Graphic Design student Mark Buenafe wins the prestigious Bill Moggridge Award

Mark Andrew Buenafe.

Mark Andrew Buenafe.

By Pooja Vijay Kumar and Laura Ng

Graphic Design Senior Mark Andrew Buenafe has been selected to receive the 2018 Bill Moggridge Award—a $10,000 award to cultivate the next generation of designers—for his critical yet empathic reaction to the journey toward citizenship in “The Naturalization Process”. 
“I’m still wrapping my head around the fact I won this award,” said Mark. “I see it as both a motivator and an opportunity to keep designing and making things that interest me. I’m truly honored to have been given the award and can’t express enough gratitude.”

Born in Muscat, Oman, and raised between the Philippines and Honolulu, Mark discovered his love for graphic design when his sister gave him a spare copy of Adobe CS4. His parents worked overseas at separate university hospitals, split across continents for decades, until his grandfather, a WWII veteran, successfully petitioned to reunite the family in Hawaii. On American soil, it took six years of continued residence to finally qualify to apply for U.S. citizenship. Mark took the oath in 2017. The relief that followed this arduous process unfolded in the studio. 

Mark cites Keetra Dean Dixon’s "Objects of Codependency" as an inspiration for his project’s identity and visual language to impart the complexity immigrants face to get the same rights and responsibilities as those who are natural born U.S. Citizens. His idea moved toward Interdependence, where two participants need to work together to understand each step of “The Naturalization Process.” The project resulted in six nested envelopes, containing interdependent pieces that represent the years he endured going through the process himself. 

“I see the action/performance of taking the envelopes out from each other as tedious and a little unnecessary. But that's the whole point of it. To evoke a small fraction of frustration to whoever is going through the envelopes,” with contents that allude to USCIS documents: 

  • The Civics Test Booklet, designed to require the participation of two people by opening in different directions—one person reads the questions and the other responds. 
  • The N-400 form, encrypted with two layers of ink—one red and one blue, needing a separate piece of red acetate film to decrypt. 
  • The invitation itself has two pieces that slide into one another to understand the Oath Taking Ceremony.

“The only requirement was to create a system or kit of parts,” said CCA faculty Mary Banas of her studio’s open prompt for the project. “Designers are empathetic and critical, and Mark is both, so he knew how to translate the emotions and nuances of [his] experience into this beautiful piece that speaks volumes about a difficult process. The most important thing we can arm design students with is the power and place to exercise that criticality.”

“I’m still trying to figure out how to do this,” said Mark. He plans to create a platform that would celebrate migrant writers, artists, designers, and creators in general that could include a publication, an exhibition space or even both, or to gain firsthand experience traveling to different countries to understand the history of visual language across geographies. 

By deliberately not restricting how recipients can use the award, the late Bill Moggridge, co-founder of IDEO, and Award sponsor Techmer PM, want to give next-generation designers an open platform for their creativity.   

Graphic Design Professor Bob Aufuldish will serve as faculty mentor through the Award year.  Although the final design format is yet to be determined, Mark is considering shifting his focus from small intimate interactions to scalable, immersive experiences “to effectively amplify not only my own voice, but those who are never heard. . . . I want to use the award to continue to grow as an artist and designer and use what I discover to find better ways to tell stories that empower and cultivate an empathetic culture.”