Image of a page inside the book 1, 10, 100 Years of Form, Typography and Interaction at Parsons

What the design industry can learn from academia

Caspar Lam and YuJune Park, the founders of design consultancy Synoptic Office, have a dual career as educators at Parsons School of Design in New York. They explain how this mix of influences informs their work

This year marks 100 years of Parsons School of Design, the renowned art and design college in New York’s Greenwich Village, an area with a storied history of creativity and unconventional, boundary-pushing ideas. As part of the New School, Parsons’ graphic and communication design course is the oldest in the US, known for its uniquely rigorous, ­expansive, and academic approach.

In early 2022, the school published a book that delineates its history and approach, ­titled 1, 10, 100 Years: Form, Typography and Interaction at Parsons. Among the book’s authors were Caspar Lam and YuJune Park, assistant professors of communication design at Parsons and founders of New York and Hong Kong-based design consultancy Synoptic Office. For Lam and Park, these two sides of their careers – teaching and studio practice – are inextricable from one another, with learnings from the classroom continually feeding into project work and vice versa.

“The work that we’re doing in our studio is enriched by being educators,” says Park, adding that the studio’s projects around “preserving cultural history, disseminating knowledge in ways that creates impact”, make them better teachers. She continues: “We learn from our students as well because we’re in this constant cultural dialogue with them about how they understand information, how they learn, how they work with digital products and so on.”

Black and white photograph of Parsons educators YuJune Park and Caspar Lam
Portrait of YuJune Park and Caspar Lam

One of the pivotal moments in Parsons’ history was in 1972, when the school made a distinction between design and advertising.