visual design, strategy, & experiments

NYUAD Commencement Torch

NYU Abu Dhabi Commencement Torch

A silver torch, designed by Tiffany & Co., has been lit and carried at every NYU graduation since 1911. I led the design team who created the parallel NYU Abu Dhabi torch to be carried at the first commencement in 2014 and every one since, passed from one graduating class to the next. We proposed two designs to be voted on by the student body, both inspired by cultural elements of the city of Abu Dhabi but remaining true to the structure of the NYU torch. I also created technical renderings for the chosen design and worked with suppliers to have the silver torch created in time for NYUAD's inaugural commencement ceremony.


United Arab Emirates, 2013

Design Collective Project, used in commencement ceremonies

Introduction from project proposal (written by me): New York University’s spirit of knowledge and academic purpose is distilled in the icon of the torch, which is emblazoned in its logo and carried in its seal. A physical version of this emblem is used in NYU graduation ceremonies, as the oldest faculty member passes a lit silver torch to the youngest graduate, symbolizing the transferrance of the light of education. 

The city of New York has a strong presence in this original torch. It refers to the Statue of Liberty, Tiffany & Co. designed and created it, and the elements of its design reflect the most iconic ornamentations and architecture of New York. NYU has always been “in and of the city,” the city acting as a vessel, defining and shaping an NYU education. The New York torch appropriately symbolizes this New York education.

But although we at New York University Abu Dhabi carry the same flame of knowledge that NYU has for two centuries, it now burns in another container. True to the spirit of NYU, our education has taken a shape distinctly tied to the city we live in, Abu Dhabi. The torch that we carry at our graduation should celebrate this truth. NYU Abu Dhabi is not a transplant, but something entirely new, rooted in the academic legacy of NYU and in the city and culture of Abu Dhabi. It would be untruthful to pass a replica torch, just as it would be untruthful to call NYU Abu Dhabi a knockoff of NYU. Our torch should have a shape that draws on the two traditions that flow into our university.

The first graduating class of NYU Abu Dhabi, its only alumni, would like to design and present the NYUAD torch as a gift to commemorate the moment when we finally become a complete university. We, the students, are particularly capable of designing the torch that will become the symbol of an NYU Abu Dhabi education: we understand what the university has been and we share the hopes of what it will become. We know the context and content of our education better than anyone, and we understand what this torch means. 

New York University Abu Dhabi’s 2014 Commencement is not just a culmination of its first four years or the beginning of the senior class’s journey into the world: it is the commencement of New York University Abu Dhabi itself. NYU has carried a flame of knowledge for 183 years. This year, that flame will light a second torch in Abu Dhabi.