Astha Thakkar
Chicago-based graphic designer and educator

Graduate Thesis ‘19



My thesis looks at graphic design as a platform for coding and decoding core arguments in post-colonial studies. I chose to focus on this field of study because my interest lies in understanding cultural and literary production in the global south as well as both the current political culture and the political evolution of former colonies in the East. My key approach was to apply design methodologies in understanding what post-colonial scholarship has to say about the culture, social framework, and political and historical evolution of the global south. Through a collection of visual studies I seek to profile complex critical positions by applying experimental design methodologies that connect the field of design to broader social and political arenas. I am especially interested in figuring out how design methods can help in working out complex theoretical positions.

‘Understanding central arguments in post-colonial studies through design methodologies’

‘The West was rational, materialistic, civilized, masculine, scientific, modern, individualistic, active, dynamic—and conceived of as Self. The East was irrational, spiritual, savage, feminine, exotic, mysterious, traditional, communal, passive, unchanging—Other.’

-Edward Said, Orientalism
The research project examines the claims that Edward Said, an influential, terrain-shifting post-colonial scholar, makes in his book ‘Orientalism’. I compare and contrast his key arguments to the claims made by another acclaimed twenty-first century scholar, Vivek Chibber. While both authors incorporate theories within the field, they support two polar views on the evolution of the global south. By examining these two scholars and their varying viewpoints, I attempt to bring to light the strengths and weaknesses of each perspective. Such conflicts of opinions are ripe for a design intervention. I tried to foreground some key arguments through typographic operations and by devising methods to reveal ideological flaws in a historically specific and troubled text. In a moment of global political, economic and social chaos, my thesis is a place for actions, reactions, interactions and counteractions that will hopefully translate into criticism, proposals, and speculative projects. I am interested in looking at how these complex notions of difference and identity are relevant today. I see myself as a literary curator—I collect and sequence texts and images, both digital and analog, to reveal, connect, and construct narratives, resulting in shifting meanings and significances.

Feel free to get in touch for interesting work, collaborations, investigations and questions