MFA Student Profile: Sherry He

MFA student Sherry He shares advice and insights for graphic designers.

Why did you decide to seek a master's and what was your thought process behind choosing MCAD for your MFA in visual studies?

I went to Macalester College and graduated a year ago. While a sophomore, I was taking Continuing Education classes at MCAD. I knew from that point that it was a school that I could learn a lot from. I already liked the community at MCAD before I was even an actual student here. When I was a senior at Macalester, I felt like there was still so much I wanted to learn about art before I put myself in the real world and find a job.

What are you enjoying most about your MFA experience?

A lot of things! We have our own studios, we have mentors that we can talk to and confide with; I actually meet with my mentor every week. The program is very liberal—even though I’m a graphic designer I can do illustration, installation—there’s no limit on that at all. We can audit several MCAD classes as well, which helped me get to know a lot of students and faculty in the undergrad program. I also enjoy the teaching practicum, which is the equivalent of the undergraduate teaching minor, just condensed into two years for us.

Sherry demonstrates using the Stanza standing desk in her studio

What is your ideal studio space or workspace?

The workspace given to us in the program is more than ideal for me! This was more than I expected before I came here. I feel like I was one of the lucky ones to get a studio this size.

What projects are you working on now?

I’m actually working on a table! Of course, I’m not a furniture design major, but I did the branding of it so it counts. I work for the learning center and we have these standing tables for people to use so you’re not sitting all day. Timothy Gardner who’s head of the Learning Center ordered about ten of those tables because we needed them. I really liked them, but each one cost about $300 and they’re really heavy. You can buy them for a studio but what about other places? If you want to have one in more than one place, it’s not easy to move it around. So that’s what I based my work around—those tables and how I would be able to fit something similar in my backpack. I came up with this idea of using a sheet of cardboard folded in a way that would be structural enough to hold a laptop. It was on a whim that I did this and I definitely still have a lot of testing to do. I have already been contacted about possible purchases. But before I get in over my head I need to make sure that it functions properly!

What are you inspired by?

My inspiration is people who I care about. I like to think of people who need something different in their lives. Even if it’s something simple like a logo design. When I made my table I was thinking about all the people I work with and work beside. Particularly a friend of mine who needs to stand while working. Her best friend bought her a standing desk that was really expensive. She used it for a while right after graduating high school but then she got accepted to Harvard, and she can’t bring the desk with her. So I sent her one of my Stanzas. 

Sherry He, Pizza Bed

Can you describe your artistic process?

I do a lot of both sketching and research. Sketching because I know that a lot of graphic designers and illustrators, even myself, like to jump right into the programs because they can make the perfect shape. I try to stay away from the program when I’m doing ideation. I like to do as many sketches as I can possibly think of. I definitely do a lot of research, because that’s what is actually required in the program. I do feel like we have to back up our decisions in every detail of the work that we make.

What is your favorite piece that you've made at MCAD?

My favorite piece would actually be my solo show I had at the Soo Visual Art Center from April to May 2017. I taught people four types of bookbinding techniques through making four different kinds of breakfast food books. I provided all of the materials with the instructions being on the tables. I felt kind of bad in the end, because it was a really good turnout for the opening so there were a lot of people waiting two or more hours to sit and make books but there wasn’t enough space to fit everyone who came. I chose to do basic bookbinding because it’s such an interactive method.

Toast books at Sherry's solo show at the SooVac Center

What is your favorite thing about graphic design?

This is just a personal opinion but I feel like graphic design is branching out to a lot of things. Besides typography which is the signature of graphic design, you can do illustration, you can do traditional painting and drawing and scanning, then incorporate those into your design. It’s everywhere in the world. You can see it on packaging, wholesalers, pamphlets, everything that we have in our life is probably designed by some graphic designer.

Sherry's Studio Space

Are you going to keep the material cardboard?

Yeah, I think so. I got a large sheet of cardboard from the art cellar for only five dollars. I’m able to make three of these foldable standing tables with one sheet of cardboard. These huge sheets of cardboard also have a side that is coated in wax which makes it water resistant so it can survive against water and food spilling. It’s sturdier than it looks but I’m trying to beat it up to really test the durability. Also, this goes to show that our work does not limit you to a single medium.

Do you have any plans for after graduation?

I’m going to try my best to find a job, hopefully an internship first. I am trying to stay in Minneapolis. I’ve already been here for five years. I really like this city and I know a lot of artists in town, most of them are fine artists and I don’t want to lose the connection that I have with them.

What advice do you have for art and design students?

I’ll say, try to fail as much as possible, when I didn’t do something right at the beginning I felt bad, because I was very worried about how people would think of my work. But when something isn’t that successful in the beginning, then I’ll be able to reflect on it and make it better. I’m glad that I didn’t always make the best piece that I could ever make, because I’ve learned a lot and people are able to help me a lot to make progress. 

Check out more of Sherry's work on her website.