

At the beginning of October, Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Wilson School of Design launched Viral Design, a virtual exhibition showcasing ideas on how to improve quality of life during the COVID-19 pandemic. From card games to new protective face shield designs, all of the projects relate in some way to the theme of facing the changes and challenges in our lives that the pandemic has brought.

One of the projects is a card game called Unitedly, a game that can be played through video call with friends to play charades, a scavenger hunt, or trivia about a range of topics, including science, geography, and pop culture. The goal of the game is to offer “the opportunity to interact in material, tactile ways reminiscent of the times before the pandemic,” according to the exhibit website. 

Other projects in the exhibit include digital postcards of what people are grateful for during this time, and a new design for dental offices for people with who experience PTSD and anxiety disorders. 

Erika Balcombe, the exhibit curator and interior design instructor at KPU, came up with the exhibit earlier this year and began recruiting students in February. She says this is the first time the department has done a virtual exhibition showcasing various design projects. 

“What I felt that we were really missing as a department was a place to showcase work under a certain theme that showed our multi-disciplinarity,” Balcombe says. 

The different disciplines the exhibit showcases are fashion, graphic, product, interior design, and marketing.  

“Being able to collaborate with other departments and show the breadth of what design can do,” Balcombe says.  

Viral Design made a soft launch this past summer, but Balcombe and her marketing team wanted to make it official in September to attract more traffic to the site. 

“This exhibit project was a great opportunity to try out new skills and be involved in an actual creative project instead of just talking about them in class.” 

Balcombe says the exhibit is also a teaching opportunity for those involved. The students who helped organize the event learned hands-on skills related to their degree.

When the project was still in the works, one of the challenges of putting together the exhibit was getting students to join, Balcombe says. She reached out to instructors to see if their students would be interested in participating in the exhibit. 

Fourth-year graphic design for marketing student Karen Gao put the contributors’ projects together and created the website design. 

“One of the main things that I value is highlighting and celebrating student work,” says Gao. “Seeing the other programs and what they do, it helps you give inspiration and with your own areas of work.” 

Gao says she had three months to complete the website. Before starting to create the site, she thought of how she would receive all the projects and transfer them onto the site in a cohesive way. 

“But for myself, [it was] difficult to learn in a new way because different website building platforms like Squarespace or WordPress function differently,” says Gao. “Learning new ways to accomplish the same goal was interesting.” 

Balcombe is hoping to plan more virtual exhibits in the future. She says she is unsure if they will be held annually, but it will be a recurring event.

“This couldn’t [have] happened if it weren’t for all the contributors,” says Balcombe. “This exhibit wouldn’t happen without the instructors who came up with great assignments for their students, so I do really appreciate that.”