SPARKING CHANGE IN THE FIELD
2 x 4 cofounders Susan Sellers 89 GD, Michael Rock MFA 84 GD and Georgianna Stout 89 GD are happy to have founded a new endowed scholarship at RISD. Their Vanishing Point wallpaper (top) for Prada and collateral for Pérez Art Museum Miami (right) are but two of the many inspiring projects they’ve contributed to the design world in recent years.
// who’s giving to risd + why
“RISD played a significant role not only in bringing us together, but in making us fearless in the pursuit of our shared vision and desire to advance the cause of design,” say the founding partners of 2 x 4, a multidisciplinary design studio based in New York. With that in mind, co-directors Michael Rock MFA 84 GD, Georgianna Stout 89 GD and Susan Sellers 89 GD hope to further contribute to the field by helping to make RISD accessible to a wider range of talented artists and designers through the newly established 2 x 4 Endowed Scholarship at RISD. Given that “the design industry is too uniform,” Rock explains, “we hope this scholarship will bring more diverse voices and perspectives to the table.” When 2 x 4 first coalesced in the early 1990s, Rock, Stout and Sellers set out to develop a different kind of design practice—one that questions cultural ideas through the lens of design. As Sellers explains, they created “a kind of laboratory where we could make theoretical ideas operational in the real world. We also wanted to work in commerce and culture simultaneously, to think globally and be media agnostic—to build a supermarket, not a boutique.” After 25 years, three studios and working with hundreds of designers on thousands of projects, 2 x 4 is still pursuing the same ideas but at a radically different scale—all while staying “true to our mission,” says Stout. “We work all over the world, have amazing, collaborative clients and continue to think about how our ideas can advance the cause of design.”
In February, when Rock returned to RISD to lead a weekend workshop for Graphic Design grad students, he discovered that “it was great to be back,” he says. “I found the students to be remarkably positive, engaged and talented.” During his visit, Rock also delivered a talk focused on the cultural evolution of the screen, tracing its development from the first storefront plate-glass windows through the big screens at movie theaters to the multiple small screens we all engage with today, which, he pointed out, end up filtering and framing our understanding of the world. He also spoke about 2 x 4’s incredible array of innovative projects with such clients as Prada, Nike and the Guggenheim Las Vegas, and noted that his own 2D design ideas often come to life at 2 x 4 as animated collages that form a kind of immersive, cinematic wallpaper. “I’m interested in looking from multiple directions and also playing with questions of scale,” he explains. Though it’s tough to imagine how they find time to do it all, the three 2 x 4 principals remain deeply engaged in and committed to their work beyond the studio. In addition to his writing practice—which includes regular contributions to The New York Times Magazine—Rock is also director of the Graphic Architecture Project at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Sellers teaches graphic design at Yale School of Art and is head of design at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Our partnership provides each of us with the
top: photo by Ricky Zehavi