Parsons Paris Faculty Profile: Monica Fraile

API recently interviewed faculty from the renowned Parsons The New School for Design in Paris to learn why Paris and Parsons are the epitome of design and fashion. This week we feature Monica Fraile, who teaches the Portfolio Design course. You can learn more about API’s Parsons Paris program here.

(API) Tell us about you! And your background in design!
(Monica) I chose to study graphic design in New York mainly because of Robert Brownjohn’s design work, and I was lucky to start my practice in New York City working with Brownjohn’s partner and friend, Tony Palladino.

So I learned the value of visual communication, the value of the message and how it translates in form, over nonsensical stylistic solutions. As Tony would say ‘content matters’. Hopefully, I will be able to share Tony’s enthusiasm in this course.

(API) Who is the Portfolio Design course for? What kind of student should consider it?

(Monica) Any student who wishes to pursue an education in the visual and related arts is a good fit for this course. Obviously, you need to have a very strong interest and appeal for an art form you want to explore, whether it is photography, painting, fashion design, or graphic design.

The aim of the course is to develop a high-quality portfolio of work for further and higher education, so you need to have some developed artwork, or art project, that you will be able to further develop, enhance, and showcase.

(API) Is the course collaborative, or does it have more of an individual focus?

(Monica) The main focus is individual, and design choices are individual choices. However, this course works like a design studio team workshop, there will be collaborative projects (photo shoots and print sessions) because they are time-consuming, so it is best to work in groups.

Class participation and class critiques are also very helpful in understanding how people respond to your artwork. It is crucial to hear out these responses, in order to head in the right direction, since design and art are judged on the end result never about your good intentions.

(API) What do students get most out of the research trips to museums and galleries? Do any particular trips from this past summer stick out to you?

(Monica) Research trips to museums and galleries are essential; any visual artist feeds on these for inspiration, and when searching for solutions.

It’s visual literacy, the more you look at visual art in any form, the more you process understanding how it is done and also better understand what interests you.

Besides the main retrospectives on Christian Dior, David Hockney, and Walker Evans; Guy Bourdin’s exhibition at Maison Chloé was an unexpected treat ‘Femininities – Guy Bourdin‘. And also the small but precious ‘Magnum Analog Recovery’ exhibition at Le BaL.

(API) What is the biggest lesson or takeaway students get from this course? How does it help prepare them for their future degree?

(Monica) Besides learning design principles, typography, digital apps, techniques, the most important lesson is the understanding of design choices, and not only in visual communication. All the questioning you will apply in your process work will be the same in any design field.

(API) What advice would you give to a student considering a summer study program at Parsons Paris?

(Monica) Summer study programs are very intensive and thus very gratifying in the end. Be prepared, it’s worth it.

(API) Being a native Parisian yourself, what is it about Paris that you are most excited to share with first-time visitors?

(Monica) To be specific, I had a student, from Latin America whose artwork was highly inspired by Kinetic Op art. Yet, before the course, she knew very little about the Latin-American kinetic artists. And, here in Paris, she discovered the works of Soto, Cruz Diez, and Le Parc, thanks to Denise René’s gallery and catalogs.

So I am very pleased to be able to show places like this one to students, when relevant and specific to their work. We are lucky to have very high-end art galleries and bookshops in Paris, and cultural spaces with passionate connoisseurs. 

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