Because graphic design is meant to present a message in a clear and concise way, the process of actually making it (often a messy and non-linear affair) tends to be wiped from the record. But a new exhibition at The Drawing Center in New York now brings that process into the spotlight. ‘Please Make This Look Nice: The Graphic Design Process as an Act of Drawing’ transforms the museum’s basement gallery into a graphic design studio, hosting a roster of visiting designers as they undertake a design process.

During the exhibition, each participant will work in the gallery for one or two days, picking up where the designer before left off. As a way to highlight the process itself (and not get bogged down by finished products), there is no predetermined goal (and no design brief or client guidelines).

‘There’s a need to talk about graphic design in a deeper way,’ says the show’s curator Peter Ahlberg, a graphic designer and an instructor at the School of Visual Arts. ‘And you can get that by taking away the beginning and end – to just focus on "making".’

The space is equipped with design studio fundamentals: a computer, scanner, printer, cutting board, pin-up walls and a reference library. Visitors can watch the designers at work, their computer screens projected onto the walls.

In addition to the studio performance, Ahlberg has put together a series of public talks given by guest experts, along with four micro-exhibits to add context. A book by the same name will be published by Skira Rizzoli this April.

‘This is basically visual thinking,’ Ahlberg explains, reflecting on the relationship between graphic design and the Drawing Center’s focus. ‘Drawing is a central, base activity to the design process.’