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  • Manda Villarreal

First Draft of Thesis Proposal

In my IP Project, I will be creating a book of illustrations, maps, photographs, infographics, etc, in order to explore the concepts of my family history and my biracial identity. This is project is important at this time because I explore race and identity very frequently in my design work, but because I’m a graphic designer, most of this work involves creating for the public, and not creating for myself. Instead, I plan to turn the tables around and explore my own identity instead of focusing on the general public. I’m not used to focusing on personal subject matter in my work, but I’m excited to discover this new personally driven side of creation in my work this school year.

I became interested in this project after reading a book my old roommate co-authored, The Unraveling. In this book, 16 journalism grad students from Columbia University explore a family photograph tied to an untold mystery. Through research and discussion with family, each writer has to find the story behind the image. After finishing the book, I was so inspired by the fact that these students used information that had been there all along about their family to discover something new and contemporary about themselves and their family in the present day. I kept thinking how fun that must be, and how I wished I could incorporate something similar in a future project to honor my family history and to discover more about them. From that point on, I knew that my thesis could be that project for me to do some self discovery and retracing my family’s steps. Ultimately, that led to my decision to explore my family history and genealogy in my IP project, of course in the form I’m most comfortable in - bookmaking, publication design, and illustration.

This project is significant to me because I don’t do many personally driven projects, and it’s something I’ve always wished to explore but have always pushed to the back shelf, knowing I would get to it “someday”. As someone who consistently explores race and identity in my work, I found it appropriate to finish my studies exploring my own identity specifically, which I believe drives my interest in the themes of race and identity in my design work to begin with. This project is significant to others, no matter how personal it may be, because it can help others understand the complexity and multiple identities held by the average biracial young American. Also, to other people who are biracial and feel unconnected or “not enough of” certain parts of their identity, I hope this project can serve as an inspiration to do some exploring themselves so they can reclaim the identity they may have lost along the way from generation to generation.

I plan to realize this project as a handmade book that includes many avenues of publication design including paper cutouts, paper popup, illustration, photography, design, and more and more. My dream scenario for my project would be a book that overflows onto the wall, the floor, and wherever else it would fall containing endless information and stories that I discover about my family history. I could see the book resembling the form of a family tree, me starting in the center and then different identities of myself expanding and expanding from person to person (detailing each person) until I reach the origin location/person of my family line. Ideally (from how much I know about my race presently) the sections of my family tree book would include family extensions in Poland, Germany, Hungary, Mexico, and maybe others I’m not aware of yet. The realistic goal for my book is something similar, but maybe not reaching my “origin” person or location for each avenue of my family line, because I know there will be some information that will be hard, and ultimately impossible, to discover along the way. My fall back plan (if I had to finish this by tomorrow) would be to make a simplified version of this book, with just the family tree development I know of today.

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mandav@umich.edu    |     cell: 810.288.1888   © Manda Villarreal 2020