JAY LI

Graphic Design
www.jay-li.org
@jayyyyli


Fig. Vol-1, 2020. Book. 10 × 8 in.
Margins, 2020. Newsprint brochure, 11 × 8.5 in.
Mise En Place, 2020. Photograph printed on metallic paper.

Syllabi convey expectations, map out success, and check attitudes. Without attention, the syllabus becomes an arbitrary, one-off “taskmaster,” passing students on to singular paths. Fatigued by the copy-paste nature of academic curricula, I’d rather conceive them as workshops, fictions, decimation, or even drowning. Elizabeth Leeper wrote, “A syllabus is a creative document that gives shape to a shared experience.” Can a poetic gaze for syllabi offer alternate education modes—outfitting a nebulous environment formed by students’ unique contexts and pain points?

Educators can serve students by showing the seams of our collective pedagogy. In the book This Little Art, Kate Briggs wrote,“The translator is the writer of new sentences on the close basis of others . . . a producer of relations.” I firmly believe the design student’s care for others’ participation can reconcile systems we build and operate in, and that we can learn to generously engage that as far as our educators can dream.

My dream syllabus? A menu. As someone attuned to food as both a portrait and landscape of community, I know that what I cook every day reflects my tastes and influences. Depending on how they curate their menus, chefs can elevate or subjugate whole cultures, evaluating choices for patrons’ experiences. Menus are dynamic documents speaking to seasonal ingredients and sociological forces. Syllabus as Menu is a pedagogical experiment subverting power dynamics between student and instructor. For me, it will outline a design elective course executing multiple projects, guiding my practice of new tools under the guise of the translator.

Menus aren’t about producing isolated courses or experiences, but about actually marking and redrawing connections with what’s already there.