When Niloufer Moochhala and Angie Hurlbut met as Yale graduate students over 15 years ago, they immediately bonded over their graphic design master theses. Their focus was different from that of the other students in the program: They looked beyond the campus, by seeking to discover what made the city around them so vibrant.
Fifteen years later they’re still bonding over that subject—and working together. Although Moochhala now lives in Boston, she returns regularly to perform graphic design jobs along with Hurlbut, who lives in East Rock.
Moochhala, who is originally from India, remembers choosing New Haven as the theme for her thesis because of her fascination with “connecting communities who might be disparate. My intention was figuring out how to connect the people of New Haven.” Hurlbut had a similar intention: capturing, through graphic design, the essence of those who live and work in New Haven. Both conducted interviews with people from different walks of life. They observed activity at bus stops.
“It was while creating projects for the streetscape of New Haven that we discovered our mutual interest in the urban environment and the ways in which graphic design can encourage people to look at their surroundings with a fresh eye,” said Hurlbut.
“When you go beyond [Yale], you realize it’s a whole other city. We wanted to shine light on the everyday people and things in New Haven,” said Moochhala.
After they graduated from Yale School of Art in 1997, their first joint project from 2000-2001 was redesigning the Yale University Library website. The Internet was still young then, as was the field of web design; their website made it reliable and easy to search and track books. “That [project] sealed us as a team. We ended up doing a lot more projects around libraries after this one, including Beinecke,” said Hurlbut.
“We try to approach every project with a sense of what we want to do, not what the computer can do,” said Hurlbut.
Although they are not a formal team, Moochhala calls them an “open creative collaborative.” Moochhala also has a firm called NYMDesign; Hurlbut’s is AHDesign.
When they work together, they often take on New Haven and Yale clients, though they’ve also branched out to Washington, Boston and New York.
They recently redesigned the website of the Neighborhood Music School.
“We want to tell a story every time. For the Neighborhood Music School website, we wanted to make it colorful and interactive. We added moving pictures to the homepage. Also, each time you scroll over one of the tabs, it changes colors,” said Hurlbut.
For New Haven’s Artspace gallery, the duo has produced invitations, booklets, and posters for exhibits. For Four Saints in Three Acts, a version of Gertrude Stein’s avant garde play produced by Yale’s Beinecke Library and Jonathan Edwards College, the pair produced a program that consisted of cards that tiled together to complete a puzzle when flipped over.( Click here to view the pdf of that program.)
A graphic design project must be functional; Moochhala and Hurlbut also strive to make it experiential and memorable. To tell a story. “Our work is an element of art,” Hurlbut said, “and one that we hope reflects the community that we love.”