University of Washington | Master of Design
The masters thesis below was made over the course of two years in Seattle Washington.
A PDF of my complete thesis with all corresponding work created, research made, and a video of my thesis defense can be found below.
Design writer and researcher Heidi Biggs writes
"Samer Fouad is a dynamo. He is always making something or headed somewhere, and yet he always seems to have time to pitch in, lend a hand, or lend an ear. Hailing from New Jersey, Samer graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in design. After graduating, he became a design lecturer at Rutgers for the seven years preceding his joining the 2020 University of Washington MDes cohort. Moving across the country to attend UW, Samer left behind a deeply rooted presence in the East Coast art and design community where, beyond teaching at Rutgers, he helped run a print shop, was an art installer at a seeming multitude of well-known galleries, and also had his own professional art and design practices.
Over the course of his MDes, Samer’s interests shifted from graphic, print, and publi- cation design to a broader focus of installation and how context impacts how art and design are viewed. His interest in context was inspired by his personal history: he has worked extensively within galleries as an artist, designer, and installer, but he also has a history as self-proclaimed “skate punk who did graffiti” — where graffiti is an art form often displayed in public, architectural, and unsanctioned spaces. This liminal position Samer holds between artist and designer, and his history creating art and design in both sanctioned and unsanctioned spaces, led him to question how the contexts where art / design are displayed shift whether something is perceived as art or design. In short, he wondered if the disciplinary distinction between art and design is a matter of practice or a matter of context.
In addition to being inside and outside of galleries, Samer has a history of working in digital mediums like projection mapping and animated gifs. He has a strong presence on social media. Some of his work is also curious, therefore, about the context of art and design within digital spaces. His thesis research ultimately traversed how art and design blur and intersect in different contexts along two different axes: whether the work was shown inside or outside of a gallery and whether the work was in a digital or non-digital environment. He explored these axes through several making-based-studies. His final project was a kind of synthesis of his studies, where he enlisted an international community of artists and designers to create projection galleries out their windows, bringing art to everyday public spaces while the world was besieged by a pandemic.
Exploring the space outside of a gallery, one of Samer’s first studies focused on installations that whimsically transformed architectural spaces and features in and around the UW Art Building. He created a “zen garden” by moving hundreds of pounds of sand into an alcove in an Art Building stairwell, hung a three-story-long piece of red fabric in a different stairwell — the fabric falling down through the center of the stair-cases’ spiral — and painted an abandoned phone booth red, filling it with fake flowers that were gradually stolen and re-distributed throughout the Art Building over the course of the year. In this study, Samer took note of unutilized and “negative” spaces then animated them with the goal of inviting interaction as well as bringing levity and delight to the community of the Art Building.
In a second study, Samer created an installation for the MDes poster show in the Jacob Lawrence Gallery that could only be seen inside a gallery space and resisted sharing on social media. He created a set of typographic posters that he called imaginary images. These posters were printed in black ink on black paper and each described a funny or evocative vignette. They were designed to only be see-able within the gallery (not shared on social media) for while a human eye could make out distinctions between the black ink and black paper, a phone camera could not. These imaginary images were partly inspired by artist Olafur Eliasson’s 1993 installation, Beauty, where Eliasson made a rainbow in a gallery by shining a light through a fine mist of water droplets. Eliasson’s logic followed that without the light refracted into the human eye, the rainbow would not be seen, commenting on the need for an audience to be present for the piece to exist. In a tangential commentary on viewership, Samer’s installation strategically includes the human eye while excluding the “eye” of their cell phone camera, a move that insists attention paid to the importance of attendance. His barring of digital reproduction requires viewers to consider what is unique about seeing something in the context of a gallery.
As the spring quarter approached, along with the rest of the world, Samer had to adjust his plans to fit within the constraints of a world reshaped by COVID-19. Instead of creating a final installation in the Henry Art Gallery, Samer pivoted to organize a global, collaborative, projection-based, guerrilla public art project. Using his online network, Fouad recruited a group of artists and designers who agreed to project their creative work out their windows onto the “found” architectural forms of their neighborhood. As each artist chose images to project, Fouad created an open repository of their images that he invited the rest of the project’s community to pull from, manipulate, remix, and / or reshare. While the project took place on a global scale, the projections mingled with the material and mundane settings of the artists’ neighborhoods. An artist in Brooklyn projected scrolling text across a thin strip of concrete opposite their apartment; in another example, a Washington, DC, artist projected onto the side of an apartment building facing their window where, in the documentation photograph, one can also see a person in an apartment right below the projection cooking dinner in their illuminated, un-curtained window. This photo reveals an in-situ and unintended dyad or duet: a wall framing images of both a projection out a window and an interior viewed through a window.
In the same way Samer installed artworks in the “found” architectural spaces of the Art Building, he intuitively repurposed the open window as an ad-hoc gallery space. The window of a home has become a kind of symbol during the pandemic. As people gathered at windows and balconies to cheer for healthcare workers, do group aerobics, or sing together, the open window became a place to remain connected, albeit at a distance. While Samer started with this question of how context blurs the boundaries between art and design, it feels as if Samer’s final question abandoned this in lieu of asking of how galleries could be designed to be more democratic, public, and delightful. His final project married a digital medium with the materiality of architecture and everyday life as he constructed an unsanctioned, global “gallery.” The gallery space he created was open-ended and collaborative — a democratic and experimental project that shed creative light into communities during a time that felt darkly unfamiliar and uncertain."
for more detailed information about the work please visit
Video of Samer Fouad's Thesis Defense Livestream