Aggie Toppins

I teach graphic design at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and serve as Associate Head of the Art Department. After working for more than 15 years as a commercial designer, I am now directing my creative energies towards independent studio work and writing about design. For years, I ran a small client-based practice called The Official Studio, but lately my interests have moved outside of commercial work. I am invested in graphic design as both a social discipline and an intellectual field. I make artist publications through The Unofficial Press and do community-based projects in collaboration with non-profits in Chattanooga. For example, I am currently researching and designing a printed guide to help people who were convicted of felonies restore their voting rights. I’m working with partners across the city and state to distribute the guide to those who need it.

I locate my independent studio practice somewhere between graphic design and fine arts. I use the language of design to give form to my ideas. I respond to the history and discourse of design, but the criteria for the work is internally-driven. I often draw on critical theory and travel to deepen my inquiries. I’m interested in the negotiability of signs and seek to engage readers in the play of meaning. I use my work, which often takes the form of serial printed matter, to investigate the ways that private experiences intersect with public spaces, rituals, and narratives.